It was a tearful moment for actress Shabana Azmi, as she walked across the Wagah border into Pakistan and had an emotional reunion with famed Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's two daughters.
Shabana and husband Javed Akhtar went across the border this week along with 10 theatre artists including MS Sathyu, Shama Zaidi, Atul Tiwari, Rajendra Gupta and Lubna Arif on an invitation from the Faiz Foundation for the Faiz Ahmed Faiz Centennial.
"Faiz is my most favourite poet of all and even 'abba' (father Kaifi Azmi) accepted that without qualms. Faiz's completed works 'Saare Sukhan Hamare' accompanies (me) wherever I go," she said.
About her indelible bonding with Faiz's daughters, Shabana says, "Salima and Moneeza Hashmi and I came together because we share a common heritage having been raised as children of the Progressive Writers Movement."
Shabana made history with Javed by crossing the Wagah border on foot.
"Since I was shooting in Colombo the fastest way of reaching Lahore was across the Wagah border. It was the first time for me. To see India on one side and Pakistan on the other with just a thin line separating the two countries is overwhelming. Faiz's daughters were waiting on the other side with outstretched arms and garlands of roses. We ran across with open arms and tears flowed down our eyes as we hugged each other. Not a single eye around us was dry," the actress said.
Shabana wishes that the ill-will between the two countries ends.
"Our fathers (Azmi and Faiz) struggled all their lives for social justice and empowerment of the underprivileged. They dreamed of a harmonious world," she said.
"Artists can only speak the language of peace and sisterhood because art knows no boundaries. Javed's song Panchi nadiya pawan ke jhonke koi sarhad na inhe roke from the film Refugee had never sounded more relevant.
"In Lahore, we were welcomed and feted with all the warmth of Pakistani hospitality. I sang Faiz's poem Bol. Javed read a paper and Ila Arun regaled them with Faiz's song in Rajasthani folk style. And we ate the best food in the world."
Shabana wants the animosity across the border to end.
"We must encourage people-to-people contact. Today is the time of not only countries but of regions. If the European Union can come together why can't our subcontinent? We should come together for art and trade and set the agenda for our respective governments - that people in both countries want peace, not enmity. We should have joint ventures in film co-productions. Youth need to make exchange trips."