A Trip Across the Border

There are two kinds of people around you. One who wait for things to happen and one who make things happen.

This year, during the second Pak India Inter-Collegiate Drama Festival, March 3-9, 2008 at Government College University (GCU), Lahore, I met an ample number of the second kind and feel extremely proud to have been a part of this convergence of budding performers. Why I feel that this endeavor was a coming together of people who make things happen is because the annual theatre festival, that is witnessing its second anniversary this year, is a commendable initiative on part of GC Dramatics Club. Dr. Farhan, incharge GCUDC as well as convener of the fiesta, and his young guns are a shining example of those having the courage to visualize new milestones.

The bi-national level event being yet in its nascent stage, there was a general buzz regarding its inception. Also, on this one particularly beautiful night in the GC campus during a TV talk show, Ek Aur Pehlu, Dr Farhan himself recounted the main achievement of the club in 2007. This was the Pak-India Collegiate in March in which three colleges of India LSR, Hansraj and Kamla Nehru – their respective dramatics societies contacted by him personally through e-mail – participated along with institutions from all over four provinces of Pakistan. The event was a huge success, covered widely. A step further was taken by DU in November 2007. On its invitation, the GCUDC team toured India and performed at colleges like Hindu, Kamla Nehru and the IHC.And so this year in March, Dr.Farhan and his squad kept the fire burning and organized a “dazzling collage of amateur drama productions from India and Pakistan at one place with a finesse expected of professionals” in the words of Prof. Dr. Khalid Aftab, Vice Chancellor,GCU.

A deep sense of appreciation is owed to the Universities and their VCs on both sides, and various sponsors for their support in realizing this interaction. It is going to be interesting to add here that legends of Hindi cinema like Dev Anand and Balraj Sahni are among the distinguished alumni of GCU. In the subsequent years of partition, this sort of mobility of talent came to a halt, but GCU’s initiative will go a long way in re-discovering the bonds especially in performing arts.

On a lighter note, I would like to travel back into those ten very fond days which began with alternating moments of excitement and apprehension when we decided that we are going to Lahore.

Our journey began on the night of March 1 from Delhi. Reaching Amritsar in the morning the next day, we walked across the Wagah Border into Pakistan to be received by Dr.Farhan and his student council.

The splendor of the GC building like that of a castle left us bowled over. We instantly fell in love with the clock tower, the Big Ben of GC.The first evening of our stay, the college bus which I would now say was the most wonderful companion with us throughout, and the man who maneuvered the caravan – our driver, the most adorable person around – took us to Gwalmandi Food Street. The ambience was totally dreamlike, its décor recreating the vibe of the Mughal period. Needless to add, the local food and deserts were irresistible.

The next day, third onwards, the festival began. A delightful opening ceremony in the college’s Bokhari Auditorium was followed by the first performance of the carnival, Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” by GCUDC .From here, the festival really took off. In a span of one week, participating teams from Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur, Quetta, Peshawar, Punjab and teams from DU (Hindu, Khalsa, LSR, Ramjas, and Venketeshwara) showcased their plays.

We had no idea that fresh acquaintances were soon to transform into deep friendships.

Our friends at GC were a family within themselves and they took us in too, with warm and welcoming hearts making our experience the most exquisite one.

Our friends took us around the city – Andrun Shehar (walled old city of Lahore), Lahore Fort, Heritage Museum, Gurdwara Dera Sahib. Chit-chatting and making a riot in the bus, driving through the Mall Road, shopping at our favorite Anarkali market, making post dinner plans to drive up to the suave city piazza, the Fortress made up much of what was complete fun.

The hosts, each and every person made a special place for himself in our hearts. Besides, our brief interaction with teams like FJW University, UET Lahore and those from Peshawar and Quetta provided us with a pleasant insight into their lives and into our own from their eyes! As the Festival came to an end, the last few nights become more and more precious… Some of us collected for an exciting round of folk songs and dance and music; some sat and soaked up the beauty of the atmosphere till dawn…

We had no clue that to head homewards was going to make our hearts so heavy. But, we were all quite loaded with a sense of separation on the last night of our stay. The next morning was action all over again – signing diaries, posters, exchanging autographs and taking pictures.

The culture at GCU is inspiring; the institution has standards which are a class apart. I wish great success for GCUDC and this festival in years to come. And like one of the teachers from DU said during the closing address, we all do wish that the time comes soon when our friends in Lahore decide to drive down to Delhi for a weekend and we make it to Anarkali for a shopping stop once in a while.

Vasundhara Sud