After 58 Years, A Ticket To Pak
7 March 2005
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Sleep was out of the question. Sixty-year-old Mohammad Abdullah Bhat spent all night tossing in bed, occasionally checking the sky to see if dawn had broken. When officials came to open the special counter for applications to travel on the first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus, one month from now, they found him at the head of the queue. His wife was at home, praying. Bhat's hands shook as he handed over the form. The LoC has separated him from his two brothers since 1947 and from his daughter Wazeera for 17 years. Now a simple bus ride can change all that. 'I see it happening but it is hard to believe,' he said. 'I thought the separation would last forever.' When the Partition took place, Bhat's two older brothers were stuck on the other side. To keep the shaky bonds alive, Bhat married his 16-year- old daughter Wazeera to his nephew Afzal in Muzaffarabad in 1988. Those were days of relative peace. But after 1990, the situation deteriorated so quickly that even letters from Wazeera dried up. 'We thought that if we died, she might not even hear about it,' said Bhat. Like him, scores of others queued up for a place on the bus. Only 100 forms were issued today for 30 seats on the first bus. Three officials from the Srinagar Passport Office meticulously checked all six copies of the application. The applicants will be vetted by five agencies before the forms are forwarded to Pakistani officials. Bhat hopes to be among the lucky ones to travel on the first bus on April 7. Receipt in hand, Bhat left the counter. Suddenly he stopped, took out his mobile phone and called his wife Ghulam Fatimah. His next stop was the Central Telegraph Office to send a telegram to his brothers and his daughter. And as he walked from the bus stop to his home, his entire extended family was waiting for him. There were hugs. Bhat could no longer control his emotion and he wept. While he gathered himself, Fatimah pulled out a photo album. 'This is my daughter,' she pointed out.