An online video about Sikhs looking after a mosque built by his ancestors inspires
the writer to re-connect with his past across the border
By Syed Saadat Hussain Naqvi
I was just fourteen years old when the disturbances started in Amritsar, only 20 miles from my paternal village Chattaurgarh adjoining Fatehgarh Churian. We shifted to our maternal village Rattar Chattar to ensure safety. Alas there was no safety to be had anywhere and ultimately we crossed the rail-cum-road bridge over River Ravi on August 14, 1947, carrying with us the hope that peace may return some day enabling us to go back to our village.
That day never came. All the older generation passed away. We, the once younger ones, took their place still holding on to the hope that we would one day be able to visit our ancestral place. Hostile statements by governments on both sides of the divide and the increasingly strict visa policies had no soft corner for our languishing desires to see our dying friends.
It is thanks to the Internet and Facebook that I have been able to trace and connect with the people and place of my birth.
On the Internet I happened to see a video "Sikhs living up to teachings of Guru Nanak, nourish 300 year old mosque" - available at this link: . It is a report about a mosque built by Syed Imam Ali Shah, Rehmatullah Aleh, my maternal grandmother's great grandfather, of which the foundation stone was laid by the Sufi saint Mian Mir, who is also believed to have laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
The reverence shown by the local Sikh community towards the mosque and towards my ancestor's shrine prompted me to connect with them and request them to sponsor me for an Indian visa. My new friends sponsored me - not one, but many of them.
I applied for the visa, attended the Indian Embassy Islamabad not once but thrice with all the requirements for visa but was disappointed and told to go to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Although an old man in my eighties I did not lose heart, prayed for and searched for more friends on Facebook. Ultimately my friend Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Member of the Legislative Assembly 14 Punjab Vidhan Sabha, sponsored me and helped me get a visa and I was able to visit my native place.
I have no words to express the love, respect and grand receptions I was given. I was treated like a family member, and given all the facilities, board, lodging, and transport, that any blood relative would get.
I wish the visa restrictions would be further relaxed for senior citizens on both sides of the divide, and also for the younger people. Meetings of the new generation will definitely contribute to cordial neighbourly relations between the two countries.
The writer is a retired railways engineer based in Lahore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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