214717 mins 33 17 mins 33
And then there was no visibility.
Two hundred years back, when a line was drawn between these two nations, no one would have imagined that one day they would be unified as a single mass of land, again. Definitely not the way the unification conspired.
"Namaskar and Adab friends. This is the most special press conference of the year. I've got a list of matters that I want to discuss with you all. You are free to interrupt and ask your questions as long as there is one question at a time," she said with a wry smile in her trademark informal tone and looked at the conference hall having a sea of people- national security team, journalists, videographers, photographers and some bureaucrats. "The past year has been full of turmoil and upheaval for both nations. But we are proud to say both the countries were resilient and fought like one. We fought like one nation, stood united as a family. We couldn't definitely remember a time when both the countries had not been at war. Even in times of peace, there was always a cold war raging. And its time to finally heal the long irritating wounds of the partition."
About a year back, there had been reports of loud thunderous noises, followed by strange sightings near the Line of Control. Various speculations had circulated in the media – some stated suspicious activities, some of extreme weather conditions. One or two news agencies reported a breach of the LOC and a prospective war. Some local news agencies near the zone reported of dense fog and heavy rain. The following days the Border Security Forces deployed 18,000 extra troops. The area was blocked. The forces around the area were kept on high alert. The civilians were shifted to safer places. The helicopters and planes that tried to fly above the area had to turn back due to low visibility. The radar was misleading too. Everyone had questions. And there seemed no logical explanation.
At first, the government of India revealed as little as possible but when the questions from media got louder, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense held a press conference. He stated that the sound originated from a test flight and straight away denied the occurrence of any extreme weather or a breach of the Line of Control.
Soon, the international media got wind of it. The Indian and the Pakistani Government received calls from different countries offering to help. All the requests were declined outright.
She continued, "There were strange sightings near the border, unlike anything we had seen before. Upon probe, we had evidence suggesting that we were contacted by extraterrestrial beings. Point to be noted that the US is not the only country." First murmurs and then a series of laughter erupted across the hall at her attempt at levity. "A few days after what we thought to be erratic weather we received strange messages. And, we had to consult various experts in the field of Cryptography, Linguistics, and Sanskrit."
"Why Sanskrit?" A journalist shouted.
"Because I guess rather than talking in some alien language, they were intelligent enough to speak a language in which we can communicate too or they could have learned a human language by monitoring our ancestors. It's not just another arrival story, you know. It's the story of your life, it's a story of my life. And before you misunderstand my sarcasm and misquote me, let me present some facts. Sanskrit, as we all know, is one of the ancient languages in the world. It can easily be transformed into information that a machine could understand. The visitors as you all might have fathomed by now were way ahead in their use of technology & might use this as their machine language. Experts have also told me that rules of grammar of Sanskrit have a unique precision and a nearly unchanging syntax."
Then one day when media questions had drifted to a set of scams and other political issues. The people in and around the sighting zone had started hearing strange voices. Originating at an interval of 16 hours, the voices lasted for 8 minutes. People on the Pakistani side of the border heard messages in Urdu. At first, the receivers on the Indian side thought their messages were in Hindi or some other colloquial language. But an Army officer posted in one camp said it was in Sanskrit.
बयं भवतां सर्वकारेण साकम् आलपितुम् इच्छामः।
The cryptic message was delivered to New Delhi. A team of cryptographers, linguistics, and some Sanskrit Professors from BHU were taken to a camp near the forbidden area, now known as the Red Zone. As soon as the team reached the camp, everyone heard the same message, but with an addendum:
बयं भवतां सर्वकारेण साकम् आलपितुम् इच्छामः।भवान् शृण्वन्नस्ति चेत्, अत्र प्रत्युत्तरं बिदधातु।
WE WANT TO TALK TO YOUR GOVERNMENT. IF YOU ARE LISTENING, REPLY INSIDE YOUR HEAD.
After consulting the offices in New Delhi, they replied:
आम्, बयं शृण्वन्तः स्मः। किम् इष्यते भवता ?
YES, WE ARE LISTENING. WHAT DO YOU WANT?
The transmission of their messages didn't obey either the Doppler effect or any other law of physics known to humans. Like an irritating buzz of an invisible mosquito, the voice whined inside the receivers' mind. Although the source had a specific origin that was traceable, humans in the range of 7 kilometers could hear the voice inside their minds, the experts pointed out. No ambient noise, however high or low in frequency, had interfered in the transmission either.
"But what was the motive behind their visit?" asked another journalist after a stunned silence in the hall. "Did you consider that it could be a peaceful contact as well or, were the government afraid right away?"
