I feel my heart beat faster with every step I take on this last stretch of the road. No vehicles are allowed on this half-kilometer or so of the road leading to a security-check area and then to the border-gate. I had been dreaming of being here since quite some time now and now that I am here, I am finding it tough to control my excitement, quite literally. The sticky and humid August afternoon suddenly doesn’t feel bothersome any-more. Pushing myself through the sea of people I somehow make it to the security gate. I can still feel my heart throbbing under my dripping-wet Tee but I don’t care. My eyes are fixated at what lay beyond.
I am at the border-gate between India and Pakistan, at what was once the village of Wagah. Half of it now lies in Pakistan while the other half is in India. Nowhere else at any International border, happens anything of this sort and at this scale that I have ever heard of. Started in the year 1959, the beating re-treat ceremony is a daily military exercise which both the countries’ security forces, the Border Security Force (BSF) on the Indian side and the Pakistan Rangers on the Pakistani side conduct in a very well-synchronized way.
The view from this gallery teeming with people is not that great but I am happy that I have managed to somehow cram myself here. A lot of people haven’t even been this lucky to manage even this. Even though not un-interrupted, I get quite a decent view of the happenings below. People, young and old alike, dancing to the tunes of Hindi patriotic songs. Some of them running with the Indian flag in their hands, up-to the gate and then back. Patriotism seems to have over-taken everyone here. I too tried to express my patriotism that seemed to have reached an all time high, thanks to the guy with the mike down below, at the BSF post. With his cheers of Bharat Mata ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad is making the crowd go crazy.
Sadly though, I hardly have enough space to move my hands and legs freely, let alone dance. The area below where the actual parade was going to take place looked much better and everyone seemed to have their own space. With songs, dances and the occasional bouts of patriotism in the form of slogans & cheers the place seemed to be pretty much a mela (fair).
As the skies above the lush green fields of Punjab started turning golden and a cool breeze blew from the West, the place seemed to become even more livelier. The trumpets started blaring, the calls of the guards became louder and so did the cheering of the crowd. The border guards started thumping their boots on the ground as hard as they could and then in an aggressive march, headed towards the border-gate. A very aggressive march-past here, a thump of the boots there followed by the exchange one last formal salute & a rude handshake between the jawans of the BSF & the Ranger, the parade came to an end with the quick closing of the gate preceded by the lowering of the national flags on both sides. A rather abrupt end to an otherwise happening evening I would say.
As I walked back towards the parking, one among the hundreds swarming their way out, I could not help but imagine how the people of this border village Wagah, were once one. It’s hard to fathom, at-least for me, what it would have been like to sleep as one and wake-up the next morning separated!
Have you been to the Wagah border? Do you want to?