DAWN, KARACHI, 03rd OCTOBER 2013: “What is your country like? What school do you go to? What is your favourite festival?” These and other such questions were posed by students from India and Pakistan through letters, postcards and oral histories in the “Exchange for Change: Pakistan India 2012-2013” exhibition at the Sadequain Gallery, Frere Hall, on Tuesday.
Postcards written by Pakistani students, aged between 10 and 14 years, ranged from celebrating their birthdays to enjoying themselves at a Basant festival and to discussing the beauty of Shogran, the tourist spot in the northern areas. Nearly all postcards and letters were jotted down in English but there was one written by Irshad, a student of Class VIII at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Public School, in Urdu who described everything in Pakistan as “khoobsoorat”.
Letters by Indian students discussed a diverse range of topics such as Ganesh Chaturthi festival, collecting shells as a hobby, watching Indian films like English Vinglish and Oh My God among other subjects and were impressive for their clarity and penmanship.
Also displayed at the exhibition were a mish-mash of cut-outs that was labelled as collage work on themes such as historical monuments and cultural practices. But there was a particular collage work made by BVS Parsi High School students that brought a smile to one’s face. For instance, in their collage work titled “School Life” they had inserted a cheeky Q & A one of which was “Most wonderful news: Teacher is absent”.
Oral histories were also exhibited in which students interviewed with their grandparents focusing on their recollections of life before Partition. However, this was marred by poor audio quality.
The project was first launched with 2,400 students from 10 schools in Karachi, Lahore, Delhi and Mumbai in September 2010 with the collaboration between the Citizens Archive of Pakistan and Routes2Roots, an Indian non-profit organisation.
This time round the project began in 2012 and expanded to 17 schools in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Delhi, Chandigarh and Mumbai and comprised 3,500 students.
Schools from Pakistan that participated in the ‘Exchange for Change’ project included Mama Parsi School, BVS Parsi High School, AMI School, School of Technical Sciences, the Trust School, The Citizens Foundation, Quality School Foundation, Quaid-i-International School, White House Grammar School and Gulshan-i-Iqbal Public School.
The schools participating in the project from India are Gem Public School, Saupins School, The British School, Adarsh Vidalaya, Shree Amulakh Amichand Bhimji Vividlakshi Vidyalaya, Guru Harikrishnan School and Tagore International School.