Date: 11/29/2003


.............Gujarat family finds other half in PoK

.........Kids from Muzaffarabad contact their Sikh mother


AHMEDABAD, NOVEMBER 28: Manmohan Kaur Sikka is busy shopping. Salted peanuts, bangles, bindis and books on how to learn Hindi — she’s getting them all before she, husband Jagdeep and 10-year-old daughter Nippy leave for Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

This will be no ordinary trip. Because Manmohan’s mother, 40 years after she parted from the children she bore her Muslim husband, has finally managed to trace them. So this excited family is all set to meet Manmohan’s half-brother Manzoor Hussain Ahwa and half-sister Zeenat Bibi in PoK.

Her 77-year-old mother Harbans Kaur reached PoK on November 18 to meet her long-lost Muslim son and daughter.

Harbans’ is a family that split across the border after Partition. Separated from her Sikh husband in Kashmir, she married a local Muslim and converted to Islam. In the mid-50s, she had to leave her new family and return to India as it had signed an agreement with Pakistan on women returning to their original husbands. Although she returned to her Sikh husband and her original faith, she never forgot the family she left behind.

Thirty-six-year-old Manmohan Kaur remembers ‘that’ day clearly: ‘‘It was August 15, 2001 when we received a call from Pakistan. The caller identified himself as Manzoor and we were about to hang up when he asked for Harbans Kaur. My mother realised it was her son, left behind in Pakistan, on the line.’’ ‘‘Since then, we’ve been in touch with Manzoor and Zeenat Bibi through the Net, post and also phone calls.’’ It was a day of great joy when photographs were exchanged via e-mail and they could see their extended family. Tears in her eyes, Manmohan recalls: ‘‘It was Manzoor who made all efforts because we were helpless. He used to contact all Sikhs from India who went to Nankana Saheb in Pakistan and ask them about Harbans Kaur. He finally met a Sikh who knew us. He got our telephone number and called.’’

‘‘Whenever Manzoor Bhaiyya called, he would cry like a child and tell my mother to visit him.’’ ‘‘My mother used to talk to me about her son and daughter there and till our father was alive, he tried his best to contact Manzoor. After my father’s death, my mother had no hope. But this year has been good. Despite the trouble in getting visa, she has been able to spend this Id with her son in Pakistan,’’ she says. There’s excitement on the other side too. Manmohan says Huma, Heena, Hamad — her nieces and nephews in Pakistan — are waiting: ‘‘They call me Bua. They have asked me to get Hindi books as they want to learn Hindi to write and read our letters, especially those written by their grandmother.’’