Ever since I was a child, I had harboured the fear that if I ever went to India, war might break out and I will be kept in quarantine
By Shamim Bano
Before landing at Mumbai's Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport in India apprehensions and fears loomed large in my mind. Ever since I was a child, I had harboured the fear that if I ever went to India, war might break out and I will be kept in quarantine.
This was the first time I was getting a chance to overcome my fears. I had never been to Mumbai before, my mother's birthplace, in the land of my ancestors. I grew up hearing my mother say, "Whenever we get an opportunity to visit India, we must." I would argue with her, saying why should I, what's so extraordinary about that country that I mustn't miss in my lifetime.
However, on May 21, 2012, I found myself part of the Karachi Press Club delegation led by its President Tahir Hasan Khan, landing at Mumbai airport.
There were two kinds of joy waiting for me at the airport. One was the warm welcome from members of The Press Club of Mumbai headed by Jatin Desai. And the other was the delegation of my blood relatives waiting to greet me. My paternal cousins had come all the way from Ahmadabad, quite a distance away, to receive me. I was seeing them after thirty years, for the first time since they visited Pakistan. Tears rolled down our eyes and emotions ran high at this reunion.
As our visit was very short, we agreed that when I go to visit them, all the relatives should come so we could all meet. I left along with the Pakistani delegation for the guesthouse where we were to stay, near the official residence of Bal Thakaray.
Every day my family members called to ask when I would come. Due to our hectic schedule it wasn't until the night before we left for Pune that I managed to meet them. About fifty people gathered at my cousin's place. We met at 8 pm, and talked till 7 am the next morning, spending a sleepless night. I met the children of my cousins for the first time. They were so excited, and amused that I look like them. When I left, they were anxious to see me again in India and hoped that my sisters and brothers would also make the visit. Promising to meet again, I left the house with a heavy heart, hoping it would not be another thirty years before we met again.
The Indian journalists were excited to hear that I have family in India and embraced me as their own. I told them that my family's ties with India we so strong that we never disassociated ourselves even during strained relations between the two countries. Cross-border marriages are still common in my family, despite the difficulties of such matches. The fact that they continue to take place reinforces the fact that despite several unresolved issues between India and Pakistan, blood is thicker than water.
After safely returning to Pakistan, my perceptions about India have totally changed. I have "relations without boundaries"; the acrimony between the two countries does not affect how we feel about each other. In fact, it strengthens ties among divided families.
The writer is a reporter with The News
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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