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What love can't do ...

First of all, I'm not all that sure that Shoaib Malik, erstwhile captain of a once great Pakistani cricket team, and Sania Mirza, India's biggest female tennis star to date, are even in love. Its all happened pretty quickly but then that's what they call le coup de foudre I suppose.

But let's imagine they are in love, you would expect perhaps that this sort of outpouring of warm feelings would result in more border crossings, more generous visa rules, and a little bit of a thaw in the frosty Indo-Pak relationship. But apparently sex, love and marriage — in whichever order — don't have a good track record on subcontinental soil. It doesn't help of course that Shoaib Malik has embroiled himself in a national dispute over his now-jilted and former wife, to whom he was married only briefly and with whom he had an internet romance. She apparently pretended to be a better looking girlfriend he had met. Obviously Shoaib wasn't happy when he discovered he'd been writing sonnets to someone significantly less glamerous than he had imagined but that of course, didn't stop him from spending a few nights with the real girl (her allegation) when he popped into her hometown on a couple of occasions.

The scandal aside, if you notice there hasn't been much outrage in Pakistan. Sania has been welcomed joyfully. The outrage has been mostly in India. This has nothing to do, as one might think, with Pakistan's benevolence. Sadly South Asia is a patriarchial society. Men make and break the rules but the reactions are precious when women are in the center of a controversy. At a local barbershop close to where I live a bunch of men expressed anger and concern over Sania's choice to marry a Pakistani. Which country will she represent now, they lamented? Will she represent Pakistan?, they asked, horrified.

If India and Pakistan had normal relations, this wouldn't be a worry. An Indian and a Pakistani could coexist but the draconian rules that are in place make it impossible — virtually — for people to live normal lives as citizens of neighboring countries once they decide to tie the knot.

In this case, we're not even talking about cross-religious stuff here. No Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Sikh conundrums ... an Indian Muslim marrying a Pakistani Muslim. The media in India have covered it as if it were a sensational, never-before-seen event. But truth be told, Indians and Muslims have been marrying each other ever since they were born post-colonialism. The marriages were orchestrated between aunts and uncles and within families as is still the customary practice in many Muslim families.

It's just that many Pakistani women who married Indian men gave up their nationality when they moved to India. And vice versa. In fact, the Pakistani government, I'm told, virtually handed Indian citizens Pakistani passports upon arrival. This is all thanks to old baggage, circa 1947. Shoaib and Sania just happen to find themselves dragged into the mess, and because they're important celebrities — that is, celebrities adding pride to the nation — the old school point of view is, we can't have the enemy having any of that, can we?

Can leopards change their spots? In 2010, why the hell not? Meanwhile, good luck to the soon to be married couple. Not the sort of start they imagined, I'll bet.