Violence has damaged relations between India and Pakistan ever since the two countries gained their independence from Britain almost 70 years ago. This history of conflict follows many Indians and Pakistanis when they come to the United States. But some of them are finding that many of their beliefs about the other side are misguided.
This spring, the University of California in Los Angeles offered a class that sought to help Indians and Pakistanis better understand each other. The class was taught in both Hindi and Urdu -- the languages of India and Pakistan. The goal of the class was to promote understanding between the two countries. Most of the students in the class were Indian- or Pakistani-Americans.
Gyanam Mahajan teaches language and culture classes at the university. She said she expected a separation between the two sides.
“It comes with the immigrant families that come out of India or Pakistan, and they come here with the resentment and mistrust with the other community, and when they come here they come with this baggage. They come with this feeling that Hindi and Urdu are different languages.”
Hindi is one of the official languages of India. Urdu is the national language of Pakistan. The two languages use different writing systems. But they are so similar when spoken that people who understand one can understand the other. This surprised many students, including Indian-Americans Trisha Patel and Rohan Luhar.
“It’s surprising to know that like you pronounce everything the same way.”
“I didn’t really know what Urdu was before taking this class.”
Professor Mahajan says the class may help improve relations between the countries.
“As I say in my class, the future of South Asia is actually here in this country.”
Trisha Patel and many of her classmates say the class showed them how much the two sides have in common.
“The professor does a great job of, like, helping us understand the bridge between the cultures and showing us that there’s not many differences, regardless of what it may seem like.”
University officials hope the class will help the students become “ambassadors of peace.”
I’m Adam Brock.
Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reported this story from Los Angeles. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it into VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
resentment – n. a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair
baggage – n. the feelings, beliefs, problems or past events that can make life difficult for a person or group
pronounce – v. to say or speak (a word) correctly
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