As we observe the South Asian Heritage months, we aim to bring out more stories of unity among the South Asian communities, not just in UK, but also back home.
India and Pakistan have been portrayed as rivals for long, the political hostility between the nations have done little to douse this misconception. However, in the recent past, one episode, or rather a series of episodes have proved that Indians and Pakistanis can get along well, not just in UK, but also in their own home countries.
Meet Abrar Hassan, a Pakistani vlogger, who has managed to win hearts both in India and Pakistan.
Born in Punjab province of Pakistan, Abrar is an aerospace engineer from Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad. Post his graduation, he moved to Germany for further studies, and it was there he discovered his love for travelling. He has since, travelled to South America, Australia and New Zealand.
He had earlier made headlines, when he rode a motorbike from Pakistan for 50 days, to perform Umrah, a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
Hassan, on his bike, has recently completed a ‘friendship tour’ of India, where he travelled through the length and breadth of the country, on his bike and captured on camera, the heart-warming and welcoming reactions he received wherever he went.
His 30-day journey, which started on 30 April, he showcased his journey to the world on YouTube, in 36 episodes, visiting cities and states across the country, through his series called ‘Pakistani in India’.
He rode through Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, and as the videos show, he was welcomed with warmth and affection in each of these states.
Each of the states Abrar, visited, he made sure to do a meet-up, with his fans, who thronged to take a picture with him.
In a visibly emotional journey, in almost every video, he claims, “India in itself is a world.”
Recalling his journey, Abrar says, “India has always been on my mind, because I live in Nankana Sahib, which is a religious place for Sikhs, for India and around the world. I grew up in the same city, so I had very close ties with the people I met, who had come from India. I was always very curious too. So, India, was always on my mind. When I started to travel by motorcycle, was from Germany to Pakistan and India.”
“Initially I wanted to start in Delhi, because it was my childhood dream to visit Delhi. If you read history, Delhi and Lahore were always mentioned in the same sentence, so everyone in Lahore, is always thinking about a chance to visit Delhi.”
“My videos were also being watched in India, so I always used to get messages from India saying, Abrar bhai when are you visiting in India, so it was always on my mind”.
Initially, due to Covid, Abrar couldn’t get a visa, due to the Indian borders being closed.
Hassan started his bike tour from Kochi in Kerala, a state in South of India. “South was not on my mind, but when I started the procedure of shipping my bike, I came to know Kochi is the easiest port to ship to, so I decided to start my trip from South of India”.
“I always have heard about and loved the backwaters of Kerala, so it was a dream to visit the state, so I though, why not do it,” he adds.
About the similarities and difference between India and Pakistan, he says, “If you are in the South, it is very different compared to the north, there are a lot of culture, it changes every region. However, as you come close to North of India, you start finding similarities”.
“The way of thinking by the people is almost the same, both the sides believe in jugaad, a cunning way to get things to get done.”
“The love of food is also identical on both the sides. We always think about what to eat next.” He laughs. “My travel was planned according to food.”
Recalling his meets, he exclaims, “The way people meet and greet you on the streets and the love the show towards a Pakistani traveller, that was something that moved me. I have never experienced this anywhere.”
When asked, what he was his best pick when it comes to Indian food he lists down, “I love the Masala Dosa in South, there’s also Chicken Parotta. In Goa, the fish thali was extremely good, then in Maharashtra, I loved the Missal pav, I hope I get it again, I loved the Vada Pav, the street delicacy of Mumbai. I love the Gujarati Thali too; I had in Gujarat. I loved the food in almost all the places”.
“My favourite has been food from Delhi and Punjab, Chole Bhature from Delhi and Amritsari Kulche from Punjab, I had these for the first time – so these were the food I loved the most”.
When asked about his best memory from the Indian trip, Abrar says, “Something which I will never forget is once my bike was stuck in a place in Karnataka, I uploaded a story for help and within 20 to 30 minutes, people came in from different parts of city, to help me out. There was one person from Bhatkal, a city 80 kilometres from where I was, he saw my story, he came with his father on a motorcycle, and found me. He invited me home for food and made me a nice Bhatkal biryani”.
“Every other place has a similar story, in Kolhapur, people waited for me on the highway, in Mumbai, I uploaded a story for a meetup and within one hour, people came in. Every other place, be it Delhi or Ahmedabad, it was something that I have never experienced before.”
“This has changed not only my perspective, but also a lot of people back home in Pakistan, when they saw the love, I received in India. This was not only for me, as a traveller, but also the love for the people of Pakistan.”
Speaking about diversity in India, “I have already said many times, India is not a country, it is a world. I have never experienced such diversity in any other country, because in other countries you can travel for thousands of kilometres and nothing changes, but in India, everything changes with the region. That’s the beauty of India, there are so many countries inside one, everyone is proud to be an Indian, but at the same time they are proud of their local culture”.
When asked if he would go back to India, “If it were in my hands, I would leave for India, tonight or tomorrow. Being a bike traveller, I would love to see, Kashmir, Ladakh, Leh, Himachal, Uttarakhand and all those beautiful places in the north.”
“I would visit the seven states in North-east too, which are called the seven sisters”.
Adding to his wish list he goes on, “I would also love to visit, Kolkata, Lucknow and Hyderabad”.
Both India and Pakistan, have had a history of political hostilities, but when it comes to culture, language, food and people, the countries are close to identical. Abrar Hassan has attempted to showcase this similarity through the video. He seemingly has proven, through the videos, that people of the two countries, can get along well together.