Tina Vachani: founder of NGO Routes 2 Roots and woman entrepreneur

Routes2Roots is the brainchild of Tina Vachani, a social entrepreneur of Pakistani origin who decided to shift to India for higher studies. After her marriage with Ravi Vachani, she finally decided to settle in India. Having realized that conflict between two neighboring countries, Indian and Pakistan, persists on the political level and the people of both nations want no rift in relation, she felt a strong urge to bring two seemingly different but strongly similar cultures on the same platform.

One of the successful women entrepreneurs embodying social entrepreneurship in India, she always felt to do something positive to bridge the gulf between India and the other SAARC nations. She chose art as her medium to unify people irrespective of racial, regional and religious barriers. She has always envisioned ‘unity in diversity’ and that has been manifested through her fruitful effort in building Routes2Roots, a non-profit social service organization.

It took Ms. Vachani long years to finally listen to her inner calling and devote herself to a noble cause. However, once she came up with her visionary idea of a cultural feast to recognize the budding talents and efface the so-called inhibitions of border and boundaries, there is no looking back! Her effort is supported by many dignitaries on both sides of the borders. The NGO has arranged several cultural carnivals, hosted by great musical maestros of both India and Pakistan. With her endless and exemplary effort to spread the message of peace through cultural pursuits, she has got the true woman power. Below is the list of the peace projects she has handled till date:

Shafqat Amanat Ali live in concert
Journey of Indian Cinema in China
Aravali concert
Music for peace concert with Jagjit Singh & Asif Mehdi
Cultural Evening in Colombo- Sri Lanka
Journey of Indian Cinema in Russia- Rishi Kapoor was honored here
Drums of Peace
Shah Rukh Khan Honorary Doctorate -10th July 2009
Routes 2 Roots organized a mega cultural evening in New Delhi, 12th February 2009
Qawali Evening at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, 30th October 2008
Evening with ShahRukh Khan – 16th June 2007
My Earth My Duty concert- 23rd & 24th June’11.
Javed Bashir & Mekaal Hasan Concert- 7th- 11th June’12.

Ms. Vachani, how was it spending your childhood days in Pakistan? Do you have any touching account of your formative years?
When I was born in Pakistan and was growing up as a child there though being a Hindu, I grew up as though it was my motherland and was going to school,playing with all the children and making friends as any other normal child.I have some very happy memories of my childhood days spent in Pakistan. Yes there were occasions when I felt different from the majority of the children specially during the month of Ramzan(fasting) but was happy to do an occasional fast with all the other children and most of the times join them for Iftari(when the fast is broken). During our celebrations at my house for Holi,Diwali and Raksha bandhan I did feel a bit lonely as there were very few Hindu families in Karachi who would celebrate with me though a few close friends would definitely join me in my moments of festivity. I was deeply touched and felt vulnerable when I could not attend the wedding of my close relative in India due to hostilities between the two countries in the year 1965 when war broke out between the two countries!

In Indian and western media, Pakistan is often portrayed as the terrorists’ paradise? Do you share this view?
I have also witnessed various articles all over the world branding and portraying Pakistan as a terrorist state. I would like to point out very strongly that a state or country cannot be terrorist ,it is only the people who can be terrorists. In my view terrorists are existent in every country but it is important to note that how they are dealt with by the law and the law enforcing agencies.In a country which is poor and is depending for aid from the world and surrounded by difficult terrain full of untamed tribes there is bound to be more terrorists than any other country and if someone has o be blamed for not curbing this menace it is the rulers or the law enforcing agencies.

Do you really believe that discord exists only on the political level and people on both sides have nothing to do with this spearheading political conflict?
I am of the firm opinion that the people in both the countries are warm and receptive to each other,after all we have shared the common histories,cultures,food,fashion and education for centuries and a mere imaginery line(Border) cannot divide two people. I would also tend to agree that people of both the countries are swayed with temporary euphoria raised by the politicos and people with vested interests but the same subsides immediately when they see through the designs of these handful people.

Ms. Vachani, you have witnessed to life on both sides of the barb. How much eager are people of two countries to meet and mingle with each other?
I have not only faced the life on both sides of the border when I was a child but even today whenever I visit Pakistan or people visit me from Pakistan the majority still wants freedom to cross into each others countries and meet their friends and relatives and now also start up business in each other countries. I only imagine and pray that one day this is possible and the amounts that both the governments spend protecting the border can be utilised by both the countries to uplift the infrastructure and lives of poor people in their respective countries.

When did you feel the need to do something for peace to prevail and spread in SAARC countries?
About 7-8 years ago sitting with friends we were discussing the growth of our country India and the impact of this in the neighbouring countries. As a common answer we all were of the opinion that our growth should also result in the growth of our neighbours but we realised that we do not have friendly relations and open trade and cultural exchange with any of our neighbouring countries. It was during these discussions the idea took birth to form a group of like minded people in the neighbouring countries which could enhance the social and cultural similarities in the neighbouring countries as well as develop people to people contact and work as ambassadors for tier two diplomacy.

What inspired you to come up with Routes2Roots?
Keeping the above thought in mind Routes 2 Roots took birth. The name Routes 2 Roots symbolises that this NGO shows the path to reach to our roots which are embedded in each others countries. Most people have their relatives or some connections in the neighbouring countries and we wanted to be the medium to connect people through the route of art and culture and help reach to their forgotten or lost roots.

You have always advocated peace for people, prosperity and unity. How strong are you in belief that people will come closer through art and cultural festival?
Well when I started Routes2 Roots it was my belief that people will come closer through the interaction of Art and Culture but now the belief has turned into reality where everybody can see a sea change in the attitude,acceptability and tolerance amongst our diversities.Let me share with you the activity recently organised by Routes 2 Roots called “Exchange for Change” a 16 month long program connecting 2400 students aged between 10-14 years from different stratas of society(5 schools from India and 5 schools from Pakistan). At the start of the program the attitude and mindset of the children was of mistrust,doubt and stories that they saw and heard through the media,but after the recently concluded program both the children from India and Pakistan were like they were from one home and made the best of friends.Now if this small effort could bring about such a change what would be the effect if we all decide to clear the inhibitions or doubts of even one family from a neighbouring country….we all will be united like the Europeon Union.

You have decided to follow your heart instead of choosing a high profile career. Do you think it is important to respond to our heart’s calling to meet success?
To be successful it is important to follow the heart be it a high profile career or social work. I decided to go exclusively by my hearts calling and I am proud to say that what my heart said was the right thing.It is important to try and more important to succeed

What more is in the pipeline?
Relationship building is an ongoing process there is no full stop to it and specially when we are trying to build relationships in broken houses. We have ambitious plans of connecting young minds in larger numbers together in all the neighbouring countries and at the same time continue the cultural portion of our organisation by holding events and festivals in all the neighbouring countries. We have to our credit hosting the top artists from Pakistan in various cities of India such as Lucknow, Rajasthan,Chandigarh,Bangalore,Bhubneshwar,Kolkatta,Srinagar etc and thousands of people witnessing each event which was non-ticketed and free for all to enjoy thereby creating a cultural bond specially with Pakistan having got in renowned artists like, Farida Khanum, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan,Abida Parveen, Shafqat Amanat Ali and many more, and all still continuing.

You are being admired and adored as one of the most influential and inspiring women by young Indians. What message would you like to leave for them?

I am humbled by your question and my message to all is very brief – Music, Culture and Friendship has no boundaries,we are all one—rediscover yourself!

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