Home » Paigaam

Facilitating Team
Nikhil Khosla, Malavika Kumaran, Nabila Chitalwala, Devika Patel, Karishma Khodaiji, Diya Mehta, Gaurang Poddar, Dhvani Ghatlia, Aditi Ratho, Anvisha Pai, Jesika Haria, Maniti Modi, Anurit Kanti, Yash Talreja, Mohit Mandal, Pujan Modi, Priyanka Datta

Admin Team
Anisha Wadhwa, Ayesha Mehra, Karan Shah, Akshat Goenka, Dhruva Mahimtura, Avinash Venkatraman, Harit Agarwal, Pratik Sanghavi, Ambika Jayakumar

Introduction

Paigaam-Aman ka Farishta is a student-initiative of the Dhirubhai Ambani International School which exemplifies youth activism. It started off two years ago as an Indo-Pak Peace conference and soon transcended into a peace conference forging ties between India and its neighboring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This year, Paigaam-Aman ka Farishta will look inwards, spreading the message of peace throughout
India.

Paigaam 2009 was held between 10th and 15th July, 2009 in a guest house in Navi Mumbai.

The Facilitating and Administration team consisted mainly of the students of Dhirubhai Ambani International School and approximately forty participants came from various schools from different states across the country.

The mission statement of the group is as follows -

"Paigaam is a passionate group of youngsters, working for a more harmonious future. We wish to encourage the youth to question surrounding conflicts, widen their perspectives and ultimately tackle conflicts of a personal, local and global nature. We aim for their message, their Paigaam for peace, to then transcend all boundaries, political and social, resulting in a friendlier tomorrow."

The aims of the conference were to understand the causes and effects of past controversies; stimulate an exchange of ideas amongst the youngsters; encourage healthy debate; promote teamwork; break down all stereotyping and prejudice; and most importantly, build long-lasting relationships with people from across the border.

If you wish to get involved in the group or know more, feel free to e-mail us at


Email Address - paigaam.dais@gmail.com

Articles written by students on their experience in the past:

A. India-Pakistan

What comes to your mind when you read that?
Mussharaf clasping Dr. Singh's hand?
Cricket matches?
Dramatic war movies?

Romantic. But unreal.

Sadly, the media and politics in both India and Pakistan romanticize both war and peace between the two nations. We grow up in a society where Pakistani is a swear word. We grow up watching Gadar, Border and LOC, where our brave Indian jawans fight 20 Pakistanis each. We grow up in a society where every bomb-blast, riot and militant attack has a Pakistani hand in it. In reality, the majority of the Indians and Pakistanis know depressingly little of each other and the real issues which surround the two nations.

George Washington once said "There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to ready to meet the enemy." So, armed with a gross misinterpretation of the said quote, twenty Dhirubhai Ambani students came together and decided "Why not? Let's meet the enemy!" And thus we set out with the death-wish of bringing together Indian and Pakistani teenagers and giving them an opportunity to reassess the clichés and stereotypes they carried all their lives.

With the full support of the school administration and after six long months of pleading with visa officers in New Delhi, running off in every break to make calls to Pakistani schools, putting together a minutely planned timetable for the week, confirming and rereconfirming arrivals and departures of participants coming from eight different cities, it was the eve of Paigaam.

We had put together a highly explosive mélange of thirty fiercely patriotic young adults from all over India and Pakistan who were armed with months of research and resolved to prove that Kashmir truly belonged to them.

The first thing we told the shocked group of participants was that they were free to hate the other country? only if the opinion was truly their own, formed after evaluating neutral facts, discussing and interacting with youngsters across the border. They had to rid themselves of the opinions they had inculcated from their history books and fanatical political propaganda. We wanted them to unload the painful experiences that our ancestors handed down to us and start afresh. They had to form their own opinion.

And thus started a vigorous week of activities, discussions and games which came to a productive yet unnaturally quick end on the 16th of June.

But we went back with a message. We went back with an understanding that loving Pakistan and loving India are not two sides of a coin - you don't have to pick. You don't have to be at the border to prove your love for the country. Befriending the 'enemy' can be patriotic. So, meet the enemy we did.

Not on a battlefield, as soldiers. Not in a stimulated conference, as politicians.

