29 Apr, 2016

I was told by a colleague that whenever you cross the Wagah/Attari border into India you should halt for a cup of tasty masala chai at Balay Balay Restaurant, which is about three miles from the frontier.

I was in a hurry so I didn’t take his advice but on my return trip, when I had enough time before the closure of gates at 4pm our time and 3.30 Indian Standard Time, I stopped for a while. The tea was good but the setting, not to speak of the toilet, left much to be desired.

About a couple of miles from the border I saw the bazaar of the border village Attari and had a good look at what was on sale. It was unmistakably like the bazaars in our small towns, with just three differences – the signboards were in Devnagri scripts, there were cycle rickshaws and a generous sprinkling of turbaned and bearded Sikhs.

I bought a kg of ginger, of all items, since there was some purity about it. The ginger we get in Karachi these days is ‘cleaned’ by a chemical, which makes it ‘smooth’ and heavier. I buried the bulbs of ginger in my flower pots and am thrilled to see their leaves sprouting.

The main building  of Sarhad, built in the architectural  style that you see in the walled cities of Lahore and Amritsar
The main building of Sarhad, built in the architectural style that you see in the walled cities of Lahore and Amritsar

I boarded the cab once again and much to my surprise, a mile later, I found a couple of mini vans embellished with Pakistani truck art, parked in a place appropriately named Sarhad. It was billed as ‘the food and culture park’, but what was not mentioned was the term ‘architecture’. Built of red bricks, the main building is in line with the architecture of the walled cities of Lahore and Amritsar. It is appropriately named ‘The Museum of Peace’.

The 3-dimensional marble flooring of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was recreated in the forecourt of Sarhard, while the floor design of Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore was reproduced on the main entrance to Sarhad. The eminent Lahore-based architect Nayar Ali Dada was consulted when Sarhad was being designed.

Dove the symbol of peace forms the emblem of Sarhad
Dove the symbol of peace forms the emblem of Sarhad

The young man behind Sarhad is 32-year old Aman Bir Singh. The clean shaven and turban-less Sikh is more commonly known as Aman Jaspal. He holds a Master’s in Economics from a Norwegian University. He is married to a young lady from New Zealand and just to please her perhaps he clapped for the winning team.

Young people on both sides, according to Aman Jaspal, have different perceptions about the other side. They don’t carry the baggage of Partition.

A mural depicting peace between India and Pakistan was   painted by young boys and girls
A mural depicting peace between India and Pakistan was painted by young boys and girls

“When I went to Pakistan I was impressed with the cuisine, fashion, art and music and was fascinated by the similarities between the two Punjabs. I attend the fashion shows and import Pakistani shalwar qameez,” he said as he led me to a smaller building where a good number of dresses from across the border were on sale.

Jaspal is in touch with the Pakistan Designers’ Council and some fashion designers to increase his imports as he plans to open an outlet for Pakistani dresses initially in Chandigarh, where he is settled with his family, and later in Amritsar, Jullundur and Ludhiana. He also loves Khaleefa’s Nankhatai, which is made in the walled city of Lahore, and wonders if he could import that as well.

Displayed on the main entrance of Sarhad are a pair of  vans, embellished with Pakistani truck art
Displayed on the main entrance of Sarhad are a pair of vans, embellished with Pakistani truck art

The vans, he told me, were painted by Haider Ali, an expert from Pakistan.

“I saw his work at the Smithsonian Institution in the US and was highly impressed, which was why I got him to paint these vehicles,” he told me.

As for the food served in the restaurant on the premises, one must particularly mention the vegetarian fare served in a thali under the name of Amritsari thali, and the non-veg food which is billed as Lahori thali. I didn’t taste any food because I had had a heavy breakfast.

The walls, call them murals, if you like, were brightly painted by young men and women from Amritsar on the theme of peace.

Displayed on the walls of the Museum of Peace are issues  of 'Tribune', published shortly before Partition
Displayed on the walls of the Museum of Peace are issues of 'Tribune', published shortly before Partition

The museum on the upper floor of the main building displayed copies of Tribune published from Lahore in June and July 1947. One may like to recall that after Partition, the daily moved to Ambala, while its premises and its press were allotted to the new daily Pakistan Times under the editorship of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

What interested me most was a photograph of the border being demarcated through empty oil barrels in Wagah in 1947. Bus and train tickets from Lahore to Amritsar, issued when the two cities belonged to one country, will also be exhibited in due course.

