Editor: Rajbir Singh
Senior Editor: Shelly Walia
When 90-year-old Reena Verma from Pune crossed the Attari-Wagah border on 21 July, to visit her childhood home in Pakistan's Rawalpindi, she was overjoyed. But she did not expect a rousing welcome – of flower petals, dhol beats, and dancing.
She was revisiting her childhood home 75 years after she left, 75 years after Partition divided the region into India and Pakistan.
On reaching Prem Niwas, her childhood home, the residents in the neighbourhood gave her a welcome fit for a celebrity. Drums were played and flower petals were showered on her as she arrived, and an excited Verma could not control herself and started dancing.
Growing Up in Pakistan
Reena grew up as 'Toshi,' with three sisters and two brothers, in a mixed-culture environment, music of Talat Mahmood, and lots of books.
Her family had sent a 15-year-old Reena and her siblings to Solan in March 1947, just a few months ahead of the Partition. At that time, neither her nor her family had imagined that they would never return home.
"For at least 23 years, my mother used to say that we will go back home – 'Earlier, there was British Raj, now Muslims will govern us. It doesn’t mean that we won’t go back home.' Ever since I received the visa, or since I applied for the visa, basically, if anybody asks me, I have been living in Pindi, in my home. Those memories are returning. Of my family... of everyone," Reena Verma told The Quint.
Reliving Her Childhood Memory
An emotional Verma kept looking at the door and wall of the house, including her bedroom, yard, and sitting room for a long time.
She is the only surviving member of her family, from the time of Partition, to revisit their childhood home.
The 90-year-old also told neighbours that she used to stand on the balcony and hum when she was a little girl – before she started humming a song for them.
“The people living on both sides of the border love each other very much and we should remain as one,” she said.
How Pakistan Happened After Many Attempts
Verma made several attempts to visit her childhood home on arriving in India. She got a special India-Pakistan passport in 1964, but could not make it.
In 2020, she made an appeal on 'India-Pak Heritage Club' – a Facebook group connecting Indians and Pakistanis – to help find her childhood home. Within days, Sajjad Hussain from Rawalpindi tracked her house and sent her photos.
She finally got her visa in March 2022, after she made a viral video – making a request to visit her childhood home.
"The people of Pakistan – they are just like us. They also want to meet us. We also want to meet them. Now, the government only knows and religious people know, why do they do this? It should not be done like this. We should respect each other’s religion. Only then we can live together," she told The Quint.