The beauty of diversity

We are, by nature or nurture, all afraid of the unknown and the unfamiliar

We tend to feel comfortable working with, relating to, and living with those who are similar to us in colour, creed, and customs

Shared culture (beliefs, values, artefacts) makes life easier and, in a way, meaningful but it does not make it interesting and beautiful

My four years in Govt Commerce College Thana, especially my stay in its hostel, gave me a new perspective on life

Previously I had so many misconceptions about people of different regions and ethnic clans of the erstwhile NWFP but all stereotypes came smashing down like house of cards after I got first-hand experience of interacting with boarders from Buner, Swat, Malakand Agency, Bajawar, Charsaddah, Shangla, etc

Unlike some universities today, where students form into groups based on common ethnicity to protect their rights, we had remarkable unity in diversity

Everyone was a friend of everyone else and no clashes ever occurred on ethnic/regional affinities

The hostel was, however, not a melting pot for individual identities to form into one whole

Cultural differences were celebrated and allowed to flourish

No one ever felt a sense of inferiority for the way he talked, dressed, and did other things

To be honest, my best friends in the hostel were those who didn’t belong to my area and who were ethnically different as well

I always found them enriching my life in so many ways

We used to talk about the prevailing customs and traditions about marriages, funerals, Eid celebrations, jirga, and other social activities in our respective areas

Similarly, I (like my many people from KP) had developed some stereotypes about the Punjabi people

I was then socially conditioned to believe that, unlike Pashtuns, people belonging to different ethnicities in Punjab were extremely niggard, selfish, and racist

All these characteristics, we have been made to believe, have come to permeate Punjabis as a result of their geographic proximity and shared cultural history with Hindus

These stereotypes began cracking when I had the chance to live in Lahore during my PhD studies

Lahore, although not representative of the cultural kaleidoscope of the entire Punjab province, provides enough information for making a reasonable judgment about other regions and people living there

Based on my personal experience and stories shared by my friends in the University of Punjab, I can safely say that most people of Punjab are as hospitable, brave, and generous (if not more) as Pashtuns

I was accepted in every gathering with open arms and was at times given more space and privilege than I deserved

The professors, in particular, treated me and my other friends from KP with respect and appreciated our determination to pursue PhD along with family and professional responsibilities

We found ourselves at home in hostel with all boarders getting along with us in all interactions

I still have some amazing friends from Lahore who extended me help and support beyond my expectations

I think the best way to understand people with different backgrounds is to live with them, talk to them, and work with them

Media, though a useful source of information, generally misrepresent people and portray them as a monolithic group

The world today needs tolerance and respect for others more than ever

We need to find commonalities to build bridges rather than look for differences and erect walls

People have never been and will never be similar in all respects

Every one of us is, in some ways, like all other persons; in some ways like some others; and in some ways like no other person

We need to accept others as they are and not as we want them to be

Diversity is in line with the Divine scheme

Allah could have moulded all people into one particular form (race, colour, creed) but then life would be so dull and boring

He wanted us to be different to be useful for one another

Let’s celebrate diversity as much as individuality and create an environment which values mutual coexistence and accommodation!   Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2023

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Date:28-Feb-2023 Reference:View Original Link