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Thaw in Indo-Pak ties rekindles hope in Old Delhi
Priya Solomon in New Delhi | May 06, 2003 18:07 IST
Forty-two-year-old Mustakeem, a resident of Old Delhi, has been stranded in Pakistan since 1999 -- the same year Kargil took place. His family waits for him to return and solemnise the marriages of the three daughters.
"All three are of 'marriageable' ages according to the standards of our community. But how can they be married off in the absence of their father," a friend of the family told rediff.com.
Residing in the Suiwala area of Old Delhi, the family does not wish to be identified fearing this would worsen their father's chance of returning to his homeland.
A travel agent himself who facilitated visits of many to Pakistan, Mustakeem could not come home due to various bureaucratic glitches. Before something could be done to get him back, India snapped ties with Pakistan after the December 13 Parliament attack in 2001. It was followed by the snapping of air, train and bus links.
Since then Mustakeem has been hiding 'somewhere' in Pakistan, according to the family friend.
Mustakeem's is one of the less complicated examples of how lives between the two counties are intertwined.
The thaw in Indo-Pak ties in the past few days seems to be rekindling hope in the hearts of thousands. Families and friends separated for years are now hoping to meet again.
This hope is most visible in the crowded bylanes of Old Delhi, where almost every resident has relations across the border, where almost every Muslim family has immediate relations on both sides of India and Pakistan. And even today given a chance, they wouldn't mind marrying off their daughters and sons to families known to each other from pre-Partition days.
"Allah kare, sab theek ho jai (By the grace of Allah everything should become all right)," Mohammad Hussain whispers a quiet prayer on the steps of Jama Masjid. A retired government clerk, Hussain has many of his relatives in Pakistan. He last visited the country in 1989. And he hopes to visit them again after the borders open.
"These are political decisions. But we hope that all routes open and people from both sides can meet each other again," said Hussain with a smile.
While India has offered to open air links, many in the walled city hope that governments on both sides would decide to resume train and bus links also.
"I am retired and can't afford a plane ticket. But if they open the bus and train routes I will go immediately," said Hussain.
Aman-ul-Haq who last visited Pakistan to meet his relatives in 1957 said, "Relations should normalise between the two countries. We share the same culture and language." As he grows old Haq hopes to visit Pakistan once to catch a glimpse of his relatives. Easy as it may sound but the wall of suspicion between the two countries is tough to break.
"It is not easy to normalise immediately. Had it been another country things would have been easier. But don't forget this is India and Pakistan," a Pakistani diplomat said.
At the Jama Masjid mosque, guides hope to see more Pakistani visitors. "They used to come in hundreds every year," one of them said. At the famous Karim's restaurant, next to the Jama Masjid, the manager is equally enthusiastic of more visitors from Pakistan.
More reports from Delhi
Read about: Assembly Election 2003 | Attack on Parliament