The Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik affair has brought back memories of another Indo-Pakistan wedding that happened over half-a-century ago in England.
Zainab (name changed) was an unusually bright student from a small central Indian town who was encouraged to pursue higher studies in England. As expected, she excelled at the university and also found her soulmate in a fellow student – a Pakistani.
The two got married and after some years her husband decided to move back to Pakistan with their children. Zainab had to give up her Indian nationality. Few years later, Zainab and her husband parted ways. Zainab’s husband decided to relocate to another country, and she back to India.
Zainab had little idea how difficult it would be for her to regain her blue passport (I am sure it is true about green passports as well). She ran from pillar-to-post (her hometown to New Delhi); met all the right people (some of whom were in positions of power and were known to her family) but nothing worked.
She continued to make several trips to India over a period of 10 years (by now she had touched 50), but all her efforts proved futile. She argued with Indian authorities that she had no family in Pakistan (as her children had opted to stay abroad) and that she was old and wanted to be back where her roots were.
On one of her trips to India she overstayed, hoping to see them bend rules for a woman who was now in her sixties, and quite harmless. The cops from the local thana came and harassed her, called her names and tried to stop her from doing the odd things (this would bring tears to anyone’s eyes) to sustain herself. She pleaded that she had no one to go back to, she didn’t have anyone to take care of her, and obviously none to bury her when she is gone – but nothing moved them.
Zainab and I come from the same small town, where she is like folklore. I have had the honour of meeting Zainab a couple of times. I have heard her stories, seen copies of letters sent to people who mattered, and, of course, her tears.
I saw her giving her best shot till they decided to throw her out. Her departure reminded me of the time when she corrected me in her impeccable English, “It’s ‘may I take my leave’ and not ‘may I take your leave’ – because you are leaving, I am not!” I thought to myself “she is taking my leave”.
Ever since she has been living in Pakistan – trying to make a living. Trying to forget the country of her birth.
After several years, I spoke to Zainab today. I wasn’t sure if she’d recognize me, but she did. “Of course, I know you,” she said, when I phoned her, surprised that I was in Pakistan. "I asked her how she was. “What do you expect of a 80-year-old?” she chuckled. She said she hadn’t been to India in years. “I don’t have anyone to go back to.”
I told her I’ll come and see her, that I’d take her to India and that she could stay with me.
“Please do that,” she said. I asked her if there was anything I could do for her in Pakistan, and she replied, “I’ll call you when I get lonely.”