LIYAKAT KHAN, a retired Block Development Officer from Haryana’s Nuh district, can’t wait for the India-Pakistan World Cup match in Ahmedabad on October 14, and his reasons aren’t just cricketing. The most-watched match of the mega event will give him a chance to hold his two-year-old granddaughter in his arms for the first time.
It’s been four years since Khan’s daughter, Samiya, got married to Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali in Dubai in 2019. After her wedding, she wasn’t able to make the trip across the border — till now.
“My wife went to Pakistan in 2021 when my daughter was expecting her first child. We will meet again, hopefully, in Ahmedabad. I can’t wait to hold my grandchild,” says Khan, 63, who lives in Chandeni village.
Before the Pakistan team’s visit to India, there were days clouded by uncertainty over the long-awaited family reunion.
First, there were questions about the team’s travel to India, and later, Hasan Ali wasn’t named in the provisional World Cup squad. It was only after Naseem Shah suffered an injury during last month’s Asia Cup, that Ali was named as a late replacement.
Considering the hype around the India-Pakistan match and the political tension, Khan is careful to weigh his words. Recalling the day his daughter expressed her desire to marry Ali, he brings philosopher Rumi into the conversation.
“I lived my life on one of Rumi’s quotes that I read during my college days in Rohtak. ‘Apne dil ki suno, bheed ki nahi (listen to your heart, not to the crowd)’. My daughter was working as a flight engineer with Emirates airline and met Hasan in Dubai through a mutual friend. She told me about him and I never doubted her decision,” he says.
“What is the point of education if I force my decisions on her? She is educated, independent. Who cares what a few people say behind our backs? I told her it doesn’t matter who she is getting married to as long as she is happy. We have our extended families in Pakistan, who went there during Partition. Hasan is kind with a beautiful heart,” he says.
Asked if he faces an internal conflict during India-Pakistan matches in which his son-in-law is playing, he says: “I have seen Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, but I am a Virat Kohli fan. Mujhe mohabbat hai Virat Kohli se (I am in love with Virat Kohli),” he says, bursting into laughter.
“I don’t think there is anyone better than Virat Kohli in this era. Yes, there was a slump in form, but he is back — still not at his best, but far ahead of the rest. I have this feeling that he will end up being the leading run-getter of the World Cup. When I meet Hasan, I will request him to help me meet the players of my team (India) as well. I want to take a photo with Virat Kohli, and give my regards to Rahul Dravid,” he says.
For Kohli too, Khan borrows famous words. This time, he quotes George Bernard Shaw when talking about Kohli’s period of slump. “Shaw said ‘the secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people’. This explains what happened with Virat Kohli when people were criticising him during his lows. He is a great, probably the greatest Indian cricketer,” he says.
Khan says there isn’t a day when he doesn’t pray for better relations between India and Pakistan. “Meri Allah se yahi guzarish rehti hai ki dono mulkon ke rishte sudhar jaaye (My prayer to Allah everyday is for improved ties between India and Pakistan). We can live peacefully as brothers,” he says.
And, like any parent, he hopes to see his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter at his home in Chandeni. “I want more cricket series between India and Pakistan. Hopefully, Hasan will play in Delhi some day, and we’ll be able to host him at our home. My daughter can come and stay at her house. Is this too much to ask for a father,” he says.