KARACHI: Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar wants Pakistan and India to have better relations because it would be beneficial for both. “They can become the largest economic powers in the world,” said the soft-spoken peace guru to his audience, who looked back at him in awe and with smiles on their faces.
“No country would sell arms to us, incite conflicts or make our people poor,” he went on, as applause broke out in the hall which was brimming with people. The peace ambassador, popularly called Guru ji, was in Karachi, while on a three-day visit to Pakistan. Shankar is known for his meditation practices and stress-management therapies in many countries and is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation.
Before Guru ji addressed his admirers at Sheraton Hotel late on Tuesday night, qawaal Fareed Ayaz made the people sway to the beat of Amir Khusro’s Chhaap Tilak, and later, to Lal Meri Pat.
When Shankar arrived, the bare-footed audience gave him a standing ovation, while chanting “Our Guru ji is here,” and welcomed him with garlands of fresh flowers. The Muttahida Qaumi Movment’s Farooq Sattar and adviser Sharmila Farooqi also came in just after Shankar.
As Guru ji settled on the stage, adorned heavily with roses, Fareed Ayaz greeted him by singing “Mera piya ghar aaya,” and then presented him with an Ajrak and a Sindhi topi.
A teacher, Shakeela Jabeen, had come from Norway just to see Shankar. “I got to know three days ago that he was coming to Pakistan,” said Jabeen, beaming. “He was coming to my homeland I had to be here.”
Finally, the wait was over and Shankar said that it was overwhelming to visit Karachi after eight years. Soon after, he began a session of serious and thought-provoking questions and answers, packed with humorous one-liners. He spoke in English and Hindi and kept asking the audience for Urdu equivalents during his one-and-a-half-hour-long talk.
Of love and onions
The first question was a predictable one: How to promote peace between Pakistan and India?
“There is real love between the masses,” he said. “But to increase it, there should be an increase in trade, exchange of culture, tourism, and, religious and political dialogue.”
When he entered Pakistan from the Wagah border, he saw onion-laden trucks coming here from India. “I wish that pyar (love) also arrived with piyaz (onions),” he said. “From the other end, I saw trucks with cement. Most of the buildings in India are made of Pakistani cement.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar hopes 'pyar arrives with piyaz' on Indo- Pak ties