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The other day, while visiting a furniture store, I met a worker who looked Indian. But when I told him I was from India, he revealed he was from Pakistan. At that point I had no choice: I grabbed a chair and chased him around the store, shouting, "Death to the Pakistani!"

Actually, it didn't go quite like that. Security was tight, so I waited until his shift ended and followed him home, where I deflated his tires, raided his refrigerator, and tattooed the words "I love India!" all over his body. Who says tattoos serve no purpose?

Ok I admit it: I didn't go that far. All I did was shake his hand and smile. We had a rather friendly chat. I didn't ask if any of his relatives were terrorists. He didn't ask if any of mine were infidels. We didn't even insult each other's mother-in-law.

He stated that the Kashmir dispute shouldn't create any ill will between us. "Yes," I said. "After all, India and Pakistan were once the same country. We are like family, you and I. That reminds me: Does this store offer any family discounts?"

If it were up to us, the border between India and Pakistan would be eliminated. Of course, if that happened, the country would have to look for a new enemy, so people in the military could keep their jobs. Gotta keep the economy going.

It's funny thing about borders --how they divide people, how they create enmity and envy, how they give travelers the occasional thrill of being strip-searched.

Fifty-years-old man: "They're crazy, those people across the border. They speak a strange language and play strange games. Crazy, I tell you."

Wife: "Oh, be quite. You really shouldn't speak ill of the Canadians. They're just like us. Nice people."

I've often wondered what America would be like if every state were an independent country. It would be virtually impossible to travel from Nevada to Utah.

Border officer: "You're from Las Vegas? What, may I ask, do you want in Utah? There is no gambling here, you know. We don't even allow bingo."

Traveler: "I'm visiting my parents. They live just across the border."

Officer: "Visiting your parents? I don't believe it. It's not Christmas yet. Sorry, I can't let you through. If you want to enter Utah, you'll have to hide in a barrel like everyone else."

I like the Internet because it crosses the borders so easily, brings people of different countries together. People in any country can read my column, people in any country can send me hate mail. I love hearing from Pakistanis as much as anyone else.

In major American cities, you will find Indians and Pakistanis doing business side by side, some operating stores with names like South Asia Boutique, Indo-Pak Groceries and Indo-Pak Sweets & No Disputes. You may even spot them at a local park, playing a few inning of cricket -- laughing and shouting and ignoring the strange looks from passers-by.

There is no border between these people. I hope there never is.

(c) Copyright 2005 Melvin Durai. All rights Reserved. Previous
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