But in a guest house in Navi Mumbai, as representatives of humanity. As friends.

- Tanvi Surti

  • Lights. Camera. ACTION!  

Under the snowy mountains of Switzerland ? On the rocky cliffs of Colorado ? On the skyscraper at Manhattan ? Forget that! These forty young Indians and Pakistanis chose to spend their first week of summer at a conference set at a Guest House in Navi Mumbai! With a strong delegation of twenty-six adolescent Indians and Pakistanis, and a facilitating team of twenty students from Dhirubhai Ambani International School, “Paigaam” was a unique conference about the relations of India and Pakistan, aimed at developing an everlasting friendship between the youth of the two nations. Filled with lots of enjoyable activities, furious debates and more importantly, a youth dedicated to a better and more peaceful future, Paigaam was a memorable experience for all those involved.

Scene 1, Take 1: Paigaam's beginning

Finally, on 10 th June, the six month-long preparation of Paigaam was put to test when the eighteen Indians and eight Pakistani students arrived. On 11 th June, the momentous beginning of this impressive conference took place and Paigaam was unveiled. What really was Paigaam? Was it an MUN? No! Was it a chance to blame the other nation? No! Was it a chance to solve the conflict between the two nations? No! We couldn't expect twenty-six 16 year-olds to resolve an issue that has been a quandary for the two nations' leaders for over fifty years. This conference had as its aims ideas which went beyond the stereotypical peace conferences - we wanted to stimulate an exchange of ideas amongst the youngsters, promote teamwork, build trust among one another and most importantly build long-lasting relationships with people from across the border. And on this note, the week at Paigaam began. Each activity was carefully created with the aim of being exuberant, yet having a strong message to it (bias, stereotyping, compromise, etc. - issues very pertinent to the Indo-Pak conflict), which the participants came to realize towards the end of each activity. 

Scene 2, Take 1: The two governments meet

One of the most interesting activities was the role-play. The Indians and Pakistanis were mixed and split into two groups, one representing the Indian government, and one the Pakistani government. Each participant represented a minister of that nation. The governments were given three hours to come to a compromise over the Kashmir issue. The quality of debate was unimaginable, and the passion with which Indians spoke on behalf of the Pakistani government and vice-versa, really captured the essence of Paigaam. Finally, after a furious debate of two hours, a lot of dedication and some compromise, the two sides came to a consensus. 

Scene 3, Take 1: Cricket match

The ultimate paradox - the passion for this sport unites the two nations and divides it. And what better way to end the conference than to epitomize this paradox with some friendly rivalry? The last day of Paigaam saw green and blue jerseys fluttering about, bowling, batting and fielding in an exclusive Indo-Pak cricket match. But there was a catch - it wasn't Indians vs Pakistanis; we felt the best way to exemplify our “Paigaam” was to let Indians step into Pakistanis' shoes and vice-versa. This activity characterized all our aims - teamwork, trust-building, and more importantly, the best and most amusing way to punctuate the end of the week.

Only the week had ended, not our striving or determination. This conference has been the most unforgettable experience of my life, and I left, having made some of the best friends of my life and with the realization that such conferences can really help break the stereotypes about the other nation that our generations are growing up with. We hope that our ?Paigaam? continues to be spread all across the world, with conferences much larger than Paigaam ?07, and is extended to include not just India and Pakistan, but Bangladesh, China and Nepal as well.

- Mehek Punatar
  • “A Dream not followed, is a dream not worth dreaming”

This was what my dad said one night, that made me so dejected. So many problems on the mind…Visa still not done… funds not enough… no sponsors yet …communication problems with some schools. It seemed that the youth peace conference some of my classmates and I were organizing was now nearly impossible to hold. It was an Indo-Pak conference where we wanted youth from both nations to interact. Though the theme was future peace proposals on Kashmir issue, the basic aim was to understand each other's culture and ‘break the stereotypes' which we have been making since the time of partition. Sounds clichéd?

