Amid political unrest in Pakistan, Indian bridge team treated like royalty in Lahore

When the whole of Pakistan was on the edge following the dramatic arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, bridge players from India were being treated like royalty in a five-star hotel in Lahore.

Part of a 32-member Indian bridge contingent were well-known philanthropist Kiran Nadar, wife of HCL founder Shiv Nadar, and another veteran in the sport, Rajeshwar Tiwari.

Tiwari, who has also taken part in the Asian Games among other international events around the world, was in the team that won the gold in the open category of the Bridge Federation of Asia and Middle East Championships. India swept the event by winning all four gold medals on offer.

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With Pakistan witnessing nationwide violence following Khan’s arrest earlier this week, a few nerves in the visiting Indian team’s camp were expected but speaking to PTI, Tiwari said the organisers made sure they felt completely safe in the confines of the Pearl Continental hotel.

“They made us feel special ever since we crossed the Wagah border to enter Pakistan. The president of Pakistan Bridge Federation came to the border to welcome us.

“The competition was not of the highest standards but in terms of hospitality, this is the best experience we have had out of all the overseas tournaments we have taken part in.

“We too are known for our hospitality in India but when they come here, it will be difficult for us to match them,” Tiwari told PTI before boarding a flight from Amritsar airport.

The contingent had reached Lahore on 4 May and majority of the members returned home on Sunday. A batch of seven including Nadar had returned on Saturday.

After the arrest of Khan, the Indian team was told to stay indoors but before that Tiwari and his teammates got multiple sightseeing opportunities in Lahore.

The Indian team members visited the Lahore Fort in the walled city, explored the famous food street and dined at restaurants close to the Badshahi Mosque and the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

“All of our needs were taken care of. They had appointed a guest relation manager to take care of us of even the little things. Safety was also not an issue as the commandos were escorting us wherever we went.

“We must have gone out 3-4 times in our stay in Lahore. Only on Thursday and Friday we were told to stay indoors as per the directive of the Indian High Commission. Overall, it was a memorable experience,” said Tiwari, who is an IT professional at the HCL.

Besides hosts Pakistan and India, teams from the UAE, Jordan, Bangladesh and Palestine also took part in the event.

Tiwari added that the experience will stay with him for a long time.

“It didn’t feel much difference there ever since we crossed the border. I stay in Delhi and crossing the border from Wagah felt as we were going to Ghaziabad from Delhi. Culturally, there are some differences but, by and large, you feel at home only,” he added.

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