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"Message of Love to Pakistan from Indian Schoolchildren

AMRITSAR, Punjab, India: Indian schoolchildren writing on what is being called the world's largest love letter by Friends Without Borders at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar March 19. Teams of Friends Without Borders have traveled throughout India collecting signatures and messages on the letter. On March 20, they set out to Lahore in Pakistan carrying the letter. (AFP Photo, India West March 24, 2006)"

Pakistanis and Indians organize
First Joint Fundraiser in Los Angeles

*Pakistanis and Indians Organize First Joint Fundraiser in Los Angeles, Pakistan Link Report, March 2006

Buena Park, CA, USA: Spurning animosities and embracing affinities, members of the Pakistani and Indian communities in the Los Angeles area organized the first-ever joint fundraiser in aid of the October 8 Earthquake victims atthe Jain Center Cultural Complex on Saturday, March 4.

It was a rare spectacle as members of the two communities freely mingled and demonstrated respect for one another.

The artists of the two countries set the tone of the evening's proceedingsas they crooned with remarkable spontaneity:

Dharkan hae Hindustan agar
Chand Pakistan hae...
Maen bhi Pakistan hoon
Too bhi Hindustan hae...

The 'unity in diversity' example, symbolizing the American scene, was vividly in evidence. Said an organizer, "We are sending our politicians back home a message."

The proceedings started with the singing of the national anthems of Pakistanand India. The organizers of the fundraiser were next introduced. They included: Amrit Bhandari, Arif Mansuri, Ashok Savla, Dilip Butani, Dr Nithin Shah, Hamid Malik, Kewal Kanda, Kishore Kaul, Rehana Qamar, Sarfraz Khan, Siva Subramaniam, Vipin Vadecha and Waqar Ali Khan.

The attendees generously contributed to the noble cause and the total amount raised exceeded $80,000. The Hamilton Brewart Insurance Agency made the largest contribution of $15,000. COPAA gave a generous donation of $6,000. Quite a few individuals donated $1,000 each. And there were a large number of anonymous donators too, not to mention the kids who contributed a fair slice of their pocket money. A three-year-old boy donated $20. Sheriff Lee Baca, who graced the occasion with his wife, also made a generous contribution. He has a sizable number of admirers in the South Asian community and was warmly greeted on the occasion.

In his brief remarks on the occasion, Mr Hamid Malik, President, COPAA informed the gathering that it was the "vision of one person", Dr Nitin Shah, a local anesthetist, that helped in organizing the joint fundraiser. Addressing the gathering, Dr Shah explained how the idea of the fundraiser came to his mind. In January this year he was in the quake affected areas where he saw two boys with Pakistani and Indian flags painted on their faces. The two appeared in complete harmony with each other and inspired Dr Shah to draw up plans for organizing the joint fundraiser.

Dr Shah also informed the gathering that the Shree Bidada Sarvodaya Trust in India has shown readiness to provide artificial limbs to the quake victims and a rapport with concerned authorities was being established in Pakistan for this very purpose. Mr Sarfraz Khan, CEO, Khan Construction Company, who along with the other organizers played an active role in arranging the program, promised that such events would be organized more often in the future. A former body builder, Khan now builds homes for the community in California.

A moment of silence was observed in memory of those who had perished in the October 8 Earthquake. As usua, Zafar Abbas stood out in the role of emcee of the program.

Speeches over, the orchestra tuned up and the artists - Charenjeet, Leena Benjamin, Sarika, Tahir Hussain, Shaista Alam, Arshad Ali, Mayuri Patel and Kirti Patel - gave a scintillating performance. The musical program was highly entertaining and the artists deserve the best superlatives for their performance - both solo and duet songs.

The evening seemed to relay a message: Pakistan and India could live as friends as do the US and Canada. Surely, the people of the two countries are peace loving.