College on rails to build bridges with Pakistan, experience life and culture

Akiljit and Simple eager to know about their roots

Akiljit Kaur grew up hearing stories of her grandfather’s journey on the train from Pakistan; the truck ride to the railway station; the long, searing journey on a train so packed there was no room to move; the killings, how many he never counted. Like millions of Partition refugees, Sardar Gurbachan Singh struggled to build a life in India — laying the foundation for Ms. Kaur to study at Delhi University’s prestigious Lady Shri Ram College.

Now, 65 years later, Ms. Kaur is hoping she’ll have a seat on a train to Pakistan: Delhi University’s ‘Gyanodaya Express,’ an annual cross-country travel opportunity for students which, for the first time, will be headed across the border.

Dinesh Singh, Vice-Chancellor, said the visit to Pakistan was “an exercise in building bridges between the young people of both countries.” Dr.Singh said the group would stay in Pakistan for a week, visiting the Lahore University of Management Studies, and the frontier town of Taxila —the cradle of the Indus Valley civilization.

The train is meant to be a kind of college-on-wheels — an opportunity to experience life and culture.

Kamla Nehru college student Simple Rajra also hopes to be on the train, eager to see the country where her grandparents met, fell in love and married. Her grandparents, Ms. Rajra says, were inseparable as children, and once even ran away together, setting of a search by the entire village. Their families were separated during the chaos of Partition, as they fled across what is now the Line of Control in Poonch. The families were resettled, though, in the same village in India — leading, eventually, to Ms. Rajra’s birth.

Her grandparents, however, never again saw the river bank where they used to meet — and Ms. Rajra hopes she will fulfil their dream.

Dr. Singh said he hadn’t been able to be present in the earlier Gyanodaya Express trips through India. “But I will most probably accompany the students on this trip,” he said. “We will open applications on a first come, first served basis during the university’s Anthardhvani Festival, which begins on February 14,” the Vice-Chancellor said.