Thursday, April 1, 2010

I’ll call you when I get lonely…

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.”


  1. a4ashu

    Thats heart wrenching....can't leave citizen of indian origin in Pakistan .... i hope Indian govt babus are reading this blog.....


  2. Poor Zainab. Her story reminds me of the film "Mammo", except that Mammo managed to get back into India. Wonder how many people like that are out there?


  3. I wish them luck but Indo-Pak marriages have not been very successful.

  4. I just hope Zainab comes back to the country of her birth. Wonder why the powers-that-be are cynical in helping our citizens

  5. Thanks to yahoo msgr who has busted the myth about Pakistani ppl for me long back.
    ur blog is a solid proof that I was/am right.

    I love Pakistani gals ;-)
    Pakistani Singers
    and all pakistani who love/like India

  6. This is very sad indeed. I hope Sania does not leave her Indian passport in a hurry.

    Moreover, I fail to understand that why can't we Indians treat our own people humanely. If Pakistan treats her citizens who go through unfortunate circumstances like Zainab, why should we treat such people with suspicion. At least there can be some difference between them and us.

    1. My parents are both half Pakistani and half Indian. Both my parents are born in Pakistan and went to India frequently because that is where their roots were. In today's shitty time (as much as I love Pakistan), I want to go back to my culture but would love to live with my family in India as well. What circumstances do you speak of? If you're the 30% in Pakistan, you are modern and educated and treat each other very well thank you very much. I don't see why Pakistan is looked down upon, other than the horrible war with extremists, lack of jobs, corrupt governement and adequate infrastracture.


  7. This is sad since she feels like an alien everywhere. Pakistan is exile and India will not have her back.

  8. It only sounds poetic to say that love merges countries and dissolves boundaries. It is sad what happened to her.

  9. Very touching tale indeed. I hope that isn't how the Sania-Shoaib story unfolds. As feared, the lunatic fringe has already started demanding that Sania never again represent India. Absurd to say the least.

  10. Leaving Indian citizenship for Pakistan is a uniquely blatant political statement..unlike say leaving India for US/West or even Saudi Arabia(hypothetically speaking).She is Western educated and political naivety is inexcusable.India-Pakistan is not ideologically compared to seemingly ideological opposites like West/East Germany,North/South Korea,China-Taiwan etc..Unlike Communist-Capitalist ideologies which tend to mutate into each other..India and Pakistan is like matter and anti-matter. Pakistan's existence is based on negative identity of India's failure.India of course can deal with an ideological aberration like Pakistan and move on since "Political India" existed for 1000s of years.So by discarding Indian citizenship and adopting Pakistani citizenship..the "Zainab" rejected idea of India..since Pakistan is an exhaustive negation of idea of India. She definitely deserve what she got and only thing we can say is Hard Luck.
    PS: For the same reason there can never be an India Pakistan peace unless Pakistan implodes or explodes by itself..presuming a miracle is not going to happen.US misguided aid policy based on ridiculous premise that root cause of violent extremism is "poverty and illiteracy" will further precipitate Pakistan's implosion.

  11. Thanks all for reading.

    Kannan, you are being too harsh :(

  12. feeling sad for her...

    nice story keep ur posts.. :)

  13. @Kannan - by the same logic anyone giving up Indian citizenship (for US/UK/EU/AU etc) would be considered a "non-believer in the idea of India"? right? WRONG!

    The poor lady clearly is a born Indian and simply wants to come back to the motherland. She has not committed any crime, does not have any hatred against India/Indians so why in the world should she deserve that? Pakistan IS exile for her.

    @Authors - Thank you for highlighting the wrong doings of our Indian administration. We should seek to correct our mistakes and not mask them.

    I would be glad to offer any help I can. (I wish I had strong enough connections to help her out right away).

    Again, you guys rock! Keep up the good work!

  14. I have a cousin who married a girl from Pakistan. When it was time for the first baby, the girl went to her parents place in Pakistan. Being born in Pakistan, her son was given Pakistani citizenship and denied Indian. This boy lived all his life in India but met barriers every time they attempted getting Indian citizenship for him. He finally got his citizenship when he was 25 yrs old.

    Indian-Pakistani marriages are only good if you are willing to both live as exiles in a third country.

  15. @Prateek
    Read my post first..before jumping to comment!
    I hav already explored ur nonsense argument in the first post itself.Arrgh! :-(

  16. Shyam, thanks for reading.

    Prateek, you rock too!

    Taha, yes a smooth sail is difficult in Indo-Pak marriages.

  17. @Kanan - I disagree with your statement completely -- "Leaving Indian citizenship for Pakistan is a uniquely blatant political statement." -- It would have been a political statement if she was a political figure or if she was a public figure of any sorts or if she had openly expressed any negative & irrational reasons to give up Indian citizenship & adopt Pakistani citizenship.

