The partition of British India, the largest human exodus ever, displaced millions and tragically split families. Post formation, the ghosts of 1947 loom over the psyches of both countries which include 3 wars, a continuous dispute over Kashmir and some gruesome terrorist attacks.

With the enmity and distrust remaining a constant high, love meanders through the broken bond between India and Pakistan. The estranged diplomatic ties do not deter people from dating and marrying across the border. 

Their stories prove that when it’s the matter of love, nothing else matters. In some cases, families resist when one of them decides to break the norm and enter such an alliance. But there are two sides to the same coin! Many families are open-minded and progressive in this regard.

Based currently in Canada, Dureshehwar, a Gujarati from Karachi met Hani, a Punjabi from Delhi on the online dating app, Tinder. “I swiped right as his name didn’t suggest if he was a Hindu. Though we decided to be friends, but we clicked right away and moved in together,” she shared. But the relationship didn’t go down well with Hani’s elder sisters. They told him, “You can make her your girlfriend but you have to marry an Indian.”

Generally, inter-religion marriages don’t go down well with families from either or both sides. When lovers decide to cross borders too, it becomes a controversial affair. Tazkia Abbas Zaman narrates the story of her friend, “My Indian Hindu friend and his Pakistani Muslim girlfriend had to end their relationship as the girl’s family didn’t agree. My friend is well respected and financially stable, so it was purely that they didn't want their Muslim daughter marrying a Hindu boy.”

This particular breakup was due to the Muslim family but this isn't always the case. There are cases where the Hindu family has issues with an inter-religion nuptial.

Such couples are usually indifferent to their faith and the need of conversion arises only for the sake of their community.

Sanaa Jatoi from Karachi also shares her story. “My boyfriend is an Indian Sikh settled in New York. We both aren’t religious at all but if we get married, for the sake of my family, he will have to convert to Islam so that it can be legal according to the Pakistani/Islamic law. So that when my mom throws a fit about an Indian son-in-law, the most she can say is yeh toh bas naam ka musalman hai.”

Hindu-Muslim alliances do not always fail. “I know a Pakistani boy who is happily married to Indian Hindu girl,” Saira Rizwan told the writer. A cross-border and inter-religion marriage is a tough choice though it all depends on the compatibility of the couple. Though there are some which end up in divorce.

Cross border alliances can be easy when both belong to the same community. Tahira Abbas from Karachi met her husband, Asif Shah on a matrimonial site. They first got married in Pakistan and then in India. But they immediately moved to Kuwait and lived there for 12 years. Couple of months back, they shifted to Udaipur.

After living for almost all her life in Muslim-majority countries, shifting to India, where she would belong to a minority can open possibilities for discrimination. To that Tahira reacts, “Honestly, I do not feel much of a difference. In Kuwait, we had a big group of Indian friends; here as well, I have a big group of Hindu friends who I socialize with. I enjoy it here and have never felt fish out of water.” She also adds that her mother is an Indian married to a Pakistani who will to celebrate their 36th anniversary soon.

Similarly, Sonal Singh Rathore, a Pakistani Hindu, now resides in Baroda, Gujrat post marriage with Yashraj Rathore. “The Sodhas are Hindu Rajput where marriages do not happen within the community due to religious and traditional reasons. In Pakistan, they generally marry off their girls to India, in return seeking Indian girls as a match for their boys,” explains Sonal. Her story could reach the writer through the Sarhadpar Campaign at Beyond Violence, a conflict-resolution movement.

Padmini Rathore belonging to the Kanota royal family of Jaipur district, Rajasthan is in a similar wedlock. She is married to Kunwar Karni Singh Sodha of the royal family of Umerkot district, Sindh.

Originally from Pune, Noor Chishti also married a Pakistani which led to her Karachi. The shift surely broke many stereotypes as she states, “I was told that Karachi is unsafe and Indians aren’t welcomed at Lahore and northern areas. But in reality, I literally think Karachi is one of the best cities to ever visit, Lahoris are the most dilwala people and Northern areas literally treat their guests with the utmost respect and love!”

Even if it is a marriage between Muslims, it is not necessary that it is easy for the bride to adjust in Pakistan, an Islamic Republic.

Humera, originally from Indore, is settled with her husband Abdul Sami in Karachi. “I took me time to adjust in Pakistan; I found it different, the people, roads, houses, language, and culture. Karachi is a big city. ” To this Abdul adds that there is a lot of difference in Indore’s Hindi and Karachi’s Urdu.

For the spouse to get the visa of the other country is a herculean task; if issued, restrictions accompany it. The security and diplomatic tensions result in functional problems between cross-border families and turns out to be a great test of patience.

Like many other couples, Abdul and Humeracan make a long list of problems. “Though the visa is issued, there are numerous restrictions. We can’t visit any other city except what is mentioned, we have to report to the police when we enter and exit the city, states Abdul. Humera adds, “The Pakistani visa is issued in two days but the Indian visa takes around 6-10 weeks; that too for very less days.”

Abdul complains, “I wanted to take Humera to Agra for our honeymoon, but I couldn’t. Also, we wanted to visit the Northern Areas of Pakistan, but Humera doesn’t have permission to travel.”

Over time, the situation has got better for the Pakistani spouses and children; Indian embassy has started issuing multiple entry visas for both for two years. But the revisit can’t take place before two months. The Pakistani embassy has similar but stringent provisions. It now issues triple entry visa to Indian spouses.

For Indian Muslim spouses, there is another problem. Saudi Arabian embassy only issues visa to a person from a third country if he/she has a multiple entry visa to Pakistan. Many couples cannot undertake the Umrah pilgrimage as the Indian national has a triple entry visa. Getting a multiple entry visa is a long and cumbersome process.

Many couples decide to settle down in a neutral country like UK, USA or Canada to avoid the visa hassles and scrutiny in India and Pakistan. To this Noor Chishti points out, as she is settled in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “I feel comfortable living in a third country as it is easier to apply for visas of both countries. If the visa issue is solved, I would love to live in either of them.”

Farzana Rasheed echoes the same, “I am a Pakistani national married to an Indian national. We met in West Africa, our marriage is registered in Liberia and we live here. My partner got a visa twice to come to Pakistan but I still haven't got an India visa. It’s very frustrating!”

Cricket matches between India and Pakistan are intense and high on nationalistic fervor, hence making such relationships interesting. Hina Tahseen Abbas recounts, “My very close friends have a cross-border marriage. Both are Muslims but very patriotic to their own countries with good values. However, an India-Pakistancricket match is another story, they both go to separate places. The guy (from Pakistan) is smart enough to get their 2 year old son on his side for the match!” To this, Khaula Rizwan adds, “My mother is an Indian, but in reality she is more Pakistani than dad, she supports team green during a cricket match.”

The dynamics of cross-border matrimony between Indians and Pakistanis are complex. As they say, marriage calls for adjustments and compromises, which are the highest in this scenario. The couples break the boundaries of borders and diplomacy; and overlook animosity, distrust and stereotypes between both the societies, which in reality are between the states and not the common people.