Aman Jaspal started working on Sarhad in 2012 and has ambitious plans of making his brainchild, a symbol of peace and brotherhood, a counter move against the jingoistic drama staged every evening at the flag-lowering time, merely a mile away from Sarhad.

Those interested in keeping in touch with the developments in Sarhad can go to the website,


wellwisher Apr 29, 2016 01:33pm
The younger generation has begun to see two countries as two different countries.This is troubling older generation which still feels we are one.
Sanjeeb Bose, Kolkata, India Apr 29, 2016 01:36pm
Asif Noorani, Thanks for this wonderful description... Hope peace prevail in this region...
MindShare Apr 29, 2016 01:40pm
Awsome. I am thinking that there is no reason that a common citizen not allowed to visit each other and taste masala tea at Sarhad and Chamman ice cream at Chamman inner - lahore. Some day pass or or hours pass will work.
arif Apr 29, 2016 01:44pm
May the those who advocate peace and love between people on both sides of the Indo-Pak border prosper and increase in number!
Kams Apr 29, 2016 01:52pm
Wao. Great idea
Jawad Apr 29, 2016 02:25pm
Quote: ' when I had enough time before the closure of gates at 4pm our time and 3.30 Indian Standard Time, I stopped for a while. ' India is 30 mins ahead, so if its 4PM PST then its 4:30 PM IST.
M Waheed Apr 29, 2016 02:29pm
A very good initiative. I hope this will be reciprocated by some one in Pakistan where we can have Amritsri dishes. Peace and harmony is what we need in both countries and between both countries.
Nex Apr 29, 2016 02:52pm
I have been to this place.. you should have tried the food it is amazing.
Aniket Rastogi Apr 29, 2016 03:07pm
Its so over-whelming whenever people from either side read something like this. It gives us a feeling and realization how in-different we are yet we have differences amongst us. Call me crazy but somewhere deep down I believe if we remove the border as a trial, its gonna bring a lot of happiness among commoners but the people wearing the political hat be the unhappy ones. They cite instances of infiltration and spy agencies working to cause unrest in the region etc etc but the shopkeeper selling fruits-vegetables in his shop or a MNC employee rushing to his office and working all day doesn't have the means to know the actual truth. We read it in the newspaper and believe it. Some might be true but some must be damn sure fake. I am an Indian and in my mid twenties and I hope this clash of political egos and war of words ends before my hair turns grey. Hope both the countries get a wake up call and settle their own problems and their differences with each other before it gets too late.
Qamar Valliani Apr 29, 2016 04:08pm
As long as BJP is in power, there will never be peace.
Pakistani Apr 29, 2016 05:46pm
If Indians really want to enjoy food, then they should come to Karachi. The best food outlets in town. Both old and modern settings available. Plus we have beaches to enjoy. Lahore does not have any. So forget Punjab, come to Karachi and experience Mughlai hospitality.
Asif Jamil Apr 29, 2016 05:53pm
It is wonderful that young people are trying to work for peace and harmony in this way. As a business executive I made many trips to India and have very many fond memories. Let me just share one story with you. It was in early 1990's, I was with a group of Indian business friends in a 5 Star Hotel's restaurant in Bombay. Late in the evening, a middle aged Hindu Indian gentlemen approached me and said, I have been listening to you, I think, you are from Pakistan. He said his father came to India during the partition and he would very much like to spend some time with me to know about his father's home. I was deeply touched. I agreed to go out for dinner with him the next day. He turned out to be a very rich industrialist and we both painted the town red at his cost. He felt very close to me because as he said, you come from my late father's country. I will never forget this. There is so much love for us in India, forget the politics.
Niaz H. Jafri Apr 29, 2016 06:22pm
@arif Aameen
Niaz H. Jafri Apr 29, 2016 06:25pm
@M Waheed Bravo !
Niaz H. Jafri Apr 29, 2016 06:25pm
Great initiative !
Niaz H. Jafri Apr 29, 2016 06:45pm
