Gurpreet Singh: My father might have been alive today if there were no tensions between India and Pakistan

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      My father passed away on November 4 while fighting lung cancer in Punjab, India. 

      He was diagnosed with the disease in 2015. The chemotherapy had turned him frail and weak but he kept going partly because of his willpower. 

      Though the whole family was prepared to face this, there was still some hope of his recovery. While we can never be sure about this, a hakim (a wise man) from Pakistan who is an expert in alternative medicine had assured us that if we tried his treatment, my father would be healthy. 

      I came to know about him from a friend of Pakistani origin in Canada. He himself is a cancer survivor and was healed after receiving the treatment given by this particular practitioner. He says that the doctors had told him that he wouldn't live very long about four years back, but thanks to the medicine given by this hakim he says he's now cancer free. 

      He explained to me that he was never asked to give up chemotherapy and was rather recommended to try alternative medicine alongside chemo. He told me that the medicine helped check the bad effects of chemo and assisted in the speedy recovery of cancer patients.

      After getting the contact information of the hakim in Pakistan, I called his clinic in Islamabad. On the other end of the line, he was very soft-spoken and after listening to all the details, told me "God willing, your father will be fine soon."

      "You will hear a good news," he said confidently.

      He also stated that he likes Sikhs and would be happy to do anything for them. He then asked me to send someone to pick up the medicine. 

      Accordingly, through my Pakistani friends I had the medicine picked up from him. However, I was told that it could not be couriered to India for security reasons.

      In fact, there was no courier company in Pakistan, they said, that was ready to mail it to India or even Canada in the post 9/11 environment. It was decided to get it here in Canada through somebody traveling to Vancouver from Pakistan.

      My family in India had an inability to go to Pakistan to get it directly due to visa restrictions. Ironically, this was all out of bounds for my family in India despite the city they live in being only about two-and-a-half hours from the Indo-Pak border. Anyone could have just crossed over to Pakistan to get the medicine. 

      In the meantime I went to India on October 31 to meet my father when the medicine had still not reached Vancouver. Three days later he passed away after his condition deteriorated because of sudden cardiac arrest. 

      Although it cannot be said that the medicine from Pakistan would have done any miracle, had it reached him on time, he might have started recovering. Maybe or maybe not, yet it was our last hope that died because of the hostile environment between two neighbouring countries which were separated on religious lines in 1947.

      My father was born on the Pakistan side of undivided India. His family migrated to India following partition due to sectarian violence that led to a large-scale transfer of the population from both sides. He survived the violence when he was about eight years old.

      Since partition, the two nations have fought two major wars. Under a right-wing Hindu nationalist government in India the distances between the two sides have grown.

      Despite being children of a common mother like Canada and the United States, relations between India and Pakistan continue to be hostile—to the point where the everyday exchange between people on either side of the border is unthinkable.

      I have made most of my Pakistani friends only because I live in Canada where Indians and Pakistanis live in harmony. In fact, when my father visited Canada on two occasions he had a warm meetings with these Pakistani friends with whom he felt deeply connected.

      On the ground, the conditions on the borders separating India and Pakistan are as hardened as the hearts of the political leaders in New Delhi and Islamabad. Hopefully, there will be an end to this one day and people can easily travel across the borders to fulfill their needs and build bridges. 

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. He's also the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan.