Away from the border, tears and cheers greet train from Pakistan
As the Samjhauta Express pulled into the Old Delhi railway station at dawn on Tuesday, there was reason to forget that the passengers on-board were travelling between two neighbours caught in a fresh wave of hostilities fanned by terror and wartalk.
The bi-weekly train originates from Lahore, enters India via Punjab, and terminates at Delhi. There were 184 people on-board on Tuesday — 84 Pakistanis, and the rest Indians. Yes, the number is smaller than before last week’s Uri strike, but those continuing their journey seem relatively unfazed by the rising tensions.
Waiting for his cousin Shahzad Qureishi to arrive from Karachi, 28-year-old Meerut resident Mohammed Naushad said, “The conditions between the two countries may have deteriorated. Lekin TV mein sacchai kam aur afwahahein zyaada hoti hain (there’s less truth and more rumours on TV).”
When Shahzad, 50, stepped out of the train, the two cousins hugged each other for the first time in their lives. Shahzad, visiting India after 36 years, has never met most of his maternal cousins. “I don’t remember the last time I was here,” he said.
The platform was soon crammed with luggage, and families scrambled to safeguard their possessions.
One of them stood guard over a dozen huge cartons as they waited for more to arrive.
“Our relatives insisted that we take Pakistani specialities for everyone here. So, we’ve brought a lot of almonds, dates and Pakistani lawn suits,” said 68-year-old Dariyagunj resident Mohammad Aqueel, a cloth merchant who was returning from a visit to his brother in Nazimabad, Karachi.
Aqueel, along with his niece and two sisters, managed to get their visa extended by 30 days despite the tensions. “Ordinary people do not want war. For us, Pakistan is like our own home, since our brother lives there,” Aqueel added.
For the next hour or so, frenetic activity continued on the platform as several long-awaited reunions played out amid tight security. Burqa-clad women sat on benches, sharing tea and coffee, passing around packets of chips, while the men helped porters with the luggage. Everyone spoke ‘khariboli’ – a mix of Hindi and Urdu spoken mostly in UP, parts of Rajasthan and Delhi.
The Samjhauta Express made its maiden trip in 1976 and has been discontinued only twice. The longest suspension came after the 2001 Parliament attack. It was discontinued again in 2007 following former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. The train has been a target of terror as well. In 2007, twin blasts killed 68 people. But, for the better part of the past 40 years, the train has been a bridge that straddles the shared history of two divided peoples.
Source : http://www.speakingtree.in