Cross-border warmth
Written by The Indian Express   
Saturday, 16 October 2004



Cross-border warmth

If only governments could learn from their peoples



I was apprehensive when I was invited to participate in the Kirloskar Golf Cup at Lahore this month. Yet I looked forward to visiting Pakistan for the sake of my mother who wished to visit the country of her birth. It was also a God sent opportunity for both of us to visit the holy gurudwaras at Nankana Sahib and Panja Sahib.



It took us just about 40 minutes to reach Lahore. Once we landed at Lahore airport, our apprehensions began to melt away.

Women officials at the immigration checkpoints were polite and efficient. We were welcomed with great courtesy. Outside the airport, smiling strangers went out of their way to exchange greetings with the Indian delegates.

At the hotel, the Indian team became the cynosure of all eyes, each member was treated like a VIP. In the markets, shopkeepers refused to take money for the goods sold and passers-by would come up to shake hands.

If one still tended to be cautious, it was due to the seeds of distrust sown over decades by politicians on both sides of the border. Indeed, India has suffered at the hands of extremists and Muslim fundamentalists, but the people display only affection and love towards their neighbours. They articulate a strong support for the free movement of people and business and are visibly sick of divisive politics.

By the third day, my aged mother was confident enough to travel all by herself through the crowded lanes of Anarkali Bazar and Liberty Plaza. Going down memory lane, she struggled to keep her tears in check. But when the mother of our room boy paid her an unexpected visit, the two ladies let their emotions flow. “I am sorry for coming like this,” she said, “but I desperately wanted to meet you and convey our deep love for you all. Thank you for coming to Pakistan. May Allah bless our leaders and bestow them with love and not hatred”. She pulled out a hand-embroidered piece of cloth and urged us to accept it as a gift.

Our journey to Nankana Sahib was as historic as the gurudwara itself. The Sikh sewadars were at home with the predominantly Muslim surroundings and received every help from their local counterparts. There has been a minor incident of stone-throwing after the government’s decision to hand over Guru Nanak University to the Nankana Sahib Trust. But the Pakistani government not only took strong action against the miscreants, but also maintained its stand of transferring the property back to the holy shrine’s trust.

Our journey to Panja Sahib Gurudwara was no different and by the time we finished our pilgrimage, including a visit to the house where my mother was born, we were completely at home in Pakistan. The Pakistanis won the Kirloskar Cup but they also won many hearts.
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