Anju, 35, is a mother of two. She has come all the way from Baroda to help me with my domestic work in Delhi.
Last week, because of the Agra summit, I remained away from home for long hours. Hours that Anju spent going through the many Hindi and Gujarati newspapers I subscribe to, I now realise.
Sunday morning, when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met General Pervez Musharraf, she sat along with me in front of the television. She is aware I am reporting on the India-Pakistan talks. She has been taking an interest in my work for some time now.
When Musharraf appeared on the screen, she said: "Why is this man not allowing our Indian men to return from Pakistan?"
"What do you mean?" I asked.
She got up and produced a three-day old Hindi newspaper. She pointed to an article on Indian PoWs in Pakistan, with the picture of a grieving family.
"Her father-in-law is in Pakistan and this man [Musharraf] is not returning him to his family. The family has been asking for him since 1971," she said.
Then, she asked me angrily, "Why are we allowing so many Pakistanis here?"
"Where? We don't have many."
"Everywhere," she said waving her hand. "Why are all Muslims in India not Pakistanis?"
I was stunned. I know her enough to understand she is not anti-Muslim in the political sense. She is literate. She can read, write and speak not one but two languages.
I explained to her the creation of Pakistan. But I don't think she followed a word. Not really. To her all Muslims belonged in Pakistan.
I could not make her understand they were our brethren, once part of the same country, sharing the same history, the same culture. She left the discussion halfway.
I thought a lot about what could have created the impression in her mind. I haven't really figured that out yet, but one thing I can say -- whatever it was, it had done the same -- created the same misperception -- in many, many people of this huge country.
Now, as the leaders sit down again for the final round of talks in Agra, I am hoping against hope.
I have been told about the impasse, but I pray that Vajpayee and Musharraf make some progress, any progress -- for whatever happens between the two nations, it affects the core of our nationhood, particularly the Muslims in India.
And I want to wipe the misperceptions from Anju's mind. Permanently.
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