    She clearly adopted Pakistani citizenship as she was married to a Pakistani and decided to settle there. What is so political about it? You would not raise this question if she had married another foreigner & migrated to some other part of the world, so why not apply the same logic in this case?

    and your statement "...India and Pakistan is like matter and anti-matter..." holds no value either.

    It's as if you are saying that Every Pakistani is a negation of every Indian and every Pakistani's destiny is to dismantle India!!

    Come on, you are wiser than that!

    Anyway, I do not intend to force my opinion on you. Nor am I going to disregard your perception as "nonsense" as I prefer to discuss assertively rather than labeling any counter view as "nonsense"!

    Jai Hind!

  18. That's heart touching. Hope Shashi Tharoor hears this.

  19. @ kannan. i certainly agree with him but he is bit harsh. well she certainly gave up indian citizenship for pak. one. and getting citizenship in any other country is tough be it pak or any other country. now since her family left her she wants to come back to india. it raises many questions because the govt. suspects genuine cases ( Thanks to our Govt.) and now she is a pak. it adds a twist. wouldn't the same thing happen if it was the other way around. there is no need to politicise this issue. in that @ kannan shows the typical mentality of an indian politician...politicise a simple issue with no meaning!

  20. Country, passport, religion, politics, patriotism, Indo-Pak, Pak-Indo, all of the B.S. all around is killing real problems within each country around the globe. More you adore one of the things I have mentioned, more you will kill love-birds. Just be flexible everyone. We are breathing the same air and drinking same H2O, and we are just bunch of copies of one DNA. Now, how hard is this to understand for sane educated person. We are all bunch of hypocrites all around. Stop warming your hands from burning fire from someone's belief and heart. - Thanks for the post, this might clean few more brain from brainwashed people.

  21. From Kannan, India:
    I think u hav 2 c da big picture..remember the "generous" visa given for Indo-Pak matches. Even now there are "missing" Pakistanis in India even in that case alone(Hint: They are not looking 4 jobs like Bangladeshis). Pakistan is not a normal state.its a fully fledged terrorist state.Hundreds of engineering colleges,schools& hospitals in Pak are run by LeT affiliated Islamist charities like JuD.Every Pakistani coming to India is a headache for Indian intelligence.Israeli intelligence have warned us in their security audit in early 2000 against Samjauta Express and cross border trade..Now we know that both are misused for funding and infiltrating terrorists. Normal relations can happen only with normal states. We need to stop this AmankiAsha & similar nonsense of self-flagellation. Our jawans are daily dying fighting in J&K which is fully supported by all sections of Pakistani society…. Our sympathies should lay with jawans than for follies of avid adventurists like "Zainsab". We have more important things to worry about..surely.

  22. Are marriages really made in Heaven??!!

  23. Thanks all for reading.

    Kamala, I hope he does.

    Ranjini, no clue :) Mine was Made-in-India.

    Kannan, thanks for the personal note :)

  24. Hi.. I became a regular reader of your blogs after shashi's tweet. You mentioned in your early blogs how the Pakistani intelligence people shadow you, tap your phone calls etc.. etc.. I also read that your husband was not a diplomat but a journalist. How can Pakistan afford to keep tabs on every Indian living in Pakistan? Are there so few Indians there? What happens when our cricket players visit Pakistan or when they give cricket visas to spectators?

  25. I fully agree with Mr.Kannan and his observations. It is true that 80% of pakis are supporting Jihad in the name of Islam and terrorists in Kashmir promoted by Pakistani govt and ISI. It is also a naked fact that most of the educational institutions are funded by the terrorist organisations. There is a meaning if you are renouncing your Indian citizenship for the sake of American, British or western passport, as it leads to good social security, high standard of living, good pay etc etc. What is that an Indian gain for claiming Paki citizenship except being suspected by the immigration of all the countries and ill treated at all the aiports worldwide We Indians are emotional fools that is why pakis are exploiting it.

  26. this is a really difficult one to take a stand on, though I am no fan of the Pakis , in L'affaires de ceour , ( matters of the heart) we are all emotional fools ..........

  27. Dear author,

    This is our collective shame. We as south asian people are still burning our daughtrers and daughter in laws, maybe not at the stove but in every other way imaginable. As history shows it is always the woman who carries the burden of man's hatred and this is a perfect example.

    We have so many more and other 'opportunities' to do aaney taaney and tit for tat bickering but this is not one of them.

    Too all those people from India who do not want this lady to come back, you must realise that at the time this lady was married women moved to their husbands family as per our traditions on both sides. Often this meant taking on her husband's nationality. At that time movement was easier and no girl sent to her in laws in another town/city at that time could have forseen the abysmal deterioration in relations between these bickering and vengeful sister nations.

    Although we have an aversion/dislike for each other an easy solution would be that in future no girl should have to give up her passport but also be issued with a seperate identity card of the other nation giving her rights to remain as a citizen and rights to travel back to her mothers house/country in the event that things should go wrong. It is simple and need only apply to women.

