If leaders of the two sides needed any further affirmation of their decision to resume Indo-Pak ties, they should have been at Wagah this morning. Just a fleeting glimpse of little Noor Fatima would have gladdened their hearts.
The child was the star of Sada-e-Sarhad that rolled in from Lahore early this morning. The two-and-a-half-year-old, who’s been waiting for the thaw to plug a hole in her heart, looked wide-eyed as flash bulbs popped, and a crowd of strangers almost threatened to smother her.
It was a hearty welcome for the toddler who made an endearing case for good ties between the two neighbours. Parents Nadeem Sajjad and Tayuba Sajjad let out a sigh of relief as they got down to stretch their legs on the ‘‘soil of Hindustan.’’ Finally, they could stop agonising about their daughter’s health, worsening by the day.
On her arrival from Lahore, Tayuba Sajjad with daughter Noor who will undergo a heart surgery in Bangalore. Anil Sharma
Noor was born with a hole in her heart and doctors at Lahore had advised them to get the surgery done in India. Nadeem, a marketing executive, is quick to clarify that though medical treatment in Pakistan is fine, it’s not as good or cost-effective as in India. Which is why he even tried to take the air route to India via Dubai.
‘‘Unfortunately for us, there were no tickets available via the Dubai route. We’d just begin to think of an alternative when the bus service was revived.’’
Now Noor will be treated by Dr Rajesh Sharma in Bangalore. ‘‘The operation will set us back by around Rs 3 lakh but it’s worth the cost,’’ beams the father. As if on cue, Noor gurgles her approval.
The family’s India trip will stretch over three months. ‘‘We aren’t taking any chances, we want to go home with a healthy Noor,’’ says Tayuba as she strokes her daughter’s hair, eyes brimming with tears. ‘‘These are tears of joy. I hope our relations get better and better. Why must mothers like me and babies like Noor suffer?’’
The grey-maroon PTDC bus, displaying Indian and Pakistani flags, brought with it just 31 people, two drivers and an officer included. Pakistanis on board blamed it on ‘‘visa problems’’ and said there was need for freer movement of people across the border.
‘‘The bus was flagged off by (Pakistan) Tourism Minister Raees Munir Ahmed in the presence of 400 people from Lahore,’’ said drivers Amir Khan and Qazi Mohammed Ayub Khan. Having driven the first bus to India when the service started in 1999, Amir was glad to be doing it all over again: ‘‘Yeh dobara chalane mein aur zyada khushi hai (Plying again gives me greater pleasure).’’
Late in the afternoon, Wagah also saw the bus from Delhi crossing the border and head for Lahore. The Delhi Transport Corporation bus with 34 on board set out from the Ambedkar terminal in the Capital shortly after 6 am.
Flagging off the bus, Surface Transport Minister B C Khanduri hoped it would help improve relations between the two countries.
‘‘I hope better sense will prevail upon Pakistan and it will stop cross-border infiltration,’’ he said.