"Our first thought when we hear about extraterrestrial beings is that they are a threat to us. We presume aliens will harm us the same way we harm other animals on Earth."
सीमान्तप्रदेशद्वारा सर्वकारेण सह सम्पर्कं संस्थापयितुं युगपद् एव यथामहे बयम्।आगामिद्विसप्ततिघन्टामध्ये नियन्त्रणसीमातः सप्ताशीत्युत्तरत्रिशतकिलोमिटार-मितब्यासार्धान्तयर्गतं प्रत्येकं भूभागम् उच्छेत्तुं भवन्तमपेक्षामहे बयम्। ततः परं प्रभूतनाशानुकूलानाम् आयुधानां ब्यवहारं कर्तुम् आरप्सामहे बयम्।
WE ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY TRYING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE GOVERNMENT ACROSS OF THE BORDER. WE NEED YOU TO EVACUATE EVERY PIECE OF LAND IN 387 KM RADIUS FROM THE LINE OF CONTROL IN THE COMING 72 HOURS. WE WILL START USING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AFTER THAT.
A situation of panic and hysteria had grasped the offices of Delhi and Islamabad. War and Intelligence experts were consulted. And after several internal meetings and innumerable phone calls, the government from both sides decided the next set of actions. As some flights were canceled recently because of what first seemed like bad weather, the head of both the nations met via Virtual Reality conference. This was attended by a total of 122 dignitaries from Pakistan and India.
After a moment of pin-drop silence in the conference hall, a journalist asked, "Earlier we were strictly instructed not to raise any question but I think the nation wants to know whether every rumor about your sexuality and marriage is true?"
"This is not an appropriate question," the press secretary to the Prime Minister intervened.
"No, it's okay Mishra," the Prime Minister continued, "But, how do you know the nation wants to know this very question and nothing else?" she laughed, "Well, to answer your question- Yes, most of the rumors are true," the Prime minister said. She went on to describe how the rumors were not an invention of someone's ill mind.
Eight years back, in Davos during the World Economic Forum, towards the end of the Annual meeting dinner that was attended by world leaders, Noor Khalid found a face smiling like a jewel in the company of unknown people. Perhaps it had to do with the name of the lady in front. Roshni. Noor was sitting quietly having her dinner when Roshni Dalpat came and sat beside her.
"Is that beef?" Noor asked, noticing the thick piece of steak on her plate.
"Well, it's strange."
"What? That I'm relishing steak beef being a Hindu or that a Muslim woman from Hindu majority country is asking this to a Hindu woman of a Muslim majority."
And then they laughed like old buddies recollecting old memories.
"We should have measured laughs. Both of us can get into trouble." Roshni said.
"No one cares. Everybody is drunk here." After a brief pause of looking around the room and greeting people that went up to their table, she asked, "Wine?"
"Would love to."
This was new for Roshni, although after she came out of the closet a few years back but every time a pretty lady was in her vicinity she experienced a slight twinge in the stomach. Noor was funny, which she liked, but her confidence each time she smiled filled her heart with an unknown joy.
"The wine tastes wonderful here," Noor said, keeping a glass half-filled with wine in front of Roshni and the other one less filled beside her plate.
They talked the evening that led to the night- sharing life stories, confiding political ideologies, and what they liked about their neighbors. Furthermore, they found out that they also shared a mutual fascination with questions of the unknown and extraterrestrial beings. But there was more to Noor's presence – a sign of secrecy, like one won't fathom her next move – something which intrigued Roshni.
Noor Khalid had five years of experience in politics. After her Ph.D. in International Relations from JNU, where she held the post of Vice President of the Student's Union, when the ruling political party asked her to join them, she was more than happy. Three years down the line she was given her first important post as the Minister of Textile. On the other hand, Roshni completed her post-graduation from the University of Oxford as a Master of Business Administration, and after her return, she knew nothing but to join the political party her father presided. She entered the big league when her party assigned her as the Deputy Finance Minister of the country.
Two structural changes had taken place in Pakistan which were unimaginable a hundred years back. The first one came in the late 2050s when the world was moving through a change, the constitution of Pakistan was amended to abolish the political apartheid. And the second was a transfer of power after the war of 2109, when the government blamed the military for loopholes in giving proper intelligence which led to heavy casualties. This, in turn, helped the Pakistani government enjoy the power they never did in the past.
Their conversation took an odd turn when Noor said, "You know, I'm into more than just men. For me, love is just love."
"I like women. I came out a couple of years back."
"I need to hear that story someday. Can I have your number?"
