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Emotional homecoming for 82-year-old Indian as he visits ancestral village in Pakistan

Piara Singh visited Pakistan the second time last week.

The 82-year-old from India felt 'emotionally shattered' when he was told his childhood friend who he wanted to meet since 1947, had passed away.

Piara Singh, aged 82, is on his second visit to Pakistan since its creation in 1947. Like millions of others, the partition of India forced him to leave what until then was his only home and made him a refugee overnight.

Mr Singh’s family left their village Vehari, near Multan (in the Pakistani state of Punjab), for India back then. He now lives in Batala, near Gurdaspur in Indian Punjab.

Eager to rekindle his childhood memories, he went back to Pakistan, which he first visited 15 years ago for the first time.

He was granted a visa-on-arrival under the Bilateral India-Pakistan Visa Agreement 2012 that was signed between the two countries in 2012 and operationalised in 2013.

This agreement enables citizens of India and Pakistan aged 65 and above to apply for a visa-on-arrival to enter either country.

SBS Punjabi caught up with him in Pakistani side of Punjab.

L-R: Masood Mallhi with Piara Singh

“I was around nine years old when India was partitioned. At that time, Dara was the only friend my age. I longed to meet him, so wrote several letters to him before my first visit to Pakistan in 2004," he said.

"But we couldn’t meet as he was travelling. This time around, after 15 years, when I visited our ancestral village again, I was told Dara had died. My hopes of seeing my childhood friend immediately got shattered,” Mr Singh recalls.

Mr Singh laments the hostility that has pervaded the India - Pakistan relationship for decades now.

“Both countries have spent money on making bombs to threaten each other. They should rather invest that money in improving the lives of their people. I’m deeply thankful to Pakistan PM Imran Khan and our very own Navjot Singh Sidhu for the Kartarpur Corridor,” Mr Singh comments.

“What wrong did Sidhu do by hugging Pakistan army chief? Didn’t that hug make the Kartarpur Corridor possible,” asks Piara Singh.

He is a resident of Batala, which is almost 30 km from Dera Baba Nanak, from where the newly-inaugurated 4-km-long Kartarpur Corridor starts.

This corridor enables pilgrims from India to walk to Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib — across the border in Pakistan – which is the final resting place of Guru Nanak, the first guru of the Sikhs. 

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this interview in Punjabi.

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