RABPURA, INDIA: A Pakistani mom of four and her young Indian lover, who fell in love playing PUBG, a free-to-play battle royale video game, has said their bond was beyond international rivalries and they had no fears of any religious backlash and only death would do them apart.
The love-struck couple from arch-rivals met in 2020 while playing the online shooting game PUBG during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We became friends and our friendship turned to love and our chats became longer — every morning and night — before we finally decided to meet,” said 27-year-old Seema Haider, who is a married Pakistani and a Muslim.
The mother of four spoke to AFP from the cramped courtyard of a two-room house of her new husband, Sachin Meena, 22, an unmarried Indian shopkeeping assistant and a Hindu,
Seema, who left Pakistan and her husband with her four children by smuggling herself into India via Nepal in May — for which the couple were arrested then bailed out last week — said she has since married Sachin and taken his name.
“I’d rather die than return or leave Sachin,” she said, sitting next to Sachin in the village of Rabupura, where she now lives.
While the couple has found each other, the history of their respective nations is bitter.
Pakistan and India, both nuclear-armed nations, have fought three wars since being carved out of the subcontinent in 1947.
Each expelled the other’s high commissioner in 2019, and limited bilateral diplomatic, cultural, business and sporting links to almost zero.
Indian police insist that Seema’s long-term stay will be impossible.
“I request the Indian government to grant me citizenship”, Seema pleaded, a red headscarf covering her hair and her four young children playing nearby.
Seema’s proclamation of “undying love” for Sachin and a promise to only return to Pakistan “as a dead woman” when they featured on a raucous Indian TV debate this week.
Seema said she had been first attracted by Sachin’s gaming skills.
Three years later, the couple met in person in March in Nepal.
She became sure about leaving her “abusive” Pakistani husband —charges he denies — after the first meeting.
The couple said it took months of meticulous planning with help from YouTube videos on how to enter India via Nepal. In May, she succeeded.
“It was very difficult to travel from Pakistan to India,” she said. “I believe that with God’s love, we were destined to meet”.
Sachin’s family only learned of her existence when he rented a nearby apartment with her.
“There was some resistance, but my father and everyone accepted us. They are happy for us,” said Sachin. “I will do everything for them.”
Indian police found out after they tried to get married at a local court.
‘Still my family’
Seema’s estranged husband, Ghulam Haider, left his job as a labourer and rickshaw driver to earn more money for his family in Saudi Arabia.
Haider, who said he had not heard of PUBG, wants his family back.
“I earnestly appeal to Indian and Pakistani authorities to bring my wife and children back to me,” Ghulam Haider told AFP by phone from Saudi Arabia.
Haider said the couple, from different Baloch tribes, have a defiant love story of their own.
Forbidden by their families from marrying, they ran away to get hitched — a taboo in Pakistan that can sometimes lead to so-called honour killings.
“Later, a jirga (council of elders) was summoned to settle the matter and a fine of one million rupees (around $3,640) was slapped on me,” he said.
“I am far from my home, from my family, and it is very agonising for me because we married out of love.”