Well then, what makes this initiative different from the numerous others “peace organizations” ones that have been launched between India and Pakistan since 2000? The answer was simple. There is a vast difference between negotiating for peace and peace culminating through understanding and caring. A difference between diplomats and friends. One of the biggest human drawbacks is trying to bury or minimize the problem, rather than finding the root-cause of it, be it a misunderstanding, baseless prejudice, or ego issue. It has been a well-known belief that ‘Youth of Today' are the ‘Leaders of Tomorrow' and the problems around the globe will be up to them to solve. With this thought, we wanted to spark a deep-rooted understanding and friendship as a basic platform for further co-operation, which can spread tomorrow.

This understanding made my friends and I work for a year to make ‘Paigaam '07' a success. We decided to bring together a group of young minds across India and Pakistan from diverse background through a selection process. The idea was not to have a ‘summit' where delegates of both countries put their points across, but to have series of informal ‘activities' and games, through which we could make them understand the problems from both countries' perspective and ‘get the bigger picture'. It was tough. We had neither any idea of visa process nor had any experience dealing with governments and with the sensitive diplomatic situation between the two nations, it seemed very difficult. Already a similar conference last year (of which some of us were participants) could not get Pakistani delegates visa, making us a little more skeptical of reaching our goal.

It was around that time, one night, that my dad's words struck me. He was right. We needed to think and plan our work. We could not ‘crib' and do nothing. Yes, it was going to be difficult, but not impossible. Just a few days later, a ray of hope was seen through these dark, cloudy times. One of the participants of the last conference helped us get through the governmental procedures in Delhi. Our Chairperson and the school Administration supported us strongly. It seemed now everything was just going to be the way we planned. Right, now we needed to get on with the timetable during the conference, but due to the SAT's and exams-infested May, everything became stagnant for the month. It was only after the end of the month that we met regularly, planned and checked every detail.

The actual conference was itself much more than words can describe it. Every moment of it was worth the effort put in. Even as a facilitator, I got to learn so much from it. We made friends there; friends from different cities and nations, but friends for life, making the other things insignificant. It is difficult to express exactly what the feeling was. Misquoting Morpheus from The Matrix, “No one can really tell you what Paigaam is, you have to feel it to know it.” All I can say is the End here DID justify the Means. Oscar Wilde once said, “Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length”. He was right. I felt that Happiness for those short five days and I think the mark of it is going to be left throughout my life.


- Anupriya Kanti

•  Pakistani Participant - Kinza Naqvi

On 9th June 2007, nine patriotic and fervent Pakistanis landed at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. Ostensibly, feeling a little out of place, we headed outside to find ourselves drown in a plethora of people. A familiar voice grasped my attention and the speck of alienation vanished upon seeing three adolescents waving and smiling warmly at us. After a short introduction, we got into impeccably luxurious cars, swooshed through the roads of Navi Mumbai and halted at Dhirubhai Ambani International School . Relaxation, chit-chats, touring Dhirubhai Ambani International School and contenting our growling tummies were the core reasons for two hours' stay there.

Around six-thirty, we arrived at the beautiful and comfortable guest house. On our way back, I chatted with one of the security guards and we were pretty glad and surprised to know how much our culture, language, accent and dresses are in common.

Paigaam's logo comprising Pakistan and India's flags complimented by a dove; symbolizing ‘peace', was a replenishing sight and made me realize that the conference was taking place for real - a gigantic triumph indeed, after hard work for six months!

The next day, we left for ‘Mumbai Darshan.' A visit to a Hindu temple was indeed very interesting and informative. We also went to the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay Chowpatti, Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel, Juhu beach, Jehangir Art Gallery and a few shopping malls.

The much-awaited 11th June arrived and the grand conference commenced with oozing fervour and hype. At 8.30 am, the Club House was buzzing with laughter and muffled voices. Kick-starting, we wrote self-realization letters to jot down our sincere view points about Indians, Pakistanis and Indo-Pak relations over sixty years. These letters were sealed and later compared with freshly written self-realization letters on 15th of June. The results varied astoundingly!

Next, we proceeded with a few trust-building and conflict-management activities which consequently educated us to trust and help each other despite belonging to different races and religions, esteem each others' views and most notably, come to a mutual conciliation after debating over rusty and typical issues.

‘War and Peace' directed by Mr. Anand Patwardan and ‘Making of a Muslim terrorist' were controversial, agitating and debatable movies that we watched. They were followed by a question-answer session as Mr. Patwardan was invited to confer with forty-four of us. Undeniably, it was an attention-grabbing discussion!

