My father was born in Chiniot and spent his early childhood in Lahore. After the partition, he came to Delhi, and eventually to Mumbai, where I was born. All my life I heard his childhood stories from Lahore.
He would tell me about his palatial home, the games he played, the vendors that came during the day, his school, neighbors, and friends. I’ve grown up visualizing streets, food, and the people of Lahore. So much that it doesn’t even seem like a dream sequence.
But it’s actually.
My father died in 2015, and since he fled from Lahore, he had this wish to go back to see everything; just once. Although the scars of the bloodshed and terror were fresh on his heart, the longing to see his native land was limitless.
He died with an unfulfilled wish to visit Lahore.
All his wishes were fulfilled before leaving, except this one. Not that he didn’t try to get a tourist visa but every time he went to apply for one, he was shooed away. Both the governments made sure that this man couldn’t fulfill his wish to connect back to his ancestral roots. Every officer in the high commission made sure that this man was humiliated and sent back; again, and again.
Now he’s gone and maybe if there’s no rebirth, he may never be able to visit Lahore. Even if he’s reborn in human form, maybe there’ll be no country to visit the way we’re fighting with each other.
After my father died, I thought to try to get a visa for Lahore so that I can see his childhood and connect the dots. During the last couple of years, I’ve become keen on visiting my ancestral land. The more India and Pakistan are fighting with each other, the more I get inspired to visit across the border and experience the kindness.
I’m sure these fights and hatred are fake and cleverly crafted.
I’ve met many people from Pakistan during my visit to Bangkok and I met a few in Mumbai too. I’ve traveled extensively in India and some foreign countries and have concluded that humans are almost the same everywhere — kind, compassionate, grateful, and simple.
Media provides different perspectives many times and our half-knowledge and personal shortcoming add to the hatred and enmity.
In 2015, I also went to the Pakistan embassy twice and was shooed away like my father. There were many like me. They’re also not much wrong in their part as we don’t have any relative or friend staying in Lahore; so, there’s no scope of sponsorship and there’s no clause of tourism between India and Pakistan.
Today, like my father, I’ve got a wish to visit Lahore and experience all the stories come alive that I’ve heard from childhood. I hear the streets calling me, I feel the fragrance in the air cuddling me and I visualize the little version of my father dancing in his ancestral home.
I don’t know if this can be possible. Maybe it can be, maybe I’ll also go down to ashes like my father with this wish in my heart. Till then, all I’ll do is to try to find a way to visit Lahore. Maybe, someday the governments from both sides will make an arrangement or an angel will bless me with a sponsor letter — to visit Lahore.