| A Pakistani woman greets her relative from Mumbai at Karachi airport. (Reuters)
Mumbai, Jan. 2: Thanks to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf cooing at each other, other people can get married.
As a radiant Faiza, heavy gold jewellery glittering on her neck and ears, emerged from the long immigration-clearing process at the Mumbai international airport, the 40-odd family members — they had hired a bus to come to the airport — swamped the bride-to-be, leaving her severely out of breath. But she had waited for this moment for seven years.
Twenty-something Faiza, a resident of Karachi, has been engaged to Asif, her 23-year-old cousin in Mumbai, for seven years. There have been several attempts to marry them off, but the ceremony was put off every time because of what was happening across the border. Till the resumption of the air service between Pakistan and India.
The first Pakistan International Airline flight arrived in Delhi yesterday from Lahore. The second carrying Faiza and 160 others, including her parents and grandparents, landed at the Mumbai international airport at 1.30 pm today.
“Finally my son can get married,” said Asif’s father, Abdul Gaffar, a Mumbai businessman, a relieved man.
“There were problems every time we planned the marriage,” he said. “Since the direct India-Pakistan air service stopped, someone coming from Pakistan would have to pay about Rs 40,000 in Pakistani currency to come here. Now they are paying only Rs 12,000 in Pakistani currency,” Gaffar said.
“But the more serious problem was of obtaining visas. Because of the relations between the two countries of late, getting visas was not easy in the first place. Then Kargil happened. That was the toughest time for people wanting to come over. Everything came to a standstill. We were very worried about how to go about this marriage, whether it would take place at all.”
“It is within the family. Asif’s and Faiza’s mothers are sisters. I had given my word,” said Gaffar.
But with the easing of tensions after Vajpayee’s April initiative, the two families were encouraged to go ahead. The marriage was initially fixed for December 15, 2003. Then came the news of direct flights from Karachi to Mumbai.
“It was a tremendous piece of news. We postponed the marriage, so that they could avail of this flight,” said Mohammad Rafiq, Gaffar’s brother-in-law. The ceremony was rescheduled for January 18, 2004.
“But only five from Faiza’s side managed to get the visas. Getting visas is very tough as there are many people in the queue. We are still hoping for more relatives to come over,” said Rafiq, who wants to visit Karachi soon. “My wife is also from Karachi. But I haven’t been there for 16 years,” he said.
It looks like the beginning of one big party. For Gaffar, Rafiq and many other happy faces gathered at Sahar airport today are convinced that if the peace process is not derailed, families like theirs, spread over two sides of the border, will be vigorously in touch from now on.
If it hasn’t started already, as with Mrs Abbas. The stately old lady came down to Mumbai from Calcutta to receive her son-in-law and two grandchildren, who live in Karachi. Her daughter is already with her in Calcutta. But Mrs Abbas wanted to meet her younger grandchild, the three-year-old Sajjad, as soon as possible. She has not met her daughter’s family since the flights were suspended.
“I can only thank our countries’ leaders that this is happening again. Now I can look forward to going to Karachi, too,” she said.
For Mrs Kishwar, who arrived with her family in the same plane but rushed off to take another flight to Hyderabad where her parents live, getting to see her old parents after all these bad times was an opportunity she wouldn’t miss.
“We are very thankful this has happened.
“Aisa hamesha rahe, hamesha rahe,” she prayed. May the love story between Vajpayee and Musharraf flourish.