My first visit to Pakistan

My first visit to Pakistan
At Attari border, India: Mirror image?

A young man from Kolkatta finds another home in Karachi
By Zeeshan Majid

My first ever visit to Pakistan recently to attend a family wedding was a beautiful experience, from start to finish.

We had heard that the visa process is not easy for Indian nationals but we faced no problems, perhaps because we had all the documents, including an affidavit from our hosts in Pakistan and proof of their nationality. There were many others in line who didn’t get a visa.

Mr Navid Shah at the Pakistan Embassy was most helpful and courteous. Our group of 30 family members got our visas in 30 minutes. When we thanked him, Mr Shah said, “Aap kisi ko kuch acha tohfa dena chahtay hai to woh dua hai (If you want to do something nice for me, that would be your prayers).

We went by foot from Amritsar to Wagah border. The customs officers on both sides were cooperative and it took us just 30 minutes to clear the formalities.

Icecream with a Karachi cousin

Icecream with a Karachi cousin

From Lahore took the Business Express train to Karachi, where we got a grand welcome and great Pakistani hospitality. I met so many of my relatives for the first time. Being with my cousins was an amazing experience. Meeting lots of relatives everyday as well as new people was fun! We experienced great hospitality and our visit more than met our expectations.

People had warned us about the police reporting that Indian nationals have to do within 24 hours of arrival and departure (and vice versa for Pakistanis). This was not an issue. Our hosts took us to get the reporting done, and it took just 15 minutes. The police were very helpful.

Camel ride at Seaview Beach, Karachi

Camel ride at Seaview Beach, Karachi

Another thing that stands out in my memory about my visit is the delicious cuisine. Peshawari ice cream to Nallai nihari… Hot ‘n’ Spicy’s famous chicken rolls to the Kunna of Mansha-ji and the famous tikkas of Bundoo Khan… We found the food very different, and really loved it.

We stayed for 15 days in Karachi. The wedding was fun – very much like we have in India with Punjabi style bhangra, ghumad and ghodi.

Then there was shopping. One of our favourite places was Dolman Mall. Shopkeepers gave us a warm welcome and special discounts on hearing that we were from India. We bought brand name Pakistani designer clothing, perfumes, Peshawari sandal and caps, khussas and so much more. We found the prices very reasonable compared to India because of the huge currency difference.

Among the friends I met were Haider Ali the famous truck artist who I had got to know through Aman ki Asha. He is a genius and his paintings are just awesome It was great having tea and gup shup together.

I found so much love for Indians in Pakistan, that it changed my thinking. The media shows Pakistan in a very negative light but I found Pakistanis to be just like us. We even have many languages in common, like Punjabi, Sindhis, Gujrati and of course Urdu/Hindi.

At the Indo-Pak border

At the Indo-Pak border

The Pakistanis I met treated us with respect where ever we went whether it was a cab driver, professional at a hair salon or a shopkeeper. “Aap hamaray mehmaan Ho” (You are our guests) was the refrain we constantly heard. They are big fans of Bollywood actors and actresses. We met many who want to come to India to visit relatives but find it hard to get indian visas. We all wish this visa issue could be solved.

My thinking has totally changed now and I don’t care what I hear in the media about Pakistan because I have seen the reality with my own eyes.

Zeeshan Majid works with his family business in Kolkata, India. He has connected to many like-minded people across the border via the Aman ki Asha Facebook group

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