From India to Pakistan with Love


I have not posted in a while – and not because there is nothing to write about. Here’s a snapshot of some of what has been happening, and the reason I have not taken the time to post. As you will see, a few of us have been a bit busy of late.


The World’s Largest Love Letter

On 16 January 2006, barely three weeks after the idea was conceived, Friends Without Borders held one of the most remarkable events in the history of correspondence: the creation of the World’s Largest Love Letter.

The text was brief and to-the-point: “Dear Children of Pakistan: Let’s join hearts in friendship. Together we can make a better world. [signed] The Children of India.” It was written in Urdu, Hindi, and English. The signatures of Indian children frame the central message on all sides.

The letter measured 120 yards by 80 yards. The “parchment” on which it was written consists of gigantic tarpaulins. Once this huge love letter reaches Pakistan, most of the material will be delivered to earthquake ravaged areas, for use in the relief effort. The small sections, bearing the names of Indian schools and the signatures of the children will circulate among schools in Pakistan.

The creation of the letter took place at the storied cricket grounds of Bangalore’s M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Both the venue and the timing were propitious, coinciding as it did with another symbol of goodwill between the people of India and Pakistan: the first match of the Test series in Lahore.

Friends Without Borders

The World’s Largest Love Letter, which will be delivered to Pakistan in early March, is designed to bring national attention to a letter-writing campaign. This began several months ago when two of our American friends, John Silliphant and Mark Peters, needed to make a quick visit trip outside of India to renew their Indian visas. How wonderful, they thought, if they could arrive in Pakistan carrying armloads of friendship letters – from children, to children. So they began riding bicycles from school-to-school, collecting letters for their journey. Their idea received an enthusiastic response everywhere they went. In a short period, they had collected more than 30,000 letters.

But this wonderful project should not be limited to those schools two people might reach by bicycle. Every child in India should have the opportunity to participate. Thus, Friends Without Borders was born.

Through a series of public service announcements, currently in production, and the attention generated by the creation of the World’s Largest Love Letter, Friends Without Borders wants every child, parent, teacher, and school administrator in India to know about this campaign of friendship.

There is more about Friends Without Borders, and examples of some of the stunningly beautiful letters written by Indian school children on our website.

art art

The Concept

The concept behind this letter-writing campaign is simple and elegant. Rather than passing down prejudice and mistrust as a poisonous legacy to our children, let’s allow them to express their own feelings – sentiments that invariably run toward friendship, camaraderie, and joy. When the children of two countries have the opportunity to communicate, heart-to-heart, they cannot help but see the commonality and shared humanity that binds them. Perhaps different national attitudes will prevail when this generation comes of age.

press art press

Media Coverage

It is difficult to convey the enthusiasm with which this project has been embraced. In the United States, a campaign like this would be met with a patronizing “Isn’t that sweet.” In India – even here in the South, thousands of kilometers from the Pakistan border – the issue hits a tap root into the national psyche. The media coverage we received for our Bangalore event reflects how seriously the question of Indo-Pak relations is taken, and how overwhelmingly our project has been taken to heart.

Stories with full color photographs appeared in 22 daily papers, published in four languages. Five major television networks covered the event. In fact, TEN Sports, which holds the exclusive rights to broadcast the current Pakistan v. India cricket series, did a live feed from Chinnaswamy Stadium during its coverage of the first test match in Lahore. That coverage alone brought the project to the attention of 200 million viewers. (Yes, 200 million – that’s not a typo!)

Onward to Pakistan

From Bangalore, the World’s Largest Love Letter will travel to Mumbai (19 February), Ahmedabad (25 February), Up the Inida-Pakistan border (26 february – 12 March), and Amritsar (14 March) before being delivered to Pakistan in Lahore (19 March). A series of major events are being planned in these cities, and smaller, more spontaneous events will occur as the letter makes its journey between these venues.

Stay tuned.


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