Face off at the Border…
Posted by Cool Your Jets IV on August 18, 2011
One of the highlights of visiting Amritsar is the Wagah Border Crossing – the border crossing separating India and Pakistan which since 1959 has seen both Countries Military perform a nuts parade culminating in both countries flags being lowered simultaneously. The border crossing is 30km west of Amritsar and Lahore is just 30km beyond the border.
Even though the parade was scheduled to start at 1810hrs, we were told to arrive early as it’s very popular with upwards to 2000 Indians and tourists arriving to take in the ‘show’ – we’d also been told to bring our passports, not that there was any chance of a quick nip in to Pakistan but because our passports would give us VIP seats and a bit more space to enjoy the evening.
Passing a couple of security checks (you can take a camera in but no bags, camera cases, water etc) we quickly found a space on what can only be described as a football type terrace. The terracing on our right was already jam-packed solid with Indians; women wearing bright saris flying small flags with the men (almost) bashing their chests and flying huge flags. Patriotic Indian songs were blaring from speakers and there was a real buzz of excitement in the air – soldiers milling around and at one stage a Sniper, carrying a bolt-action rifle with telescopic sights taking up position behind us, facing the Pakistanis on the other side of the gate…
To a man, all the Indian soldiers were a good 9 feet tall – these guys were massive, certainly the tallest Indians I’ve seen thus far – no doubt hand-picked to guard the border, each was intimidating which only added to the sheer spectacle of the evening. Looking across into Pakistan – (pretty much a mirror image of our seating area) I was very surprised to see so few Pakistanis in attendance, whereas we had upwards of 2000 jubilant Indians they had about 200 men on one side and about 50 woman on the other, I guess being a Muslim state they’re not allowed to sit next to one and other!
The Indians on the other hand were going bananas and before long a large group of women were pulled from the crowd and upon being given the Indian flag proceeded to run towards the (closed) border crossing, waving the Indian tricolour at the watching Pakistanis, many of them waving with huge gusto and I imagine, being quite annoying to the other side! Shortly afterwards the theme tune to SlumDog Millionaire, Jai Ho blasted out of the speakers and everyone went wild, the flag running women all started to dance and everyone on the terracing was clapping and singing along.
Looking across to the other side, they were waving a couple of flags and a guy was playing a dhol!
As the time approached you could see the Guards preparing – the ‘compere’ was getting the crowds to chant from different areas of the terracing and the party was starting to happen. The soldiers formed up, just in front of the guardroom and two woman soldiers marched off to the gate (a lot of women take part for the Indians…) At this point both militaries co-ordinate their respective drills – as one Sargent would call an order the other would follow and you had the hilarious situation of neither of them being willing to end their order so you had both literally shouting ‘……right tuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrN’ after a good minute one would finish his word shortly followed by the chap on the other side, it was amusing!
The Soldiers were straight out of the Ministry of Silly Walks – first off they marched at 110mph, legs and arms flying – goose-stepping all the way and on coming to a halt would stand there flexing their muscles whilst trying to look as mean as possible to the other side though to be fair, they were doing exactly the same thing!
Gates were flung open, Soldiers were squaring up to each other and the crowd was going nuts.
In between all of this there were two handshakes between the Indian and Pakistani Soldiers and after a short time both Countries flags were lowered and the gates closed for the evening – the only thing missing was a 12 gun salute or even fireworks! It was though, a fantastic event and definitely a highlight for both of us.