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Cricket's healing touch

By Faisal Shariff in Lahore
March 21, 2004 21:53 IST
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There are throngs of Indian supporters at Lahore's Gaddafi stadium. Newspapers and television channels put the figure at 4,500. But one sweeping look around the imposing ground convinces you that the hordes exceed the official count.

Amongst the hordes are five graying men. Vedprakash, Rameshchand, Sudesh, Subhash and Satish Khullar, all attired in white kurta pyjamas, are blood brothers from Delhi.

Born in the small town of Jadawala, 100 miles from Lahore, these brothers are visiting Pakistan to reconnect with their past; a past marred by the gory partition of India-Pakistan and the bloodshed that followed.

At the age of 15, Vedprakash, the eldest brother, had to leave Pakistan and migrate to Delhi.

"I have been dying to see the old place where I was born. With the cricket visa I got a chance to visit Pakistan and my dream will now be fulfilled tomorrow," says the 72-year old Punjabi.

Ved recounts his first moments when the train carrying him and his brothers entered Pakistan on Saturday.

"As anxious passengers stared out of the windows, a young girl, standing at the station, ran and hid behind a door. But even as she hid, she waved to the Indian fans.

"It shows that the welcome the Pakistanis are according to us is not superficial, but genuine," he says.   

Ramesh recounts that it was a Muslim family that protected and helped them escape to Amritsar during partition.

"If anyone says that Muslims are bad, then he is my enemy. I have a leather tannery business and we work with Muslims all the time. I see no difference between Hindus and Muslims," he affirms.

Satish, the youngest brother, is a die-hard cricket buff and a good friend of Bishen Singh Bedi, who, he says, helped him initially in the arranging for their visas.

Sudesh though has a lighter approach to life. He says when he saw cycles cut across cars in Lahore he was sure there is no difference between life in the two countries.

The brothers say their 99-year-old mother was apprehensive about their visit. Maybe, the scars of partition have not evaporated yet. The ghastly memories still remain. Swathed in the bandage of time the wound is still fresh though not visible.

Back at home are their grandsons, who have requested that the tour be captured in images.

For them, cricket is the alibi. A chance to see their birthplace though is the real reason that brought them to Pakistan. For no fault of theirs they were deprived of seeing their home for 57 years.

After the match, the five brothers from Delhi's Model Town area will travel to Jadawala and revisit their childhood. A childhood snatched from them because of someone else's hatred.

Did someone say sport can't heal old wounds?

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Faisal Shariff in Lahore

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