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Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021
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Lahore Diary

If there was more people-to-people contact, Indo-Pak ties would surely improve.

Lahore Diary
Lahore Diary
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Pre-Visa Pak

When the Partition riots broke out in Lahore, my father, Khushwant Singh, then a struggling lawyer based in the city, decided to send us—my mother, my two-year-old sister and me—to Delhi, where my grandfather resided. My father imagined, as did so many Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in the subcontinent, that the trouble would soon blow over, and we could return to our home on upmarket Lawrence Road. Of course, it didn’t and we, along with about ten million others, became ‘refugees’. I only came back to Lahore half a century later, as part of a tennis team. But the most poignant memory of that trip was watching the one-day cricket tie between India and Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium (which India won). To my surprise, the Pakistani crowd cheered the Indian team and when Balaji bowled, chanted, ‘Balaji, zara dheere chalo!’ There were quite a few Indian fans in the stadium (visas had been liberally issued) and the Pakistani youngsters flocked to them, chatting and joking animatedly. This was a new generation, without the baggage and bitterness of the past. If there was more such people-to-people contact, Indo-Pak ties would surely improve. No such luck: 26/11 and mounting terrorism, on both sides, ensured that the stupid, rigorous visa regime returned. Fewer Pakistanis and Indians visited each other. When I was at the Wagah border this time, in the huge immigration hall, there were three immigration officers at the counters, and just four of us wanting to cross over to Pakistan, of which three were invitees to the Lahore literary festival!


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