Pompous Border Acts
Amritsar Travel Blog› entry 19 of 30 › view all entries
The other attraction is Amritsar is the daily ceremonial closing of the India-Pakistan border, held after the actual closing of the immigration checkpoints. The border is nearly equidistant between Amritsar and Lahore (on the Pakistan side).
After surviving the stampede (literally), we were seated amongst the crowds on grandstands to see soldiers on both side strut their stuff and try outdo each other. Both sides shake hand briefly before the two flags are slowly lowered at exactly the same pace (to avoid implication of superiority of one country over the other).
While the performance is good, what really tops it off is the energy and the electrifying atmosphere on each side of the border.
On the India side:
- The loudspeakers comes on saying "Hindustan" (Land of the Hindus) and the crowd cheer "Long Live".
- The speakers plays Indian music.
- The soldiers wear khaki with a hat topped with a fan (Chinese-style, not electric). The soldiers also appear to have artifically long legs and we were told they have been enhanced with additional heels.
- Male spectators are in modern attire, rather than the Punjabi attire (knee length shirt and loose trousers) sometimes seen in Amritsar. I gather they're mostly domestic tourists as there was hardly a turban in sight.
- Most women have their Punjabi shawls on their shoulders.
On the Pakistan side:
- Similar chant of Long Live Pakistan, as the two countries have similar languages (similar spoken form but different written form).
- The speakers churn out Ricky Martin style modern music hailing Pakistan.
- The soldiers wear a black (or very dark green) uniform topped with a fan similar to the Indians'.
- Most men wear the traditional Punjabi attire.
- Some women have their Punabi shawls on their shoulders, many have them on their head. Some women in full black purdah (sometimes also seen on Indian streets).
On both sides, volunteers (including grannies) carry their flags running up and down the road leading to no-man's-land. One man on the Indian side took the Indian flag to the highest point of the grandstand to wave it proudly, seemingly to provoke the other side.
The most interesting observation were a group of Indian Roman Catholic nuns. They responded "long live" to the loudspeakers' chant of "Hindustan". Hey sister(s), do you know what you're saying? Shouldn't you be rallying for the other country for they worship the same God as you?
Note: A few days after our visit, we read that the ceremony had been toned down ... to something less aggressive, ie. no hostile stares and high kicks. The ceremony should still be a worthwhile sight though.