In the times of so much hostility between India and Pakistan it is a breath of fresh air to read stories like these:
Fifty years ago, one required a licence to own a radio in this country. When television arrived in the seventies, television sets also needed a similar licence. In the late seventies, I was posted with a brigade near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. There was a Doordarshan station in Srinagar, but we could not catch the signal due to the distance and the intervening mountain peaks. In contrast, Pakistan TV was crystal clear.
During the winter there was little entertainment for the troops – except for the Mobile Cinema Section. But it visited only once a month and the fare it screened was also not great. For the most part, all we got to see were some old Hindi movies. The only television set around was in the officers’ mess. This was where everyone spent the evenings, watching Pakistani plays. They were quite good. However, the perennial favourite was an excellent quiz programme called ‘Neelaam Ghar’. It was much better than anything Doordarshan produced.
The Pakistan TV programme was often interrupted by announcements, reminding everyone to pay their annual television licence fee. The CO of 4/5 Gorkha Rifles, Lt Col Sunit Singh Dogra, was an avid television fan. He felt that since the battalion was watching Pakistan TV instead of Doordarshan, it was only fair that it should pay the licence fee to Pakistan.
The next morning, the Indian sentry at the post handed over thirty rupees to his Pakistani counterpart, with a small note from the company commander, explaining why this was being done.
Soon afterwards, the Pakistani company commander came out of his bunker, waving a packet and smiling. The money was returned, with a small “thank you note”, explaining that in Pakistan the army was exempted from paying licence fees, and that the soldiers of the Indian army were entitled to the same privilege.The note ended, I remember, with the line: “Be our guests.”
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