From Myan­mar to Pak­istan: a rustic love story

The China Post - - LIFE - BY KHUR­RAM SHAHZAD

Now aged in her 90s, Aye­sha Bibi doesn’t re­mem­ber her real name, who her fa­ther was or much about her home­town in Myan­mar.

What she does re­mem­ber is that in the 1940s, as Al­lied forces fought one of the blood­i­est bat­tles of the Sec­ond World War, against Ja­panese forces, she fell in love at first sight with a sol­dier from what is now Pak­istan.

Her par­ents had been buried alive af­ter their house col­lapsed in bom­bard­ments by Ja­panese forces.

Dis­traught, she left the site and came upon a nearby bar­racks — where she met Se­poy Muzaf­far Khan of the Bri­tish In­dian Army, which pro­vided some 2.5 mil­lion sol­diers for the Al­lies.

Even­tu­ally they mar­ried and set­tled in Dhu­dial, a vil­lage in the heart of Pak­istan’s bread­bas­ket prov­ince of Pun­jab. Khan died a few weeks ago, end­ing a love story that be­gan in the chaos of war.

“When my par­ents died dur­ing bom­bard­ment and no­body was left in my fam­ily, I sim­ply walked into the sol­diers’ camp and asked Muz­zaf­far to take me along. Be­cause I trusted him,” Bibi, a small spar­row of a woman with pa­pery skin and cloudy blue eyes, said in flu­ent Pun­jabi.

“I liked Muzaf­far. We ini­tially started com­mu­ni­cat­ing in sign lan­guage be­cause I didn’t know his lan­guage.”

More than 100,000 women, mostly from across Europe but also Asia-Pa­cific, moved to the U.S. as “GI brides” af­ter the war un­der a new law for mil­i­tary wives.

But mar­riages within Asia be­tween colo­nial forces and other sub­jects of the em­pire were far less com­mon.

Re­tired Gen. Ab­dul Ma­jeed Ma­lik, who joined the Bri­tish In­dian Army in 1939 and later served as a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter, said such cases were ex­cep­tion­ally un­usual.

“I never heard about any brides com­ing here with sol­diers who went for WWII,” he told AFP. “If any WWII bride from Burma ex­ists here that is an in­di­vid­ual case and I must say the most rare one.”

The cou­ple’s love story spanned more than 70 years — a pe­riod which saw both Myan­mar, then called Burma, win its in­de­pen­dence from the UK in 1948 and the birth of Pak­istan in 1947.

But in Dhu­dial time seems al­most

to have stood still.

Ru­ral Life

Ar­riv­ing a timid young girl, Bibi spent months learn­ing the lan­guage and her hus­band’s reli­gion, Is­lam, among the shim­mer­ing fields.

Out­side, farm­ers har­vest the golden wheat crop and cat­tle graze. The trac­tors roar as they plough the fields around her house and women col­lect wa­ter in a typ­i­cal ru­ral scene that has been Bibi’s life as the wife of a Pak­istani farmer for decades.

“Muz­zaf­far al­ways wanted me to die in his hands. He did not be­tray me, it’s God’s or­der that he has died. It would have been bet­ter if I died be­fore him,” she sighed, gaz­ing into the yard, bathed in late spring sun­shine.

Muzaf­far died al­most a month ago, leav­ing the old woman a small land­hold­ing and a heart full of sad­ness. Her fam­ily and neigh­bors be­lieve she won’t last long.

Be­cause they had no chil­dren, the prop­erty will be di­vided among Muzaf­far’s neph­ews when af­ter Bibi dies. For now she is living in the house of their nephew Sa­jid Mehmood, whom they were clos­est to. And she has no fears about the fu­ture. “I will now die with the or­ders of God in the hands of th­ese rel­a­tives, they have taken care of me well,” she said.

Wait­ing for Death

Man­zoor Hus­sain, 75 and old­est nephew of Muzaf­far Khan, re­calls a happy cou­ple who never quar­reled dur­ing their life­time.

“They loved a lot each other. They lived a very good life, they never quar­reled for whole their life,” he said.

“Af­ter his death, she was cry­ing a lot: ‘Muzaf­far Khan, who are you leav­ing me with? I have no­body here ex­cept you.’”

Bibi re­mem­bers lit­tle of her fam­ily or her for­mer life. Only that her mother’s name was Sita and she lived in a town called Meik­tila, where her fa­ther had a small gro­cery shop.

She re­mem­bers go­ing to a tem­ple with her mother. Then there was the bomb­ing and their whole neigh­bor­hood was de­stroyed and many peo­ple in­clud­ing her par­ents died.

“I had left no be­long­ings in Burma. I heard they even killed chil­dren. Why should I have gone back there? I asked Muz­zaf­far to marry again for chil­dren, but he never agreed. So this was my fate, our fate. I am happy with it,” Bibi said.

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