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Salaria (fourth from left) with Madhu, Nirvair and Pehal and Mohammad (fourth from right) with Sobia, Aiza and Mishal in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: They have been best buddies for the last 12 years and despite being from India and Pakistan, the two neighbouring countries that often find themselves at hostile flashpoints, they share the deepest camaraderie and think of themselves as being part of one large extended family.

Meet Khalid Mohammad and Joginder Singh Salaria who have been neighbours for the last 12 years in Dubai.

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The Mohmmads and Salarias cannot imagine life without each other. Their children grew up together, the families spend a lot of time with each other - from going on long drives, barbecues, picnics to celebrating Eid and Diwali. Not once have they let the stereotypical hostility between their two countries to affect their friendship.

As Pakistan marked its 74th Independence Day today, with India following suit tomorrow, the two neighbours spoke of their special bonding.

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Mohammad, a UK citizen of Pakistani origin, who heads a leading logistic company, told Gulf News: “We first moved into Springs, Dubai, in 2008. The Salarias stayed a villa away and they, along with their two kids- son Nirvair Singh and daughter Pehal- too had moved in around the same time. It was as though we were destined to meet. There was an instant rapport.”

His wife Sobia continued: “My daughters Aiza, then 5 and Mishal, 3, befriended Pehal who was four then. Since then, the girls have been thick as thieves. Although my daughters went to a British school and Pehal went to an American school, there was not a single day when these three did not meet. They had the same set of friends, went out shopping, had meals together and still continue to have sleep overs. Today, they are 17, 16 and 15 and are the best of friends.”

The ladies of the two homes, Sobia and Madhu, share a deep sisterly bond. “I found a beautiful sister in Sobia and that was very meaningful for me. We do our shopping together, do many things as families, and when our husbands are busy, we go out for movies, share recipes and important tips with each other on bringing up kids,” said Madhu

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Mishal, Aiza and Pehal having their uncle Joginder play horse Image Credit: Supplied

Salaria picked up the thread: “I have always felt like an affable uncle to the girls who have piggy-backed on me as kids. There has not been a single day when we don’t meet and greet each. I feel like Mohammad is my brother and we always do things together. We both realise that apart from the language (Punjabi) we speak, we also share Hindi and Urdu, we have the same sense of humour, the same love for music, similar food habits and we just cannot imagine life without each other.”

Mohammad said he had an offer from his company to relocate to the US recently. “I turned it down because I put family first.” It goes without saying that the Salarias are part of the family.

Mohammad added: “We realise we have so many things in common. In fact, there is absolutely no difference between us. What we share is beautiful. In our respective countries there maybe incidents of rivalry and animosity but in reality when we mee, all we see is love and similarities.”

A gesture of love

The two families don’t lose an opportnity to express this love. Salaria, who runs a charitable trust, recently completed the construction of a mosque in Sujanwalla area of Karachi district in Pakistan.

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One happy family: The Mohammeds and Salarias Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

“There are over 200 villages here that did not have a mosque, so I thought of dedicating one to these villagers. I want to send out this message that although what happened in 1947 caused a lot of bloodshed, pain and loss on both sides, we need not carry that baggage of hate. Mohammad and I agree that it is important to send out this message of peace and brotherhood so that the legacy we leave for our children is that of love and co-existence,” said Salaria whose organisation Pehal Charitable Trust is marking the Independence Days with a cake cutting ceremony at Khyber Pakhtunwah and Gurdaspur back in Pakistan and India.