इंडियन आवाज़     30 Nov 2023 05:08:38      انڈین آواز

After Decades Apart, Sisters Reunite in Haj


ARAFAT: This is a tale of three sisters from India who now live with their families in three different countries, two of which are archrivals. All the women are here at the Haj and making the most of what they call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

They are not just performing Haj but also catching up with each other and going down memory lane after such a long, long time. They come from the north Indian city of Allahabad. The eldest of them is Shahana Mirza. She was 22 in 1977 when she was married off to a distant cousin of hers in Karachi, Pakistan. Since then she only has made it home three times because it is extremely difficult for Pakistanis to get a visit visa to India. The rivalry is so intense that ordinary folks on both sides like Shahana have an extremely difficult time.

Farzana Mirza, the second daughter, was married in 1979 to Yawar Siddiqui who then worked as a research assistant at a public college in Chicago. Farzana was 21 at the time. Farzana remembers how her father had refused to marry her to Siddiqui. “I will not marry my daughter to someone settled in America. It is too far, and once married I would not be able to see her,” was the reasoning of Mirza Salahuddin, Farzana’s father.

“My mother also was against the marriage proposal. All the family members thought the US was too far from India, and once married I would never be able to see them again. That was a genuine fear at that time before today’s instant communication. Letters would take days to reach relatives. And there were all kinds of scary stories about America — of how young men would marry simpleton girls from India never to bring them back. Then there was the fear of America being a very liberal society where a traditional Muslim girl would find difficult to adjust.”

Yawar’s family members in Delhi persisted in trying to convince the Mirza family to give Farzana’s hand to him, but the father would not listen. Three years later Yawar came again to India and again tried to approach the Mirza family. This time their opposition was not as intense. Through common friends Yawar met Farzana’s mother and tried to convince her. She explained the reason behind their reluctance.

Yawar told her that it would be far easier for Farzana to visit her parents than their elder daughter Shahana. That clinched the deal for Yawar. Farzana was married and now has three children in college. She is here in Arafat and has visited India almost every year since marrying in 1979. “The tragedy was that my mother could not see Shahana often. She was just across the border, but she could never make the trip. We would come often during summers to India,” she told Arab News.

Yawar, now retired with a finely trimmed salt and pepper beard, smiled as his wife narrated her story to Arab News.

The youngest of Mirza daughters, Durdana, was married to a computer engineer who is based in the Indian city of Bangalore. Her husband is accompanying her to Haj. For both of them it is a great reunion.

“It seldom happens this way, and it was never planned. We applied for Haj in India through the government-supervised Haj Committee. Too many people apply, and pilgrims are decided through a computerized draw of lots. We were lucky to have been chosen this year,” said Shakir Bazmi, Durdana’s husband.

“We wrote to Durdana’s sister in Pakistan, and she told us they too were coming for Haj. We were delighted beyond words. Then the word came that their sister in the United States also was coming down to Saudi Arabia for Haj. Our happiness knew no bounds. For the sisters it was like a fairy tale,” said Bazmi.

The three sisters met last week in the vicinity of the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. They hugged each other and remembered their childhood and recalled all the stories associated with their past. “At times, we teared up and held each other’s hands. We did meet on different occasions, sometimes in India, sometimes in Pakistan, but we were never at one place together,” said Durdana. “Shahana Aapi was always missing because all our social events take place in India, and she can never make it. We always felt her absence. All of us are together here at Haj. What more could we ask of Almighty Allah?” she asked.

So what did they pray for here in the plains of Arafat? “That may Allah not separate the blood relatives from their near-and-dear ones. The pain of separation is unbearable. It makes one helpless. May Allah dissolve all political difference between India and Pakistan, so that humanity will not suffer.” Aameen. | ARAB NEWS

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