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VOA Urdu's My Story Continues to Deliver Optimism

Jahanzaib Awan
Jahanzaib Awan
The governments of India and Pakistan may not have the best of relations, but a recent episode of VOA Urdu’s My Story gave a heartwarming example of how the people of India and Pakistan can sometimes be the best of friends.

Jahanzaib Awan is a Pakistani teenager who has always had a passion for acting and dancing. However, at the age of seven he was involved in a horrible accident and had to have his leg amputated. But his disability hasn’t stopped Jahanzaib from dancing; he regularly participates in stage shows and also mimics famous Indian actor Salman Kahan, who is his hero. Last year a Pakistani TV channel aired a brief story on this young man who loves to dance despite his disability. Jahanzaib posted that story on YouTube along with a short, self-produced documentary on his life.

That posting got the attention of a young film director in India, Siddhartha Das. Das was so moved by Jahanzaib’s story – and by his determination -- that he offered him an opportunity to come to Bollywood to star in a documentary about disabled artists in Pakistan, titled Talent of Pakistan.

Jahanzaib was thrilled by the offer and wanted to go, but there was a problem. While Das was generously going to pay Jahanzaib’s expenses once he arrived in India, the young boy didn’t have the money to get to India. And that’s where My Story comes in. A friend of Jahanzaib, Rana Imran, who is a regular listener to the show, called host Shahnaz Aziz and told her about the one big obstacle between Jahanzaib and Bollywood. Shahnaz came to the rescue. She contacted Ajaz Janjua, the president of a Baltimore-based travel agency, and told him about Jahanzaib’s plight. She then arranged for all three of them – Janjua, Jahanzaib and Das – to talk live on My Story. By the end of that conversation, Janjua had offered to pay for Jahanzaib’s trip to Mumbai. “This is my way,” he said, “of giving back to society, and sharing my fortune.”

Jahanzaib arrived in Mumbai in the beginning of February and will be staying through April. In his first few days there, he met many big names in Bollywood, including film director Amjad Khan and the cast of Gul Makai, an upcoming film based on the life of Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenage activist shot by a Taliban gunman in October 2012. That meeting proved to be lucky for Jahanzaib - Amjad Khan offered Jahanazaib a role in Gul Makai, and now he is busy with the recording of Gul Makai before the production of Talent of Pakistan.

Das says he has high hopes for Talent of Pakistan. Although he is fully aware of the divide between the two countries, he believes that by releasing the film in both India and Pakistan, it could help promote peace efforts between the two countries.

My Story host Shahnaz also has high hopes for the film. She particularly likes that it highlights the importance of giving opportunities to the handicapped. “It’s also nice,” she added, thinking about the man who made it possible for Jahanzaib to get to Bollywood, “to see people living outside of their country help those back home who aren’t as fortunate.”

Again, My Story proves to be a life-changing show. It has now brought a talented filmmaker from India and a disabled teenager from Pakistan together -- both with a desire to use art to narrow the differences between their countries.