Choreographed standoff at the India Pakistan border
November 28, 2010 • Photography & Travel
Wagah, India-Pakistan border, November, 5th: It was midday in Amritsar as I was strolling along the streets weaving in an out of the maze of people and traffic when I was approached by a man who said to me “you want to see the border ceremony?” Sure I did but I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted him to take me there. After a short conversation I agreed to his “best price” and promise of one seat per person in his jeep.
Later that afternoon I came back to our meeting spot and sure enough he was there with a growing group of people. “Hopefully he has a big jeep” I thought to myself, but somehow I knew it was highly unlikely.
Before long there were 14 of us squeezed into a jeep that seated 7. Cramped in the back with my face almost pressed against the rear window we whizzed through the streets of Amritsar, slowing down only for cows on the road, and eventually made our way out of town to the border which is about 30kms outside of Amritsar.
Wagah is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India. Dusty, desolate and lined with colorful trucks parked along the highway, it lies on the Grand Trunk Road and is located between the cities of Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Each evening the “lowering of the flags” ceremony is held. The humorous but highly entertaining parade conducted by the Border Security Forces of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers imitate a standoff of prideful cockerels.
Stadium like seating have been built on either side of the border to house the thousands of fans that come to cheer on their border forces. The atmosphere is almost no different than a crazed one-day cricket match. “Hindustan Zindabad!” (long live India) is the cheer resounding on the Indian side. On the Pakistani side a huge portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, can been seen. Here the crowd is split with separate seating for men and women.
The lowering of each country’s flags and the closing of the gates ceremony lasts little over an hour. Never a dull moment with military marching right out of Monty Python, deafening cheering on either side and colorful costumes, eer… I mean uniforms.
If you are ever in this part of the world I highly recommend you attend this ceremony. It’s well worth the trek out there. In my next post I’ll share some video footage that will give you a closer feel of it all.
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