A 90-year-old Pakistani man and an 89-year-old Indian man, who were childhood friends before the partition of the subcontinent, are building a renewed bond after meeting again in the U.S. A TikTok of their story and emotional reunion is going viral.

Megan Kothari, 32, documented the experience of reuniting her grandfather Suresh Kothari with his childhood best friend, AG Shakir. The two grew up together in Deesa, Gujarat, and were separated in 1947, when the division of the country forced Shakir’s family to flee to Pakistan. They were both around 12 years old.

“He talks a lot about this one friend,” Kothari said of her grandfather. “How they were very close, they were very mischievous together … then he remembers, overnight, how he had to leave.”

The two reunited in October on the occasion of Shakir’s 90th birthday party, where they greeted each other with an eager embrace and spent much of the evening hand-in-hand. Having filmed the whole experience, Kothari decided to share it on TikTok this week. In two days, her post quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views and comments. 

Suresh Kothari, left, and AG Shakir.Courtesy Megan Kothari

The story struck a chord with South Asian users, most of whom have their own partition stories to tell, Kothari said. 

“Pakistani people commenting, Indian people commenting, they’re all coming together, which is so beautiful,” she said. 

Deesa, in the Indian state of Gujarat, is located just a few hours from the Pakistani border. On Aug. 15, 1947, the then-British-ruled country was divided in two: a Muslim-dominated Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India. 

The mass migration that followed was the most violent event in South Asian history, leaving 500,000 to 2 million people dead and 15 million displaced. Shakir’s family left the city on a boat to Karachi in October 1947, his daughter Saeema Shakir told NBC News. Fleeing in the middle of the night, they didn’t have time to inform friends or loved ones of their journey.

Suresh Kothari, who was studying in Bombay at the time, returned home to the news that his best friend was gone.

“The specifics of the partition, he doesn’t really talk about,” Megan Kothari said of her grandfather. “I think it’s very common with that generation because they all endured so much trauma.”

Suresh and Shakir tried to write to each other over the years, but the geopolitical tensions between the two countries eventually made it impossible, Kothari said. The men had no communication between 1948 and 1982, during which time Shakir moved to Connecticut. A chance encounter with a fellow Deesa-native in New York City finally put the friends back in touch. 

When Suresh also came to the U.S. for work in 1982, Shakir picked him up from JFK airport. They stayed together the next four days to catch up on the years spent apart, the granddaughter said. For a while, the two met and spoke regularly, until Shakir moved to Virginia, and the two were separated again, she said.

After nearly nine years, at Shakir’s 90th birthday party, the two met again last year. Kothari and her grandfather made the four-hour trip to Virginia, and she filmed on her phone as Suresh got ready to see his best friend again. 

“My grandfather wore his best suit,” she said. “He definitely did his hair to look really cute … They were like inseparable all night.” 

Kothari recalled the two talking about memories from their childhood in Deesa, which is still Suresh’s home when he’s not with family in New Jersey. It seemed, she said, like no time had passed for them. They hope to reunite in New Jersey at Suresh’s upcoming 90th birthday.

Suresh Kothari, left, and AG Shakir.
Suresh Kothari, left, and AG Shakir.Courtesy Megan Kothari

“When I watch the video, I still cry,” she said. “It just showed that there’s so much love between both people and, despite all the obstacles in their friendship, still after 80 years they were able to maintain that relationship.”

Hailing from two countries that are now very different, Suresh and Shakir’s story reminds Kothari of the things people in the diaspora have in common. Thousands of comments on her post reflect the same sentiment, she said, and demonstrate a hunger for more stories like this to be shared.

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