A few months ago, during a personal visit to the US, I had a candid chat with a bunch of Pakistani students residing there. We were invited by a Pakistani Pakhtun student over dinner. He had a nicely-maintained apartment (our boys can manage domestic affairs very well when away from protective and pampering environments). There was a rubab placed in a corner of the lobby. I was really amused to see it as it has been one of my favorite musical instruments. Our host was pleasantly surprised to know my taste for rubab. I told him that I was the ‘PTV generation’, being well acquainted with all the regional symbols of Pakistan. We grew up in an era when PTV was the only channel available to us and it used to play regional programs frequently. I asked the young gentleman if he had gotten his rubab made from the tree on Adam Khan’s grave. The myth is derived from the famous love story of Durkhanai-Adam Khan. Adam Khan used to play rubab for his beloved. As is the case with most of such stories, the end was tragic. Adam Khan died without being able to get united with Durkhanai. It is believed that if you use the wood from the tree on his grave for making your rubab, it generates a much better sound and the melancholy of an unfulfilled love echoes when you play the instrument. Rubab is surely very much a symbol of ‘my’ culture. I am in touch with this wonderful group of youngsters who have founded a Pakistani students association in their university. They keep inviting guest speakers to shed light on the challenges their homeland is facing. The feelings of a shared legacy of the past and concern for the future binds them together. Their presence is most integrated. They have a lot in common. And they are much different from each other as well. Interestingly, they represent all four provinces of Pakistan. They are from both rural and urban backgrounds. Each of them has a regional language which in some cases no other group member understands. Morehey have diverse skin colors, ranging from fair Pathans to darker skinned coast liners. I would say they remind you of snow on the northern high mountains of Pakistan to the wheat crops in plains. They have inherited different sectarian belief systems as there are Shias and Sunnis. It’s a mixed gender group. Some of them are from affluent families who could afford to send them abroad for higher education while some are studying on scholarships. They have a diverse range of age groups, from PhD scholars to undergraduates. They have different political affiliations, mostly depending on the kind of political socialisation process they were exposed to. They also have different perceptions about their particular emotional relationships and social experiences, in general. Gender, class, education, language, and religion have become dividing factors in Pakistan. We have stopped celebrating our diversity. This is why the culture of intolerance is on the rise. We were supposed to be a land of lovers and Sufis where love stories were to be narrated in chaupals. Something has seriously gone wrong In short, it is an interestingly diverse group with differences of age, gender, sect, ethnicity, language and perceptions. But somehow, an observer has to make a really serious effort to identify these differences. Similarities are much easier to spot. They all speak Urdu, have identical social greeting styles in different accents, they can all relate to annual festivities like Eid and Ramzan, they celebrate Basant as their annual cultural event, arrange cricket matches, and above all they identify themselves as Pakistanis and they all miss Pakistan. They are genuine peace lovers and have close friendships with people from different religions. Indian Hindu students often participate in their events and vice versa. I recently got to know that during Ramzan they are arranging potluck iftars. They gather at one person’s place and everyone brings a dish. They enjoy the food and a community spirit. Yes, some of them do have a different iftaar time according to their particular sectarian principles but that doesn’t become an issue. All differences are irrelevant when you are ready to care, share and love. They break their fasts in harmony. It is agreed upon that biryani is a Karachiite specialty and that Lahoris cannot replicate its exquisite aura, and that ‘namkeen gosht’ belongs to the people of KP. There is nothing to fight over. Urdu is spoken in different accents and is understood with an identical ease and belongingness. I often get disillusioned with what’s happening around us here in Pakistan. Our people remain in conflict with each other. The Balochis, the Hazaras, the Pakhtuns, the Sindhis, the Saraikis, the Muhajirs, the underprivileged, the privileged, the supporters of different parties, the men, the women, the followers of different sects (which are now mushrooming like anything), and the list goes on. They are all furious about something. Gender, class, education, language, and religion have become dividing factors in Pakistan. We have stopped celebrating our diversity. We are a people standing divided against each other. This hatred need to be ended. We were supposed to be a land of lovers and Sufis where love stories were to be narrated in chaupals. Something has seriously gone wrong. While we carry on with piling up our grievances against each other and keep accentuating minor differences, our youngsters get together on potluck iftars as nothing else but Pakistanis, thousands of miles away from us. They are like the melody of alghoza, ektara, sitar, dhol and rubab binding us into a harmonious tune. I wish we could leave them a Pakistan they could return to, as beautifully diverse and yet integrated as their iftaar table. The writer is an assistant professor of Political Science at Kinnaird College. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, May 27th 2018.