A week after their first encounter, Roshni texted her one day. Noor was quick to reply. A few months into their newly developed friendship, they got the news of the next SAARC meeting in Dhaka and also that they had to represent their respective countries.
"Dhaka? You coming?"
"Only if you do."
That was the first time they used the word 'flirt' in their conversations.
In Dhaka, they met for dinner. And this time their conversation ended in Noor's hotel room.
Noor was having coffee sitting comfortably on the sofa when Roshni woke up in the morning. Roshni noticed what she thought to be a sign of guilt on Noor's face when she said, "We can't do this anymore."
"Our governments will impeach us."
"What if I tell you, I love you?"
She always thought Noor shied away from showing any kind of emotion, but this sudden expression of love took her by surprise.
After having a brief moment of unease and bewilderment, Roshni asked, "What about the social and political climate of both countries? We can't see each other anymore. There is no future to this."
"We do if both countries merge into one."
This turned Roshni into a mad laughing doll. She continued until she was out of breath.
The mid of the following year saw a sudden rise in tension between the two countries. This resulted in threats and provocative speeches from leaders from both sides of the border. Many close confidants of Noor and Roshni suggested them to cut all ties. They knew quite well that if people of their countries come to know, then they might face heavy backlash. But despite all the warnings, they secretly got married.
The media as well kept a close eye on both the leaders. Speculations were doing rounds, but nobody had a concrete story. But then suddenly, Paparazzi got hold of a picture of both of them kissing while on a holiday. As soon as the ruling political party of India came to know the news vanished, like the news of the avowed death of an Indian leader who was supposed to be India's next Prime Minister or of a billionaire's son involved in a hit-and-run case. Luckily for Roshni, the picture didn't catch any attention of the media on the other side of the border.
Two years later, when every news related to the past had been done and dusted with, Noor was selected to be the PM face of her party for the upcoming elections. A campaign was designed– "Don't live in a patriarchal society. Vote for Noor, who stands for equality," along with the party's slogan – "one who controls the present will control your future. Choose your government wisely." While the opposition alleged that she was incompetent and lesbian, but her rigorous and tireless campaign helped her to win her the General Election.
Something unexpected happened on the other side of the border. Seven months hence, Roshni's father was shot while addressing a rally in Peshawar. The president and the home minister pressed Roshni to succeed her father as PM. The party intellectuals thought her corrupt-free image and sympathy of the people towards her would help the party in the next election.
"At that time it was not right for us to say anything, but now I think everyone owes this from us," Prime Minister Noor Khalid continued, "Yes, I am married." And then she pointed to her ring. "Now that you have enough fodder for your gossip column, let's move to the more pressing issue on hand. Both the countries thought a joint military action was necessary to tackle the issue."
When it was proposed during the meet via video conferencing that a joint military exercise will be held, both the countries were skeptic, but then they looked beyond personal vendetta. The third day of the month at seventeen hundred hours was fixed as the time of the attack, five hours before the 72-hours deadline was over.
"But Pakistan has been our arch enemies for close to a century now? How can you trust them?" A journalist stood up and asked.
"Are you a politician? I hope not. It's been long since politicians have advocated divide, it's time we believe in unity. The pages of history witnessed how we fought global emergencies like the Covid-19 virus in 2020 and UNV20 in the year 2122 because we were united. The bitterness is caused by politicians who have long advocated divide and rule. It's ingrained in our minds that the country and its people are our enemies. The tension is because of that. But when you meet their people you find – their people are as sweet as ours."
"How did you manage to do all this under the media radar?"
"You know what you need to know."
"You publically accept that you hid all these from the people of your country?"
"Informing this sensitive information would have created a panic among people."
"Don't you think the people of your country who have voted for you have the right to know?"
She left the question unanswered and said, "Please give others the chance to ask questions too. We will have a one-to-one interview, someday."
"Why did they suddenly leave?"
"We never learn why the aliens left. Perhaps, it was their way of saying something we have failed to understand on our own. Our scientists couldn't come to a concrete conclusion regarding their disappearance."
"What happened after the military exercise? Did it happen?" another journalist asked.
A three-stage operation Chakravuy-Khandak was planned. The first one being a drone attack, the second was an air-strike and the third by land. As per the Muslim mythology, in one of the war, the prophet dug pits all around his people and put it on fire so that enemies could not enter and attack his followers. Pit on fire is called Khandak. Whereas the word Chakravuy originated from a multi-tier defensive formation in the Mahabharata. But when the military exercise was about to begin, the weather became clear. And what followed was hush-hush rumors amongst people of both the countries.
