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Sowing peace, one seed at a time

August 04, 2008

In the days following the recent Ahmedabad serial blasts, Keshav Pasari, 14, a student at Gokuldham high school in Mumbai, received some unlikely calls of sympathy.

"It was my Pakistani friends, who live in Lahore," he remembers. "They weren't sure how close Ahmedabad is to Mumbai, and wanted to check that I was safe, that my family was safe. It was really touching to know that someone 'from the other side' was worried for my well-being."

And while today Keshav counts those Pakistanis among his closest friends, just a few months ago, they'd never met. In fact, Keshav, like most Indians, had never met a person from Pakistan one on one.

But thanks to his experiences this summer at the three week-long Seeds of Peace camp in Maine, USA, Keshav has not only met Pakistanis, he's slept in the same room with them, shared meals with them and sang songs with them.

Seeds of Peace is a US-based non-governmental organisation that brings together youth from conflict-ridden regions like India and Pakistan and Israel and Palestine to teach them the skills required for peaceful coexistence.

But it's not all idealism and holding hands. Students from opposing nations square off in 'Dialogue' sessions, where they passionately discuss issues of contention, like Kashmir, the War of 1971 and global terrorism. After exhaustive arguments that touch nerves at the political, social and personal levels, the emotionally drained students must start from scratch, to build a workable relationship.

Text: Matthew Schneeberger Photographs: Uday Kuckian

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