Alizay Jaffer, a 29-year-old “tree hugger” from Karachi, has emerged as an eloquent voice of reason, and an unlikely champion of peace, amidst the cacophony of war cries that have been dominating social media following the Uri attacks.
With her open letter (see inset) where she confessed her strange “affinity with India…” Alizay won the hearts of millions of Indians, who’ve been hailing her for sending a thumping message of love. But she “never” imagined that her post would go viral. We spoke to Alizay, now based in Islamabad, about what moved her to write the post. Excerpts:
What provoked you to write that post? Did you ever imagine that it would garner so much response and go viral?
I am neither a journalist nor an expert, nor am I qualified in any manner to speak about politics and government decisions. I merely speak my mind — more my heart, actually, I’m one of those! The mindless war rhetoric on either side is what irked me to write this. I only write when I am deeply moved by something. It was beyond me why people on the other side of the border are being dehumanized. And no, I had never imagined it would garner such a response. I am glad that this was a piece of positive news, reaching out instead of hate-mongering. But we are not always so lucky.
In response to your post, an Indian man even proposed marriage… What has the response from Pakistan been?
This piece has gone more viral in India than in Pakistan, so I have received more responses from India. Almost 98% of the responses I have received have been extremely encouraging and positive. I have had several Indians message or write in to say that they never knew good people existed in Pakistan. My post encouraged them not to pay attention to all the hate-mongering and be positive or agree to disagree more civilly. How lovely is that thought! There is still hope when more than a few people on either side recognize that there are no winners in a war.
You have been critical of your country’s policies in the past too. Have you faced any backlash?
Well, a lot of people have written to me, extremely concerned about my safety. I was born and brought up in Pakistan. I have lived abroad for my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and subsequently worked there for about two years or so, but I did come back! There are radical elements in every society. But we have all bought this idea that it’s a horrible world out there. I am safe. I am fine. It’s really not even one-tenth as bad as anyone thinks it is. I’ll give you an example — someone wrote in and asked if it would be safe for them to visit Pakistan.
‘We will welcome you with open arms,’ I said because I know I will, and I know thousands of others who will. He immediately responded with a Wikipedia page about the Blasphemy Law. His concerns are valid, of course. That is one hell of a scary law. Then he asked me whether I had visited India. I told him I had, but that I was slightly concerned because I had heard a lot about rape cases in Delhi… but that didn’t stop me! Perceptions can and will only change once people learn to think for themselves, experience things for themselves, and not allow a corporate or government agenda to dictate their thoughts!
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That would be an ideal world…
Yes, I’d like to wake up in a world where we don’t pass on our suspicions and disdain from one generation to the next. Even if one generation has a rationale for something, it is accepted as fact for the next generation. What could be worse than that? We have been conditioned from the word go to view each other with this suspicion. I want to wake up in a world where politicians didn’t use war to distract the public from things that actually matter — food, water, safety, housing. Hopefully, if positive messages like these go viral more often, perhaps we can suppress all the hate doing the rounds.