Celebrity couple crosses borders

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

JEB SHARP: I'm Jeb Sharp, this is The World. Celebrity weddings are big news anywhere. It's no different in India and Pakistan. Those two nations may be nuclear rivals, but today they are gripped with the news of a high profile cross-border engagement. The families of Pakistani cricketer, Shoaib Malik, and Indian tennis star, Sania Mirza, says the two sports stars will marry next month. The BBC's Rahul Tandon is covering the story from Kolkata. Rahul, just how big a deal is this? Tell us about this. Why are people so fascinated?

RAHUL TANDON: Jeb this is a huge story here in India at the moment. If you came here and you turned on your TV channels, you'd probably think there was no other news in this country of more than one billion people. These are two very high profile sports stars as you said there. I think if you look at the backdrop of the relations between India and Pakistan, people I'm sure recall very vividly the events of what's known as 2611 here, the attacks on Mumbai. The relations between these two countries, which have never been very good, deteriorated even further. In the sporting sense, they hardly play each other in cricket, which is the national obsession now since the attacks in Mumbai. So when people in India woke up this morning to the news that Sania Mirza who may not be the greatest tennis player in the world, but she is the biggest female sports star here in India have decided to get married to a man who used to captain the archrivals, the Pakistan cricket team, there really was a state of shock here. There is very little physical contact between Indians and Pakistanis at the moment, so the fact that one of this country's biggest sporting stars decided to marry somebody from across the border has certainly sent shock waves across the country.

SHARP: And in fact they will have to have two separate weddings, one in each country, is that right?

TANDON: Yeah they will too. And to give you an extent of the news coverage at the moment, the TV trucks that are outside Sania Mirza's house in - - India. Every movement is being followed very, very closely. She's just been to the Pakistan high commission in Delhi to pick up her visa. And they will have these joint ceremonies and it will be a big media event and I think there will be people in both countries who are probably critical of that fact. But as I say again, there was a huge Bollywood film here a few years ago called Veer Zara, which focused on an Indian boy falling in love with a Pakistani girl and his struggle to capture the woman that he loved. It's something that captured the imagination of Indians and now they can see it in real life with Sania Mirza, the heart throb here, popping across the border to get married.

SHARP: So you've got these two great personalities. You've got geopolitics. You've got a whiff of scandal and intrigue, what else?

TANDON: I think that's enough. But I also think that until this wedding actually takes place, there will be a lot of people in both countries who probably aren't going to believe that it will happen. What is their future life going to be like? Are we going to see the former captain of a Pakistan cricket team turning up at the Olympics cheering on an Indian? Come on, that's got to be unheard of. So I think this story has got a long, long way to run at the moment. But believe me here Jeb, in India and Pakistan for the next few weeks there are going to be millions, probably billions of people with their eyes glued onto what's happening with Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza.

SHARP: Well thank you very much Rahul Tandon in Kolkata for the BBC. Thanks again.

TANDON: Thank you very much.

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