With love from Pakistan, via London.
Separated sisters and brothers in India and Pakistan are routing their sibling love this raksha bandhan through neutral addresses — London and Dubai — because of growing hostilities between the two neighbouring nations.
During the festival, to be celebrated this year on Thursday, women tie sacred threads called rakhis on their brothers’ wrists, praying for their well-being, while men reciprocate by giving gifts and vowing to protect them. Siblings staying away send rakhis and gifts by post.
A large number of people in India and Pakistan, separated from their loved ones during Partition in 1947, exchange their raksha bandhan love through government postal or private courier services.
But frustrating security checks of parcels because of heightened tension between the neighbours have prompted Indians and Pakistanis alike to send rakhis and gifts via London and Dubai.
“It’s a cumbersome and long-drawn process to send gifts directly to India. So I sent a suit material for my sister first to London. My cousin then dispatched it to India,” says Prem Prakash of Lahore, whose sister lives in south Delhi.
Delhi-based trader Charandeep Singh did the same.
“My cousins live in Lahore. I have sent them gifts through an acquaintance in London. Customs officials in both nations manhandle gifts. Even letters are opened and read. Sometimes, posts are not delivered. Relations between the two countries have worsened. It is better not to send things directly,” he says.
Asif Alam of Pakistan has a rakhi sister — not blood siblings — in Gurgaon.
“I sent her cards that my kids drew along with a few scarves. I sent them to a relative in Dubai, who sent the packet to my sister.”
“Many of my relatives have had sad experiences trying to send gifts to India. Customs guys in both countries rip open your packet and go through its content. The articles are often damaged by the time they reach their destination. I don’t trust the posts and courier companies in our countries. It’s much easier to route your gifts through other countries,” Alam says.
The roundabout route is faster and hassle-free, and the delivery is guaranteed.
Alam says people can send gifts from Pakistan through premier international courier companies, which claim to take about four working days to deliver goods in India. But these are expensive.
Second-tier courier services generally route consignments via Dubai and take five days to deliver at almost half the price. Pakistan Post may take anywhere from three to six weeks.
“With tempers flaring so frequently on the either side of the border, it’s mentally comforting to send your gifts through another country,” Alam says.
(Some names have been changed on request)