Social Startups

Routes2Roots : Promoting Peace via Music and Cultural Exchange

Routes2Roots is a non-profit organization that aims at building peace between South Asian countries through art, music and cultural exchange.
Countries of interest include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan.

Preeti Parekh caught up with Routes2Roots founder Rakesh Gupta over a phone call.
The excerpt of their interview follows:

Preeti: What motivated you to start Routes2Roots?
Rakesh: India is a large country. It has strained relationships with its neighbors, mainly Pakistan. However, for centuries before this one, we have shared a common history and culture.
We decided to bring together people, cultures and values across South Asian countries, in particular India and Pakistan. Via these exchanges, we hope to promote greater harmony, understanding and brotherhood between nations.

Preeti: And how exactly do you achieve this?
Rakesh: We organize events that showcase talent and culture from both countries that participate. The events introduce talent from the fields of film, fashion, sports and music.

We identify and promote known and upcoming artistes/performers and cultural workers from South Asia. Also we do not charge any fees to artists. It is free for artists to perform at our events.

Preeti: Can you give us some examples of events you have organized?
Rakesh: Certainly. In collaboration with ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) we organized a musical tour with Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, one of Pakistan’s most distinguished classical pop vocalists. His tour of India was a huge hit.

We showcased Indian cinema in China and Russia and introduced visitors to Indian movies. Abida Parveen is going to perform in Delhi this month.

Preeti: What were the challenges you faced when you started?
Rakesh: Initially, we could not find any sponsors for our events. Sponsors did not believe our events would be popular. Another problem was getting visas for artists from both India and Pakistan.

In August 2007, we organized a concert to celebrate Independence Day jointly between India and Pakistan. The people of India and the people of Pakistan have never jointly celebrated this one day that gave birth to both nations. Unfortunately we had to cancel the concert since we received death threats. The calls were traced to a satellite phone in the Indian Ocean.

Preeti: Tell us your future plans. How do you hope to promote peace among India and Pakistan in the future?
Rakesh: We’re excited about our new project, which is an Oral history exchange. We are doing this in collaboration with Citizens Archive of Pakistan.
This is a 16 month long information exchange program between Karachi-Bombay and Lahore-Delhi schools. It involves 1200 secondary school children writing letters to each other.

We want children across borders to start a dialogue and realize that there is little or no difference between their lives and lives of those across the border. Once finished, we will introduce the results of our program to other institutions so that they can replicate the model.

To know more about the Oral Histories program, please visit this website. You may also want to watch the advert below.