Radio HILA, & My Relationship with Pakistan

It started for me sometime in July this year. A dear friend in Bangalore introduced me to this new internet radio channel from Islamabad – the show was a weekend show called We Tweet. My internet activity that time, mainly consisted of tweeting big and small details of my everyday life and I’d just about started making friends on the other side of the border. And now, my friends in Pakistan are the sole reason I type out most of my posts twice – in Devnagri and in Nastaliq, and I am grateful for them that because of them, I get to be in touch with the script of a language I love and adore – Urdu.

But I digress. I do that a lot. Apologies.

So, We Tweet was aired on Saturdays and Sundays and the hour-hour and a half when the show was on air, some of my friends here in India and some in Pakistan, would all be tuned in, listening, commenting on twitter, feeling a grateful for a sense of a happy shared space. The most memorable episode for me was one in which they discussed tv dramas – how Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahoo Thi was popular in Pakistan and the horde of happy memories that the name Dhoop Kinaray triggered when mentioned on my timeline. Friends in the northern India and Indians living in the USA and Canada especially remembered the show with particular warmth and fondness.

Then came along three more shows of which Sanyukt Taleem was co-hosted by one of HILA’s founders, Naseem Khan Achakzai from Islamabad and Akanksha from Mumbai. The show’s focus was education and the issues and challenges that both India & Pakistan faced in the sector. Other than generating a lot of effective ideas, the show also successfully brought alive a lot of childhood memories from school days.

Then I met the very vivacious Zenub Babur Butt on twitter, and her show on HILA, Gulabi Punjabi was an absolute riot – true to the spirit of Punjab and punjabiyat, she packs a lot of spunk and fun and laughter and “rolla” and with a new topic to discuss each week, I absolutely look forward to Wednesday evenings. What’s more, Zenub’s energy and enthusiasm is so infectious that my mother, who barely follows any Punjabi, also listens in with me and enjoys the music that Zenub plays.

I do quite miss another show that followed Gulabi Punjabi, called Baithak. It had a beautiful flute instrumental piece as its motif and Taimur Rehman’s beautifully spoken Urdu was its trademark, other than songs from times gone by – lyrical, melodious, and carrying nostalgia along. That felt like going on an emotional journey of sorts. (An added bonus would be if Mr. T would hum a line or two during the show.)

So, its been so many months of listening in and yet today is when I finally sit down and recall and make a point to thank these people who have continued to strengthen my bond with my friends in Pakistan, giving us airwaves to share, music to dedicate to each other, incidents to reminisce and smile about. I don’t know if this was the intent for the team at HILA, but for me, this is what they have done – cemented my bond with my people, despite an international border between us.

Well, India and Pakistan are certainly not the best of friends if one goes by the news reports by their respective media houses. But there is a different equation between, what I hope, is, a growing number of civilians on both sides of the border. Mine is one where I have been blessed with a brother in Lahore, a dear friend who is like a sister, in Karachi, a friend, philosopher and guide in Sadiqabad, a dearly beloved friend in Faisalabad, amazingly awesome friends in Islamabad, speaking with whom, sometimes, I feel, to quote my brother, “my heart will burst with all the love”. I credit you Radio HILA for this, beautiful relationship that you’ve strengthened between your country and me.

Take a bow Naseem Khan Achakzai, Yasir Khan Niazi, Zenub Babur Butt, Shiraz Hassan, & Taimur Rehman. (Well, you all are the voices I recognize and recall.) You’ve all connected me to your country and how! These are just excerpts of memories that I shared here and I do wish you all the very best and hope that the missing shows are back on air again. Soon.

Like Zenub would say, “Sunn raha hai na tu?”
(I don’t know who is the “tu” that she refers to here.)


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