THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, KARACHI, 09th OCTOBER 2013:
When Belinda Seneviratne was asked to write an essay on why she wanted to go to Pakistan, she excitedly wrote on how she wanted to experience the country’s vibrant culture and explore Thar Desert.
“I haven’t had the chance to visit the desert but the trip has been unforgettable so far. I have been to the Mohatta Palace and so many other places,” said the excited young girl. “And the food is absolutely scrumptious.”
Seneviratne is one of the six Sri Lankan students who are visiting Karachi as part of the Nelson Mandela Peace Fellowship programme. The students were awarded certificates by the Sri Lankan consul general and The CAS School principal at a ceremony held on Tuesday.
The exchange programme is vital for the two countries, said Sri Lankan Consul General HMB Herath. “Such fellowship programmes offer people a chance to exchange ideas and promote and respect each other’s culture,” he said while addressing the students.
Dressed in their white school uniforms with their hair tied up in red ribbons, the students of Ladies College in Colombo sat side by side with the Pakistani students who were hosting them.
Tanya Javaid, a grade nine student of The CAS School, said that it was a fun experience hosting Seneviratne. “My siblings are all abroad and I’m the only child at home right now so I’m having a good time hosting a foreigner,” she said animatedly, who has learnt words of the Sinhala language from her guest.
Githmi Rabel from Sri Lanka also used the opportunity to learn Urdu and can now write her name in the language. “I also know how to say Shukriya and Khana,” she told her friends. Rabel finds Pakistan similar to her home, especially because of food like biryani and chapaati.
Another Sri Lankan student, Jeshani Sri Kumar, fell in love with Karachi’s buses. “I’m so fascinated by them, especially the way people travel on their rooftops. The truck art in Pakistan is also so fascinating,” said Sri Kumar, who is already planning to visit Pakistan again with her family. She told The Express Tribune that she is taking handmade key chains, bags and shawls for the loved ones back home.
Pakistani food is what caught Aleena Abdul Cader’s attention, who spends nights gossiping with her Pakistani counterpart and teaching her how to play the guitar and piano. “I loved the haleem and pulao my host family made for me,” she said. The host students of CAS will visit Colombo in February. Among them is Minelle Khan who is looking most forward to visiting the beaches and Kandy.
According to Maha Jafarey, a representative of The CAS School, this was the second batch of students from Sri Lanka. “The school had planned activities for them, including a city tour,” she said. “We also plan to start fellowship programmes for boys.”
The middle-school section head of the Ladies College in Colombo, Veronica Adams, said that some parents were reluctant to send their kids to Pakistan. “But safety is not a main concern as we have gone though a similar law and order situation. I love Pakistan and its people are very nice.”