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Cricket Beyond Rivalry: When Pak Woman’s Request ‘Bring me the Bombay Soil’ Brought Tears

This is a heart-warming story from Rajeev Shukla’s book ‘Scars of 1947’. The story is from his trip to Lahore when India led by Sourav Ganguly toured Pakistan for a bilateral cricket series. The anecdote highlights how there’s a lot more to India-Pakistan than just rivalry.

Edited By : Saurav Gupta | Updated: Oct 13, 2023 18:40 IST
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Rajeev Shukla's Book Scars of 1947
Rajeev Shukla's Book Scars of 1947

Memoir From Rajeev Shukla’s Book ‘Scars of 1947’

They say cricket has no religion. People have their views on India-Pakistan cricket matches. However, whenever the two teams clash in a field, there is an unparalleled rivalry that tends to bring out the best among cricketers. The clash is often dubbed as mother of all clashes and it has its reason. The two teams are set to take on each other in Ahmedabad yet again tomorrow (October 14) as part of the World Cup 2023 clash.

While everyone today is talking about the Indo-Pakistan rivalry on the eve of a big match, what caught my attention was a heartwarming anecdote from Rajiv Shukla’s trip to Lahore during a bilateral series in Pakistan.

The Sourav Ganguly-led team India was on a trip to Pakistan for a bilateral series. The series was cleared after it took Rajeev Shukla a lot of convincing about players’ safety and government clearances, he writes in his book ‘Scars of 1947’.

“Before flying to Pakistan, all the players were invited for tea at the prime minister’s residence, where Vajpayee told Sourav Ganguly, the then team captain, that his wish was to win the hearts of the Pakistan people and not only the matches,” Dr Shukla writes in the chapter titled “The Religion of Cricket”.

It was in that backdrop that team India had last visited Pakistan for a bilateral cricket series in 2006. The writer of ‘Scars of 1947’ recalls how the players and the entire Indian contingent were given a presidential security cover and people showered their love on the streets of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

“The players such as Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid met me every day and seemed happy. There was no fear of security lapses in their minds. The series ended up playing a vital role in bridging the gap between the two nations,” he writes in the book.

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“Bring me a handful of Bombay Soil” 

However, it was an odd request from an octogenarian at a friend’s home in Lahore that left an everlasting memory about the bond shared by the two countries and the pain that the India-Pakistan division inflicted on people across the borders.

“We were enjoying lunch at Taimur’s residence in Lahore and admiring the beauty of his bungalow when I stumbled upon a room where I saw an aged, fair-complexioned and pretty woman who must have been in her eighties. She very quietly, asked me to come inside and in Parsi-accented Marathi, curiously enquired, ‘Are you from India?’ When I answered in the affirmative, she said she had a favour to ask of me and requested not to disclose it to her family members. She said, “The moment I came to know about your visit to Lahore, I was eagerly waiting to meet you.”

“I told her I was not sure and may visit in a few months,” Shukla writes in the book recalling his trip to Pakistan for a bilateral series.

“I asked her what I could do for her,” he recalls.

“I would like you to get me a handful of soil from Bombay,” the 80-year-old woman who happened to be my friend’s grandmother in Lahore asked. She wanted to kiss the soil before leaving for the heavenly abode.

“I was confused,” Shukla writes in the book.

“Sixty years ago I came to Pakistan before Partition. Ever since then, I have not been able to visit Bombay. Now all I am left are memories of my city for which my heart has always ached.”

“I wanted to go to Bombay, at least once before I breathed my last, but it seems difficult now. So, I want to at least rub the soil on my forehead and feel closer to India’, she explained as tears rolled down my eyes listening to her,” the author writes in the book ‘Scars of 1947’.

“After coming back to India from Lahore, I got in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs to get Minni a visa but due to her deteriorating health, she could not visit.

“I could also not send her the soil she had asked for, but I would send her gifts which made her very happy and she would thank me for them.”

“I had gifted her an Indian flag in Lahore. She used to kiss the flag. She once told me: I now kiss the flag often and will be able to depart for my final journey in peace.”

There’s lot more to cricket than rivalry. It has all it takes to bind the two nations together.

[Excerpts from the Rajeev Shukla’s book: “Scars of 1947”. Rajeev Shukla is currently a Member of Parliament and Vice President – BCCI]

First published on: Oct 13, 2023 05:09 PM IST

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