The next morning, we clad formally for three hours' grand conference. Indians and Pakistanis were mingled together and allotted posts of different ministers, Presidents and Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. Also, one Pakistani and Indian acted as representatives of Liberals for Kashmir (LFK). It was more like a Model United Nation that welled up diverse opinions, rejuvenated former buried problems and resulted in a heated debate. Proceeding, the Defence Ministers of the respective countries coordinated and drafted a resolution that was acceptable to India, Pakistan and Kashmir ..

Furthermore, History text-book writing proved to be one of the most engaging activities. The Pakistanis realized that instruments of accession don't even exist in their text books. Also, the Indians knew very little about the plebiscite that according to the Pakistanis could prove to be an easy victory to get Kashmir.

Indo-Pak cricket matches have certainly been the talk of the town! Similarly, the Paigaamis plunged into the zeal of four cricket matches, sprinkled by doses of revitalizing commentary from one of the facilitators. Both the countries' national anthems were sung before opening the cricket match. Indeed, it was great fun!

A treasure-hunt was a profusely strenuous activity that dealt with exploring renowned cities of India and Pakistan through a number of clues - the final destination being Kashmir. The winning team was blindfolded and blessed with buckets of cold water, to kill the exhaustion after an hour of striving to reach Kashmir.

A farewell dance party was thrown on 15th June to live up and savour the last few hours together. Moreover, we drew our hand-prints on pieces of pink and white paper that were embellished with friendship messages, to be treasured forever.

Undoubtedly, it was an experience of a lifetime and I pray that such triumphant exchange programs promoting peace, harmony and friendship between the two countries continue to happen in the near future. Live long Paigaam!


  Pakistani Participant - Nida Sohail Chaudary

I entered Mumbai on Saturday the 9th of June 2007, at 12:45 pm Indian Standard Time. I was entering the land of my “enemies”, entering the land that I, like thousands of other Pakistanis, had been brought up to loathe. I was extremely skeptical as to the treatment that I would get, I had my doubts regarding the immigration process and all with due reason as it had taken me a year alone to muster a 10-day visa after several rejections.

Yet I was a girl on a mission. I had come to erase the invisible boundaries of hatred that separated the people of our respective nations; I had come to understand these ‘Indians' who for me were a myth, represented only by biased politicians or over dramatic ‘soaps'. I had come to be a change!

I came to India to participate in a week-long peace conference known as PAIGAAM (ironically sharing its name with Al-Qaeeda's Hindu-Muslim conversion drive in India ), organized by Dhirubhai Ambani International School . The tagline for which was “Angel of Peace” and the main topic of discussion being Kashmir.

For one week all of us took part in several activities which not only changed our view points regarding the Kashmir Issue, but made us better human beings. This conference taught us not only diplomacy and persuasive augmenting, but more important lessons such as making a certain situation beneficial for all, like learning to sacrifice for the greater good, it taught us how it feels to be labeled and blindly misled. But on a personal note it taught me an immensely important lesson and that is that these ‘people' living across the border are not another classification of human, nor are they to be held responsible for the mistakes and actions of their leaders in the past and present; but they are as much like me and the other Pakistanis as they can possibly be.

Because of PAIGAAM I have made the greatest friends I could ever make. I found such love and friendship in India that it was beyond my imagination. And I speak for the entire Pakistani delegation when I say that these bonds of love and friendship that we have formed with the Indians in a matter of seven days are ones that can never be corrupted by political or military tensions!

I have come to realize that the main causes of this unexplained rivalry between our great nations are not only the personal grievances of our ancestors, who brainwash us from childhood, but also the media which portrays the people from across the border as some kind of extra-terrestrials living only on their thirst for “revenge” against the other. And the history textbooks alongside our history teachers, who instead of teaching the facts, impart such biased knowledge that a student becomes prejudiced against their neighbor.

I departed from India on Saturday the 16th of June, 2007, at 2:30 pm Indian Standard Time. I was leaving the land where I had made the greatest of friends; a land that I now loved…

PAIGAAM – AMAN KA FARISHTA
(Click here to view photos)