As Pakistan and India observe their Independence Days this week, two families from either side of the LoC reunited here today to celebrate a bond of friendship which has remained unscathed by the tragedy of partition and three wars.
The latest chapter in the heart-warming tale of the Tandons and Moghuls, who used to be neighbours in Muzzafarabad in present-day Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), was written when the two families met here today.
JL Tandon was forced to migrate to India in the prime of his youth when the partition took place in 1947. Tandon left behind his old life and his childhood friend, whose son Mehmood Moghul he remembers clutching at the time of leaving Muzzafarabad.
Mehmood and his wife today arrived here on the Karavaan-e- Aman bus service to meet the Tandons, who made the journey of over 300km from Jammu to welcome their friends from PoK.
Not a word was spoken by the hosts or the guests, but the joy of seeing each other again after their last meeting in 2005 was evident as tears welled up in the eyes of all present.
It was Tandon who thought of reviving the contact with his long-lost friends across the LoC and, along with his son Subhash, applied for a permit to visit Muzaffarabad, finally travelling there in October, 2005, after a gap of 58 years.
"We decided to visit Muzaffarabad in 2005. It was my first visit since Partition, but after a few days of our arrival, the massive earthquake struck," Tandon told PTI.
The October 8 earthquake flattened most of Muzaffarabad and left over 1.31 lakh people dead. The Moghuls lost six family members in the calamity and the visiting Tandons survived a brush with death.
"My father and I were both injured. I was under the debris right up to my neck and could not even move my fingertips," said Subhash. It was the Moghuls who rescued the father-son duo from under the debris and got them to the nearest medical centre.
"Not once did our hosts let us feel that we were not in our own country. We were airlifted in an Army helicopter for specialised treatment at a hospital in Islamabad.
"But I most remember the soothing feeling I got when Mehmood's mother put her hand on my head to assure me everything would be fine," Subhash said.
He said there was a lot of skepticism in his mind when he embarked on the journey to PoK with his father.
"My grandfather used to tell me about the friendship, love, care and amity among neighbours irrespective of religion, but I used to think it was all a fairy tale and that it does not happen today.
"I was proved wrong... The borders and divisions are created by human beings," Subash said.
Mehmood echoed Subhash's thought on brotherhood and friendship, saying, "Yeh jazba to rabb nay dilon mein dala hai (this feeling has been put in our hearts by God)."