Habib University students are known for being the harbingers of social change, in the short time since the university’s inception. Students have actively participated in several initiatives to change perspectives of the local and global audience, and one such activity has recently led to a great, positive global debate.
HU student Abdul Wahid Khan, from the Social Development and Policy program of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences recently decided to conduct a social experiment while traveling by public transport in Karachi, while covered in Holi colors. He documented his experience on his Facebook page, which reads:
“I was coming from a Holi celebration and I decided to take a public bus despite the arguments of friends that I should just take a rikshaw cuz people might react to it as I was all in colors. I wanted to see people’s reaction and more than that I wanted to use a public space to celebrate diversity and to let people think about it. I came across many people, and everyone perceived that I am a Hindu and told me how they know “people of my community”. This was my favorite conversation on a bus.
I sit next to an uncle.
Uncle: (with a great sympathy) Why are you working in such a young age?
Me: Sorry, what do you mean?
Uncle: You are a color worker right?
Me: (laughed) No uncle, actually I am coming from a Holi celebration.
Uncle: Oh, Hindu brotheri?
Me: No, I am from a Muslim family.
Uncle: what? So you celebrated Holi? And rest of them were Muslims as well?
Me: Yes, and some of our friends were Hindus and we celebrated Holi in a church.
Uncle: Beta, you are a Muslim, and…
(There was another uncle sitting in the seat behind us, he interrupted): Oh bhai, if colors bring these kids together and they can celebrate it together with the minority, why do you have to bring in religion? That’s a great thing.
Uncle: Well, we were raised by telling us that Hindu and Muslims can not be together.
(The other uncle shakes his head)
Me: That is where everything went wrong. Happy Holi!
It was a great day and glad to see Pakistan accepting other cultures and religions!
Happy Easter if you have read through :-)”
Amidst stories of hatred and religious intolerance, Wahid Khan’s story comes as a fresh surprise and has already received a lot of positive feedback, both from his peers at Habib University and on a global scale. His story has been featured in Indian publications as well as receiving a lot of praise on Pakistani social media, and has instigated debate over the love of celebration illuminated in both Pakistan and India of religious and cultural activities.
His Facebook post being talked about has gone viral with over 10K ‘Likes’ and 1.8K ‘Shares’.
According to Wahid, his decision to document his experience came, on a certain level, from his realization of history as part of his curriculum at Habib University. “Our liberal core tells us the history of the subcontinent, and always speaks of people from different religious backgrounds coexisting in harmony. The division between people, religions and culture is a 19th century phenomena, but before that, religious festivals would be celebrated by all. I, along with my peers try to develop and exhibit this religious tolerance in ourselves”, he said.
Even at Habib University, we have students from such diverse backgrounds, I believe we have to try to celebrate each of these without being conscious of our backgrounds, and putting humanity first.