Really heartening to see such a great effort ! I am a Pakistani but trust me I love Indian food. On my recent trip to different parts of Thailand, I really did enjoy Indian cuisine. Traditionally and habitually, we Pakistanis are meat eaters (myself included) but on this particular trip of mine, I developed a taste for all kinds of vegetables, daals, & paneeer dishes etc. only because of the way Indians made these. Kudos to those who came up with such a novel idea !!! Many more efforts are needed in this region of ours to bring some sanity - and more importantly peace.
Syed Moinuddin, Canada Apr 29, 2016 08:05pm
We need people like this young man to promote peace and harmony between the two countries. What he might consider is opening a branch on the Pakistani side of the border.
nazish awais Apr 29, 2016 09:33pm
We were leaving for pak so we had some small meeting with aman..I must say he is very ambitious person andI can't tell how much I appreciated his kindness..The decorations were was very neat,clean and very of luck aman and to your sarhad..soon will visit again..:)
Riaz Uddin Apr 29, 2016 09:44pm
When I read such stories which point similarities of both parts of Punjab I become sad and question from my ownself as to what was the exigency that led to partition in.the presence strong possibility of being living together with love, peace and utmost tranquillity.
Akbar Sait Apr 29, 2016 10:24pm
@MindShare thank you for this very reasonable and attractive idea. Food for thought perhaps some of the powers that be do not want substantial inter action between Pakistanis and Indians. This I believe is because inevitably this would lead to understanding the fact that each has problems common to the other and resources used to fuel conflict should be dedicated to the welfare of the common man.
Tariq, Lahore Apr 29, 2016 11:02pm
That's a great idea gets up-close people to people contact and makes commercial sense! Someone should start up the same on the Wagah side of the border offing the 'Indian experience' both of food and much sought after saries!
Tariq, Lahore Apr 29, 2016 11:31pm
I would love to visit India but I feel I will not be allowed to move freely, it will probably be a restricted visa?
Dr.Cajetan Coelho Apr 29, 2016 11:39pm
Nice one Asif bhai.
Thoroughthinker Apr 30, 2016 12:05am
@Pakistani Dear, they say in Pakistan, "Jinnay laour nayi wakhiya oo jammia e nayi" meaning one who has not seen Lahore is never born.
sidney Apr 30, 2016 12:59am
This is a good story. Love to visit Sarhad some day
Iamnotjoking Apr 30, 2016 01:44am
It's useless to built restaurants or hotels on either side of border,the core issue is easy and free movement by people,the most hassle is felt by the divided families,conditional visas are issued,while after submitting the affidavits,electric bills,telephone bills,the HC or Consulate take 3 months to issue visa,until that time the visit plan changed and the passenger has to cancel his trip.Hence unless travel made easy you can move forward.
ROHIT PANDEY Apr 30, 2016 02:06am
@Qamar Valliani Someone called Narendra Modi stopped by in Pakistan, I remember? Another BJP PM called Atal Bihari Vajpayee did the same as well?:):):)
joe Apr 30, 2016 06:25am
@Qamar Valliani You are mistaken .If at all there can be any progress in peace process ,it can be only by BJP ,congress or any other party have no guts.
joe Apr 30, 2016 06:28am
@Pakistani Well if you are so fond of Mugalai dishes then head for its origin a city called Lucknow.
B.Ally Apr 30, 2016 08:00am
It seems Jesspal himself is a grand symbol of oneness reflected in Sarhad.
BIMAL CHANDRA JHA Apr 30, 2016 08:37am
Thank you, Asif for writing a short memoir on Sarahad at Attari/ Wagah board. - Bimal
amer Apr 30, 2016 08:38am
just had khatti hydrabadi daal with my indian friend you people should try it just awsome
Rohit Apr 30, 2016 01:47pm
Just one small correction, I think you got the time wrong. If it was 4pm PST then IST would have been 4.30 and not 3.30.
neer Apr 30, 2016 09:41pm
@Tariq, Lahore u r welcome dear
bharat May 01, 2016 01:19pm
But Pakistani food is quite rich in taste and flavour.I believe you liberally use ghee. I would recommend Pakistanis to try Indian Konkan cuisine
sudhir May 01, 2016 03:02pm
I don't care if we take another 200 years to solve Kashmir issue. Why can't we just resume normal business, give one another visas so that we can cross the borders, soak up one another's' culture and generally have a good time? We do have a shared culture and let's not stop pretending we don't.
Adnan May 02, 2016 02:29pm
For a moment I thought it was about paktunkhwa