As many as 14 Pakistani nationals crossed the Attari border to Amritsar on Monday to watch the World Cup cricket semi-final match, with many more fans expected on Tuesday. Dozens of citizens in Chandigarh and Mohali have opened their doors to Pakistani fans who will stay with them at as guests, free of cost. Hotel rooms in and around the city are full to the brim, so this gesture of hospitality from households is valuable for the guests from Pakistan.
The Attari border point wore a special look when Pakistani fans, many clad in green Pak jerseys, entered the Indian territory dancing to the beat of the dhol common to the masses both in India and Pakistan.
Former Punjab advocate-general and senior advocate of Punjab and Haryan High Court R S Cheema, NGO Yuvsatta co-ordinator Pramod Sharma, Additional Advocate- General Reeta Kohli and HCS officer S K Setia are leading the brigade to welcome Pakistani fans.
Many of them have spruced up their residences to welcome their guests from across the border. The women folk are drawing up special menus to make the visitors’ stay memorable, gastronomically. Cheema, who keeps visiting Pakistan for his spiritual and literary pursuits said, “It comes to me as an honour to welcome people from across the border. We have strong cultural ties and these are opportunities to make the most of it.”
The bonhomie surrounding cricket does not end here. City residents have stocked themselves with thousands of India-Pakistan flags and stickers that will be distributed to fans during the match. Reeta Kohli said over 10,000 joint flags of both nations are ready to be distributed that day. Even in the past, Kohli has played host to Pakistani guests, and this time will be even more special, she said.
Lahore resident Ashfaq, one of the early birds to cross the border on Monday, said “it’s a final match for me. It cannot get bigger and better than this. We have come to cheer Pakistan and hope and pray it wins.” Ashfaq, like others, received traditional welcome at the border.
For Mohali resident Shailender, now is the time to return the hospitality. He was a guest with a family in Lahore in 2004 when he visited Pakistan for a an ODI match. Shailender and his family have extended an invitation to their Pakistani friend Haji Mohammad, with whom they stayed in Pakistan.
A sizable number of Punjabis have their ancestral roots in Pakistan, which continues to comfort them amid waning ties between the two nations. It is expected that ordinary households too could turn into small lodging venues to accommodate Pakistani guests. Special buses have been stationed close to the border with Pakistan for the convenience of visiting cricket fans.
Scintillating Sufi performances are arranged as “stress busters” over dinner for Pakistani players who are relishing exotic Peshawari and Amritsari cuisine specially prepared for team members at the Taj in Chanigarh. Hotel sources told Deccan Herald that a range of foods from Lahori kababs, to mutton biryani and paya shorba are being enjoyed by the guests. Paranthas are a hot favorite. Also on the platter are exotic Thai and Chinese dishes being relished by players.