Monday, October 07, 2013

The Theatre Of The Closing Of The India-Pakistan Border

Watching the pomp and ceremony of the closing of the border gates between India and Pakistan at Wagah, 30kms west of the town of Amristar, is easily one of the most bizarre and surreal experiences on my travels I have witnessed. So much carry on between two nations who have much troubles between them - and yet this harmony of process happens every day at sunset to lower the flags, and shut the gate between them.

We arrived and rushed through the security posts showing our passports for access, before being shown to the Foreigner section of the crowd, and settled in to enjoy the show. We had just made it in time for the action to begin!

Because show is surely the only adequate description - the stadium-style seating on the Indian side was filled with people by the time we got to our spots, and the noise of cheers and singing, was electric.

As far as I could gather, the run down of the half-hour ceremony started with dancing from the crowd, at least on the India side, all cajoled by a very encouraging and flamboyant MC, miked up and full of energy. Once this had reached fever pitch, the Border Security Force started their marching towards the gate. In pairs, with flair and pomp!

The girls in the top picture were first, all stern and assertive, before the blokes got involved, two by two. The final group of five come out in formation, with stomping, high kicks, and an unbelievable military-style...well, dance off, really!

This final five managed to perform their final maneouvers right in front of us, before matching straight for the gates of the border.

I imagine the same was going on on the Pakistani side, although there was less of a crowd, and therefore less noise punctuating each pair of marchers.

Once all officers were gathered in place around the gates, there were exchanges including a hand shake, before both country's flags are lowered in unison at the formal gates behind the crowds, and then a further pair above the gates themselves.

Next, after more stomping and marching, the gates of the border are ceremoniously closed, thereby officially closing the crossing between these two countries for the evening.

The crowd could then spill onto the road where all this marching had happened, our foreign section first, to have a look through the gates, and get a little closer to the officers in uniform. You can see some more of my photos here, and Luke's snaps here on the Waving The Flag Facebook page.

What an incredible, surreal, and frankly unbelievable experience! We were all buzzing once we got back to our bus for the journey back to Chandigarh, almost unsure of what exactly we had just witnessed.

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