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The LoC across a family!

For most people, the fresh impetus to peace between India and Pakistan, bringing with it a plethora of confidence-building measures like the bus and the rail link, means an end to political tension. For some, it simply means the promise of a normal family life. A Peshawar tailor recounts the trials he faces in his family life, with one daughter a Pakistani citizen and the other an Indian national, to Pragya Joshi.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2004 15:22 IST

For most people, the fresh impetus to peace between India and Pakistan, bringing with it a plethora of confidence-building measures like the bus and the rail link, means an end to political tension. For some, it simply means the promise of a normal family life.

Mohammad Zeeshan, a tailor from Peshawar waiting at the Delhi Gate terminus for a ticket on the Lahore bus, is one such person. His story has all the twists and turns of a Bollywood potboiler. As you sit next to him waiting to hear out his anguish, he lets the floodgates open.

"My family finalised my match with Farkhanda (Jabeen, an old Delhi resident) in 1989, and we got engaged—can you believe it?—over the telephone," he gushes. "But it has really not been a fairy-tale life for us. I kept trying for full 11 years to bring my baraat (marriage party) to Delhi, but just couldn't get a visa! And she kept waiting to see me all this while, turning from a sweet 16 to 27."

"Eventually, my family called her to Peshawar (it is apparently easier for an Indian to get a Pakistani visa than vice versa), and we got married in April 2000. Hamein to bas khandaan hi milane the (We only had to join our families; whether it happened in India or in Pakistan, it didn't matter)," he says.

But this was not the end of their hardships. "Farkhanda delivered our first daughter, Laiba, in Peshawar about two-and-a-half years ago," he says. "Then, expecting a second time, she came to her parents in Delhi about a month ago. Here she has delivered our second, Yusra, who is now about a month old. The problem is, while Laiba is a Pakistani citizen, Yusra is an Indian by virtue of her birth."

Farkhanda has still not got Pakistani nationality, though she has been living there for three years. Zeeshan says he will now have to apply for Yusra as well. And until then, he has to leave them both behind. "Just imagine, when getting a simple visa is such a task, how difficult it would be when you want to change your nationality!"

 Zeeshan sits with two-and-a-half-year old Laiba, a Pakistani citizen, and month-old Yusra, an Indian

Right now, Zeeshan hopes he can just get a ticket back for Lahore (he has been coming to the bus terminus for several days now). "

Aawam to dono jagah ki milansaar hai. Agar dual nationality jaisa kuch ho jaye to sabke liye achha ho

(People on both sides are friendly. If the governments can allow something like dual nationality, it would be good for everyone)," he says.

"Humne qasam khayi hai ki saat naslon mein na ladki leni he na deni hai (we have sworn neither to marry an Indian girl nor to give a girl to an Indian in the next seven generations)," he lets his desperation out.

As you peer over his smiling family photos that he is more than willing to share, you can't help thinking of the shadow of international politics that looms large over his simple family life. And you can't help wondering if the fresh winds of peace are strong enough to reunite them!

First Published: Jan 27, 2004 15:21 IST