"After the disappearance, we sat with the government to discuss the reunification of the two countries under one secular government. If Germany can be reunited after 45 years and Vietnam's unification was after 30 years, then why not us? And if people of both countries agree, then we will start the process."
"But how will the government know what people really want?" asked another journalist.
"It's just a proposal. The power is still in the hand of people. We will go for a vote, nationwide. The election commission has already started the process. The whole nation will vote on the 10th of August, 2147 that's 175 days from this day. And after exactly 5 days we will announce the result and further proceedings." After a brief pause, she read out from a piece of paper, "Once a great leader of our nation said, 'I conceive that there would be a time when decades hence, both the countries would feel that partition has not solved matters. Why not come together and form some form of confederation or something like that?'"
With that, the press conference was dismissed.
The announcement resulted in congratulatory calls from many countries, while many others chose to remain silent. But on either side of the border, a wave of rioting spread in the succeeding days. There were reports of crowd demolishing temples and mosques. Hindu-Muslim clashes were at its peak in several places. As both the countries braced themselves for violence, more than 1,00,000 were dead, countless people became homeless, innumerable shops and buildings were destroyed. The governments said next to little even when the hate rose to its climax, while the news speculated everything possible. To people, it felt like a battle where few casualties are normal for the greater good. In India, Section 144 was imposed in many places. On the other side of the border, the situation was quite the same. Many politicians were reported to misquote the Quran to incite violence and stop the government.
The international media except for the Chinese news channels was welcoming about this step. There were several reports of cease-fire violations in the Indo-China border, but the Indian government acknowledged no such activity. During the next G20 meet, the US said that India will also become a country to support terrorism. It further threatened India with a permanent termination of all trade deals if they don't back out of this unification.
Weeks past the reports of violence, on the 180th day, an announcement was done. This time presided by two supreme leaders of both the countries from an undisclosed location where a handful of journalists were invited.
"I hereby notify the result of the special elections held." PM Noor, Khalid said. "The total number of ballot papers counted in India was 83,16,02,834. The number of votes cast in favor of unification was 62,30,32,455. 20,85,70,379 votes were in against. This means the people of India have voted in favor of unity. There were approximately 75% of people who want India to merge with Pakistan."
"And 52% of the people of Pakistan wanted to unify with its long suspended piece of land," PM Roshni said.
A Pakistani PM taking such a decision would have been outrightly dismissed by the country's army a few decades back when they were still "the state within the state."
After a round of applause, PM Noor said, "The nation will be named the United States of Indian Subcontinent and henceforth both the national anthems will be sung one after the other and now 'sind' in Jana Gana Mana will make more sense. Moreover, the currency will be the same, we are working on that front. The parliaments of previously divided land have anonymously decided until any resolution is passed, parliamentary sessions will be equally divided in Delhi and Islamabad. The framing of the new constitution will start from the next month. We will choose a committee and do another press conference to publically discuss the new constitution."
"How do you this unification will impact the future generation?"
"If I may?" Roshni asked Noor if she could answer and continued, "200 years back, we thought in 50 years we will have mind-controlling machines, time machine, and frequent inter-planetary travel but still, we are battling racism, discrimination based on sexuality and sexual preferences, and fighting with our neighbors. Nothing really changed. This mammoth step I presume," she paused correcting herself, "we presume will teach lessons to our future generations what we failed to address in the past."
Noor added, "We always have the power to alter the future in our lifetime. We often fail to realize it."
"This unification will cause more problems for the people," the same journalist commented.
"Your dystopia is someone's utopia," Noor said and moves ahead with the conference.
"Who will be the head of this newly formed state? You or your wife?" asked another journalist. "What about Rs. 300 crores we owe as pre-partition debt from Pakistan?"
"You don't take money from your family. Do you? And, as you know, it's impossible for a married couple to mutually take one decision, so it's better we have a third person to head this newly formed state."
"There have been many allegations from the opposition that there were no aliens and no one contacted us. It's just a lie to unite these two non-uniable countries."
"What do you think?"
"It's not about what I think, it's all about the truth."
"All that is true is out there." She broke the eye contact with the journalist and said, "Next question."
When scientists had reached the place, no evidence could conclude the existence of any living or non-living organism in the area that was under dense fog. The opposition of both the countries blamed the government for concocting a lie to make allies with their fiercest enemy. An opposition leader also held a press conference where he commented, "This government will do everything to put all the suspicions to sleep. Either naturally or by forcing sleep pills." But what happened to this day remains a mystery.
A journalist stood up and asked, "Do you plan to merge with Bangladesh as well?"