Few knew a 15-minute meeting between the two would lead to the beginning of a new relationship – a cross-border wedding at that. Despite tension between the two countries, the Rajput royals of India and Pakistan are all set to be united in matrimony as Kunwar Karni Singh Sodha, son of Rana Hamir Singh of the Sodha Rajput clan from Umerkot in Sindh, and Padmini Singh Rathore, daughter of Thakur Maan Singh Rathore of the Kanota Thikana of Rajasthan, prepare to exchange wedding vows on February 20.
“What I found really impressive about Padmini was her knowledge of the fact that peace prevails pretty much likewise on this side of the line as in theirs. And the forthrightness with which she speaks her mind is almost infectious,” says Karni, who was on a call from the other side of the line.
Filling-in the conversation, the bride-to-be, whose excitement has been increasing with wedding day nearing, says, “I never had any apprehensions about life on the other side of the border. Countries might be different, but people are the same and maintain the similar cordial and peaceful arrangement necessary for a healthy society.”
It was June 5 when the two met and by June 10, they had exchanged their rings, followed by a tikka ceremony on December 7. “It is a traditional ceremony in which men from the bride’s family bring gifts for the groom’s family,” says excited Padmini, who is a St Bede’s passout. It was probably for the first time since independence that tikka was sent to Pakistan.
Courtship over phone
Waiting for the big day, Padmini and Karni have spent most of their courtship period over the phone due to restrictive visa regime between India and Pakistan. “The cell phone has been the only medium of communication for the past 7-8 months. Though I did have a chance of coming over here and catching up with Padmini, but had the visa norms been more liberal and commuting between the two countries more of a practice than an event, it would have been an altogether delightful state of affairs,” says Karni, who is a law graduate. As a slight pause descended on the conversation, the mellifluous voice from across the line, striking an almost nostalgic tone said, “Well I think that my family is sort of balanced now. My mom is from India. My three sisters are all married in India and I am marrying a beautiful lady from the same country.”
This kind of sentiment strikes an even deeper chord when it comes from the descendant of a royal family to whom goes the credit of giving Mughal king Humayun refuge when he was ousted by Sher Shah Suri. Humayun’s son and the most celebrated Mughal king Akbar was born in the fort currently inhabited by the Sodhas in Umerkot.
“Despite being a Rajput-dominated district in a Muslim-majority country, seldom has there been an instance that has bred confrontation. The whole community maintains communal harmony and has immense respect for each other’s traditions,” says Karni, whose grandfather Rana Chander Singh was one of the early members of the Pakistan People’s Party and an elected member of the National Assembly several times.
Meanwhile, as the two get ready to tie the knot in less than a month at Jaipur, one can only wish that the relations between that the two neighbours look up.