    I wonder how many of our own daughters are stuck like this in India. if things go wrong often these women have no recourse in either country.

    Why should the burden of our collective hate be put on only our women?

    Such a sad situation, even sadder to read the replies. Sadder still that it wouldn't take much to correct the situation.

    Khuda karey akil raj karey - Ameen!

    A - (Pakistani)

  28. Hi,

    I really enjoy reading your blog and also love the insight it gives into your sensitive, and cultured personality.

    This particular post made me think. The only parallel I could think of was the government offering legal help and protection to punjabi women who were duped by NRI canadian and US citizens.
    Should not families of women like Zainab get together and raise this issue via media and their elected representatives. After all these women are daughters of India and who will protect them if we disown them?

    Just out of curiosity - Why did Zainab not migrate to the West like her ex-husband, back then? It may have been easier for her to come back to India with a western passport...


  29. Okay, first things first, I do feel a little sad for the old lady who wasn't allowed into India. Having said that, I do NOT believe there is anything wrong in denying her a return. Don't jump to conclusions let me explain.

    As said by the author, the lady went to England to pursue higher studies and found her soul mate there. Fine, good job. Later she married the guy and voluntarily gave up her Indian citizenship (please note this). Now, when she had problems with her so called "soul mate", she must have taken the custody of the kids and moved to England or the US, wherever.

    When the times were good, she roamed around in the West. When she faced problems and wants to return back to a country whose citizenship she gave away even though she was well aware of what the heck she was doing, she should be allowed to return? I think it is a problem she has brought on to herself and there is NO GOOD REASON to have pity on her and let her back.

    For instance, if she INDEED had turned into a spy, imagine the loss of life innocent people here would have suffered.

    I am NOT supporting the government here, please understand that. But, I do NOT think pity is the only reason why someone who DID NOT wish to live in India should be allowed to return only because their plans fail.

    P.S: My blog

  30. Thanks all for reading.

    Guruprasad, there are very few Indians here -- that's how they can keep a tab.

    Premal, agree @matters of the heart...:)

    Anonymous (A), yes, its a shame that women have to always suffer.

    Ashu, I think she didn't have the resources.

    SS, her children were not with her.

  31. Update:
    I spoke to Zainab again -- this time about the Sania-Shoaib marriage.
    She said she was all for Indo-Pak marriages, even though hers did not last.
    According to her, such marriages are not wrong, but the political situation is. She said such couples should be given dual citizenships and they should be allowed to return to their respective countries in the event of break-ups.

  32. From Kannan,

    Dual Citizenship!!!!!!????
    I almost fainted at that thought.. :-x
    "return to their resp countries in the even of break-up"?
    (We r talking abt India,Pak here..ofcourse those who wants to be PC& pretend Pak is like any other luck) u r pushing it..wat is citizenship..
    a shampoo sash pack?Money back offer?

    Shallow ppl meets shallow ends..well deserved!

  33. Kannan, you need a glass of chilled water :)

  34. @ Kannnan,
    It is a sad story of an old woman's suffering. I wouldn't think of her mistake when hearing her agony. You really need to calm down now.

  35. Isnt it in our constitution - an easier naturalization of PIOs? how did shahshi tharoor get his blue back?

  36. Agree with all of Kannan's comments.

    We have parted ways since 6 decades for good IMO. Lets mind our own worlds now. I am not for any bhaichara with them - the risk is way too much for us. They are a gone and lost case. Partition was the best thing that happened to India. The cancerous part was successfully cut out on shot. I wish Nehru had listened to Patel and let him sort out the kashmir issue then and there.

    And to the OP, please come back from that country. Dont waste your time there. I am worried about you.

  37. i find it hard to believe that given zainab's high level connections in delhi, she was unable to regain her citizenship.
    maybe these government people knew something that the writer doesn't - she may have been recruited by a pakistani intelligence agency.

  38. I have a friend, a batchmate, Hindu Indian shippie married a Hindu girl from Karachi, settled down in Pune, tried hard to get Indian citizenship for her, got it too, but life became so difficult that eventually they migrated to Canada. It was just too complicated to try to live in either country.

  39. As an indian i feel ashamed that we acted this way. I hope someone in indian government reads this and let her come back. We all talk about pakistans terrorists and jihadists, but what have we done to an innocent women. Shame on us.

  40. Oh my god ! pathetic ! sad ! heart breaking ! Why the concerned authorities can't be human ? They must consider her case and give her a chance to die peacefully in her homeland !

  41. she should talk with lawyer

  42. @ Kannan - Shallow??? Thank god you are not the one suffering... Time waits for none... Dont boast so much that u never know when ur turn is next for sufferings!!!! she has not comitted any crime by marrying someone who is not an indian and why should an innocent person suffer for a country's fault!! you are no less than a terrorist in this regard!