KARACHI: It was love at first sight when Pakistani banker Sanjugata Kumari and Mahendra Kumar, an Indian lawyer, found each other on Instagram in 2019.
But it took the couple from the rival nations four years in a long-distance relationship, multiple visa rejections, and several canceled wedding plans before they were finally able to get married in Pakistan this May.
Relations between nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and India have been fraught for years and they have fought three wars, two of them over the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.
In 2019, the year Kumar and Kumari met online, Pakistan also downgraded its diplomatic relations with India and suspend bilateral trade after New Delhi stripped its portion of the contested Kashmir region of special status.
Due to growing political tensions, border restrictions and difficulties in getting visas, the couple met for the very first time in Dubai in 2022, where they exchanged rings and vowed to get married. But even as their love for each other grew, so did the uncertainty over where to hold the wedding and whether a wedding would even take place.
“It’s equal love from both sides but we [were] unable to cross the border,” Kumari, the Pakistani bride, told Arab News in an interview, discussing the difficulties she had to endure to make it to her wedding day.
“When you fix a wedding date and all the preparations are underway, everything is being done in a sequence, and when you finally realize that something’s not [going as planned], you get stressed,” she added.
Kumari said there were times when it felt as though things were never going to work out, but the Dubai meeting changed everything: “Trust developed that things would be okay, there may be some possibility [of a future together].”
After the Dubai meeting, Kumari started applying for visas to India, with no luck.
Kumar, the groom, said his first online interaction with Kumari was through Instagram which led to live chats and video calls that cemented their relationship. But the problems began when the couple decided to make their relationship official.
“Our communication began in 2019. In 2020 a [coronavirus] lockdown started and borders got closed. In 2021, the borders remained closed so we were clueless as to how to meet and take things ahead,” Kumar told Arab News.
“Ultimately in 2022, we met in Dubai and in Dubai we exchanged rings and decided to marry.”
This came after Kumar’s visa applications to visit Pakistan had been rejected three times.
“After the third cancelation, we decided that we should at least meet once in a third country to decide how we should proceed ahead,” Kumar said, adding that there was still confusion as to where the wedding would take place.
Kumari shared that uncertainty:
“We thought that all bookings have been done, halls have been booked, but what will happen if a visa is not issued? Finally, we got it and then we went ahead with everything.”
The couple tied the knot in Sukkur city in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh this week.
With the wedding behind them, the newly wed Kumari said she was content with how things had worked out. And along the way, she added, even in moments of deep uncertainty, the couple tried to never lost hope.
“Then we would get hope from the government or such a solution would be found that we could get back on track and say, ‘let’s start again’,” she said.
Finally, the father of the groom Ramdas Kumar traveled along with his family from India for the marriage in May. Before that, the family’s visas had been rejected several times.
“The program which happened [this] May was supposed to happen in February of last year, so more than a year has passed,” the groom’s father said, adding that his family had a lot of apprehensions about whether a wedding would ever be possible.
Now, the newlyweds are making plans for Kumari to travel to India.
“When I go from here, obviously it will take some time to adjust to the new environment,” she said.
And while Kumari still has to experience a new life in India, visiting Pakistan has been a “wonderful” experience for her Indian husband.
“I felt very good, people were very friendly,” Kumar said, “and I felt at home.”