“They were laughing, singing and crying together. It was special but emotionally draining,” Bishan Singh Bedi’s wife Anju summed up the former India cricketer’s reunion with old friend and former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam at Kartarpur Sahib.
The 76-year-old spin great from India had been longing to making the trip across the border ever since the Kartarpur Corridor opened in November 2019 and pay his respects at the final resting place of Guru Nanak.
But COVID struck and then his health deteriorated as he underwent a heart surgery which was followed by a brain surgery last year. The former India captain’s memory was impacted but his wife Anju revealed he has come a long way since then, allowing him to travel to Kartarpur on Tuesday.
“Bishan is much better compared to last year but I would say he is still 90 percent there but he still can’t travel regularly because of his condition. Since we were coming to Amritsar for our grandson’s birthday, we wanted to club the two things together. I am glad it worked out as it was important for Bishan to connect with that place (Kartarpur Sahib),” Anju told PTI.
Border lines were blurred as Bedi and his wife reached the holy place from the Indian side and as planned, two of his Pakistani mates, Alam and another former cricket Shafqat Rana, were eagerly waiting at the Pakistani side to meet their dear friend.
“I share 50 years of friendship with Bishan. It was heartening to see him as he suffered a stroke last year. I did not feel great seeing him on a wheelchair but by the grace of god, he has recovered quickly. I had last met him in Kolkata in 2013 but we used to chat regularly on Whatsapp and phone,” Alam told PTI from Lahore.
“I never thought we would end up meeting at Kartarpur Sahib. It was an emotional day for both of us as we looked back at the old times, there were tears in his eyes and tears in my eyes but in no time, the two Punjabis were back to cracking jokes as usual.”
Besides his unbreakable bond with Bedi, the 80-year-old from Pakistan has a strong connection with India. Alam was born in Hoshiarpur and even coached the Indian Punjab’s cricket team in the 2000s.
After the two cricketing greats and their families ate ‘langar’ together at the Gurdwara, it was time for Alam to sing to Anju’s special request. Alang sang a few lines of Louis Armstrong’s ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ taking both Bedi and himself back to the Rest of the World’s tour to Australia in 1971.
“I had picked up this song from a guy called Bryan Hardy during my playing days in Scotland. Anju bhabhi requested me to sing and I could not say no. I could see Bishan getting emotional at that time,” said Alam, who is not just into jazz but also classical music.
The other members of the RoW squad were the great Zaheer Abbas, who has been seriously ill after contracting COVID-19, Farokh Engineer and Sunil Gavaskar.
After his surgery last year, Bedi could not recognise a lot of people but his face lit up when he saw his friends from Pakistan. “They were laughing and singing and crying together. His face lit up seeing his friends. He recognises everybody. Most of the former Pakistani cricketers are now based in England so we could not meet them,” said Anju.
The soldiers from BSF as well as Pakistani Ranges wanted a piece of Bedi as he crossed the border.
The meeting between Bedi and Alam took place after nine years. Though they hope to see each other in person soon, they want their respective families to carry on the legacy of their friendship.
“The memories of this trip will linger on forever. We have planned to bring all our kids together next time we meet. The legacy should be passed on to the next generation when we are gone,” concluded Anju.