The experts in the field of conflict resolution and peace building put a lot of emphasis on the academic and practical distinction between ‘negative peace’ and ‘positive peace’. The former is defined in terms of getting to a situation marked as absence of war. A ceasefire takes place between the belligerent parties and one cannot witness a mobilised battle front. But this ‘absence of war’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘presence of peace’. Many a time, there’s a deep-rooted conflict silently lying there which can anytime erupt like a volcano into a highly destructive war. Any conflict simply can’t be fully resolved by a target of reaching a ceasefire mode. We need to develop a behaviour pattern where war is simply not a desirable objective to create a positive peace condition; we must replace the desire for war with a desire for peace. The lives of people of India and Pakistan during theh intervals between the war episodes of 1948, 65, 71, 99 respectively since then can be matched with this volcanic activity. Apparently, we haven’t been involved in an active war since 1999, though the skirmishes on the control line being a routine, but we can’t identify it as a positive peace period. There are pro-war segments on both sides of the border which support, advocate, glamorise and glorify war as a methodology of conflict resolution. Both states being nuclear weapons holders, a war would mean indiscriminate destruction of lives on the largest possible scale. When all will be dead, the conflict will also die. Somehow this simple ‘solution’ doesn’t appeal to many ‘cowards’ like myself. Because in our part of the world, talking about finding ways to build peace is sometimes referred to as cowardice. Sometime back, I started following a few cooking channels on internet just to add some new recipes to my cooking routine. I plugged into some cooking sites run by the ‘enemy’ chefs, from India. A strange aspect of human psychology is enjoying the presence of an enemy in your life. It adds some thrill, adventure and excitement to a dull routine. I wish we could understand that the effort that we put into maintaining an enmity is much less exciting than the one we need to maintain a friendship. Two of the chefs became my favourites, a lady from rural East Punjab who cooks in conventional manner on firewood and maintains all cultural decorum of traditional cooking while the other is a gentleman from Delhi who cooks in a modern setup. One is a Sikh and the other is a Hindu. As the month of Ramzan approached, they both started uploading typical recipes for sehar and iftar, pakoras, samosas and dahibhalas of all sorts. They would give tips on how the sehar and iftar times could be more energising with certain food. I realised they had a huge Muslim fan following from around the world including India and Pakistan. Now one skeptical interpretation would be that they do it for commercial reasons. Fine, they are professionals and an increased number of followers matters but all war related activities do have a commercial aspect and war jingoism has always had a charged fan following. I wish we could invite the extremists on both sides of the border to hold talks on a dining table. Serve them a variety of food that Indian subcontinent is globally known for, cooked by the chefs from both sides. Let’s leave behind the negativity of a Muslim not allowed in a Hindu kitchen and vice versa The chef lady was once asked by a fan why did she always cook barefoot. Her reply was that in their Sikh cultural traditions, rasoi (kitchen) and cooking had a sacred value. The process is to be respected. Cooking meant ‘worshipping’ to them. It made me realise that mothers and professional cooks around the world associate a sacred, spiritual value with the process of cooking irrespective of their religious beliefs. It means acknowledging the blessings of nature that provides us with the grains, veggies, fruits, dairy and so much more, respecting the family members who earn and finance the kitchen and cooking for your loved ones. It is a nurturing process. It involves signifying health, growth, nutrition, life and love. There’s a consensus that the major ingredient in all professional or domestic cooking is the cook’s emotional involvement in the process. I am reminded of a folk myth about rotis that if the roti swells, it means the lady who’s cooking really loves the person for whom the roti is being cooked. I remember competing with my brother as a child on measurement of love of our mother by the swelling of the roti. What beautifully non-conventional measurements love can have since it’s an entity beyond all material ones. Whenever this Indian lady chef is finished with her cooking, she prepares a presentation dish and invites an elderly male, her father/father in law, and presents it to him. He tastes it and then comments on its quality, aroma and proximity to traditional standards. His appreciation brings a smile to her face. She sometimes visits her aunts-in-law in another village. She asks them to cook some traditional recipe and tries to learn from them. Tips are shared on how and what to cook for children, pregnant women and elderly. How methi dana (fenugreek seeds) are good for joints of elderly in winters, how can pickles last long and what fruit shakes combination is good for children’s health. The chef from Delhi also shares his secrets of cooking, how tea leaves can help us cook delicious chana and how tomatoe puree can enhance the flavor of mutton karahi. It all sounds so familiar and so similar. I feel at home watching the cooking videos of these chefs from across the border. With a remarkable ease I can understand their language, adopt their recipes and relate to their culture for example, the respect for elders, listening to their advice, the tradition of serving food first to the elderly, taking care of the health requirements of all family members, the layering of parathas, balancing the spices and the traditional gadgets. It’s all simply harmonizing. When it comes to kitchens/rasois/bawarchi khanas, the prospects of a deadly conflict between the two states sound so irrelevant. I wish we could invite the extremists on both sides of the border to hold talks on a dining table. Serve them a variety of food that Indian subcontinent is globally known for, cooked by the chefs from both sides. Let’s leave behind the negativity of a Muslim not allowed in a Hindu kitchen and vice versa. Feeding the needy, your loved ones and your neighbours in hunger are the core values and rewarding act in all religions. There are war-prone and peace-prone nationalists and patriots in both the states, equally zealous about their love for the land. The difference lies in their methodology of expressing love. The former group believes in expressing more by killing and getting killed, than by living and allowing to live. Let’s develop and empower peace constituencies in our states, people who are interested in highlighting similarities and don’t find accentuating differences convincing. Any violent conflict is a killing process while cooking is a nurturing one. Chefs and mothers cook to help their children lead a healthy life, they don’t cook to make them fodder of a deadly war. We can ‘cook off’ the conflicts with so much in common. Let’s share some recipes of peace, in peace. The writer is an assistant professor of Political Science at Kinnaird College. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, June 10th 2018.