My Failed Calls to Send Ramadan Greetings from Lucknow to Lahore

The World
Islam's holy month of Ramadan has begun this week. It's a time to strengthen the bonds in the community and throughout the world. But reporter Deepak Singh is finding it difficult to call his friend in Pakistan to send him greetings from India. This is his essay. About a year ago, I lived in Gambier, Ohio, where my wife was a visiting professor at Kenyon College. One day, sitting in a locally-owned coffee shop, I was writing something about my hometown Lucknow, India, when I heard someone speaking Urdu around me. Spoken in Pakistan, it's like a sister language to my mother tongue, Hindi. I looked away and smiled to myself, thinking I must have been missing home, because the odds of finding someone who spoke my language were slim in rural Ohio. The thought left my mind, but in a few minutes, I heard someone who sounded like my brother. He had a similar lilt, intonation and accent. Feeling a little eerie about it, I looked around and saw a tall, young Indian-looking boy. He gave me half a smile. I went up to him and introduced myself. He was Shariq. He was a young lad from Lahore, Pakistan. He had come to America to go to college and had never met anyone from India before. In the next two hours a conversation in Urdu and Hindi flowed across the Kenyon College, and laughter echoed back and forth along the stone walls of the campus. We walked and talked about Cricket, Kebobs, kites, and the alleys and bazaars of Lucknow and Lahore. We became immediate friends. After a few months, at the end of the school year, we left the US to go to our respective countries. Since Lucknow and Lahore are less than 600 miles apart, we thought we'd still be close. After getting to Pakistan my friend has tried to call me several times but hasn't been able to get through. And I have tried to call him from India many times with the same result. It turns out that there's a restriction on calls between India and Pakistan… something I'd never thought about before. Although Shariq and I are emailing constantly, we feel really far apart. There's a long-standing rivalry between our two countries that's existed since we each gained independence from Britain more than half a decade ago. Now, we are waiting to get back to the States to meet again.
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