Old memories die hard

Meerut: It is almost everyday that 91-year-old Krishna Khanna remembers his childhood days in the 1930s when as a boy of five he had laughed and played along with his grandfather at their home in Udhoke, Pakistan.

There is another memory. This one dark. It is 1947 and pre-partition riots have driven them from Udhoke to Sheikhupura, a city considered safer. They are cowering inside a gurdwara and a blood-thirsty mob has converged outside. But just before the door comes crashing down, the army arrives and saves them.

“But I have no bitterness… “Both our countries suffered. All I want to do now is see my ancestral village in Pakistan one more time. It’s my last wish,” he said.

On Thursday, after trying for a visa for 10 agonizing years, and failing every time, the Pakistan government finally granted Khanna his wish. They have not only allowed him to visit Udhoke and Sheikhupura but have given permission to three others to accompany him, among them his 80-year-old brother Jagdish.

TOI had first written about Khanna’s plight two months ago on April 26, following up consistently with the Pakistan embassy.

Moments after he got news of the visa, a teary-eyed Khanna, who runs a sports goods shop in Meerut that specializes in cricket balls, said, “In the last decade, I made several attempts to secure a visa from the Pakistan high commission, but was refused every time. They wanted a local sponsor from Pakistan as it is a mandatory requirement to secure the document. And I had none.”

Manzoor Ali Memon, press minister at the high commission, told TOI: “We believe in positive action. Issuing visa to the senior gentleman is a gesture which is purely from our heart.”