30 yrs to walk few yards across Zero Line

30 yrs to walk few yards across Zero Line

 A free flowing grey beard over an aged wrinkled face, wobbling footsteps and a fatigued look, it took an entire lifetime for Surjit Singh to walk through those few yards across the Zero Line at the international border with Pakistan.

His well ironed sparkling white kurta pajama camouflaged the three decades of torment he underwent longing for this one day.

Here was a turbaned old man, whose prime was lost somewhere across the border behind the bars in a hostile neighbourhood, gradually walking back home with just two small bags and a glut of unforgettable bitter ugly memories.

But 69-year-old Surjit embraced new life and hope on his release thirty years later, his moment of exultation was perhaps saddled with a deep sense of innate mourning. He had lost his son Jaswinder Singh to a complicated brain disease a few years ago. Surjit was unaware of the tragedy.
Seven of the nine brothers and sisters, he had grown up with as a child, had died since he disappeared and landed in Pakistan jail. His father Sucha Singh, too, passed away in 2003 while he was in jail. But then there’s little he could do, but regret.

At the border, a sea of emotions overflowed as Surjit embraced his two daughter and the only living son Kulwinder, who was just three years old when he was arrested in Pakistan.

For Kulwinder, the site of an old man looking for support to walk, perhaps, buried a son’s image of his father he had seen stout and young only in photographs hung on the walls of the house.
A moment came when Surjit hugged his now old and feeble-looking wife Harbans Kaur. “My children used to ask me about their father, and I used to always say he would come one day. My prayers have been heard,” Kaur said.

Surjit was greeted with garlands and sweets. Truckloads of relatives and well-wishers had come to welcome him, no less like a hero, at the border from his village in the Ferozpur district of Punjab. Back home in his village house, it was probably the first time in 30 years that Surjit had anything else to eat other than prison food, his staple diet for decades.

Surjit’s daughter-in-law, who coincidentally shares her name with Sarabjit, said they have made all the food to his liking. His son had a DJ ready in the house for extended late night celebrations in the village.

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