Chintan Girish Modi
Though the South Asia of today is a region that is made up of several separate nation states such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, these countries share deeply connected histories and cultures. Since we live in India, and think of this region as the Indian subcontinent, placing ourselves at the centre, we often lose out on learning about our neighbours. I too feel quite ignorant. Thankfully, my work with the Hri Institute of Southasian Research and Exchange, and subsequently my participation in the SIT Graduate Institute’s Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Southasia Program, has helped me expand my awareness. We bring you two fun activities to try out with your students and enable them to learn more about a region that is us and our neighbourhood yet one which we know very little about.
One of my favourite lines from novelist Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines is this: “A place does not merely exist; it has to be invented in one’s imagination.” Places come alive when we think of the people that inhabit them, their cuisines, arts and crafts, their rituals and traditions, the music they make, the stories they spin. Here is your chance to learn more about South Asia by unscrambling the clues to answer the questions below.
- What is the national musical instrument of Afghanistan?
- What kind of block-printed cloth now associated with Kutch, Sindh and Barmer resembles the fabric draped over the shoulder of the priest-king’s bust excavated at Mohenjo-daro?
- What are the boat people of the Indus river known as?
- Which mangrove forest located in Bangladesh and India is an important character in Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide?
- Which province in Pakistan is home to the shrines of many a Sufi saint?
- Who are the Muslim refugees from Burma now settled in Jammu?
- Which temple complex in Chakwal associated with the Mahabharata, was restored by the Pakistan government in 2006-7?
- Which paintings from Bhutan are teaching tools depicting historical events, deities, and myths?
- Which major city in Sri Lanka is renowned for being a centre of Theravada Buddhism?
- Which tribe is known for having built the living root bridges of the Cherrapunjee region?
- Which island republic is located near Lakshadweep?
- In which city of Burma can you find the memorial of/to the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar?
- Where do the indigenous Kalash people live?
- Where in Kerala can you see the Neelakurinji flower which blooms once in 12 years?
Think of this word grid as an ocean with rivers flowing in from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma. How many can you spot? Our rivers are not just geographical features marked on maps. They nurture people, inspire songs, grow cities, form the settings for origin myths and love legends, and offer spiritual and material sustenance. They are also much abused, polluted, dammed, damned. Let us begin to learn more about our rivers, and how we can treat them with care and respect.
The author is an educator, writer, researcher and peace builder. He is the founder of ‘Friendships Across Borders’, an initiative to transform the hostile relationship between India and Pakistan through sharing of stories that celebrate cross-border friendships. He can be reached at email@example.com.