Indian woman visits Pakistan home after 75 years, urges humanity over rivalry
Reena Varma, a 90-year-old Indian woman, waved to the media and recalled her playful childhood on Wednesday, as she stood on the balcony of her birthplace in Pakistan during a long-awaited visit.
It was the first time in 75 years that Varma had seen her home and her childhood neighbourhood.
“I am feeling very happy about coming to my home after such a lot time. A very old dream of mine has come true," said the petite, ever-smiling woman, sporting snow-white hair.
Varma has a vivid memory of the day she and her family left the two-storey home tucked away in the narrow, dark alleys of garrison city of Rawalpindi, where residents showered her with rose petals on her arrival.
She was just 14 years old at the time she left.
After spending some hours inside the house where she had lived with her parents and five siblings before the partition, Varma said she was happy to see it had not changed much.
However, her parents and siblings who have all since died never got a chance to return to the ancestral home.
Varma's family fled to Western Indian state of Pune shortly before the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, which is known as the world's largest migration.
After decades of attempting to get a visa, she crossed into Pakistan last week by road in the eastern city of Lahore at a border crossing that divides the arch-rival, nuclear-armed neighbouring nations.
Varma urged both countries to ease visa requirements to enable people from both countries to cross over and meet frequently.
"At least the new generation should be given a message of love so that they can try and improve things. You know, the new generation can change the government (policies). We are neighbour countries; our cultures and so many other things are the same. So, we should live in love and harmony,” she said.
The 75 years of rivalry should end now, she said as she sang an Indian song about wanting to return again and again.
The 1947 partition forced millions of families to migrate and has changed their lives ever since, after then ruling Britain ordered carving out two countries on the basis of majority Hindu and majority Muslim population areas.
The mass migration was marred by violence and bloodshed, as around 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs swapped countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since 1947, and relations have remained tense, making it almost impossible for the people of both nations to meet and interact.
August 14 will mark 75 years since the partition split the two countries, dividing the province of Punjab roughly down the middle.