India // Haryana and Punjab //

Bedlam at the border


Every evening as sunset approaches, the India-Pakistan border closes for the night with a spectacular and somewhat Monty Pythonesque show. It takes place at a remote little place 27km west of Amritsar called Wagha (the nearest town, 2km away, is Attari), connected by frequent minibuses to Amritsar. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Indians make their way westwards to Wagha (and Pakistanis eastwards) to watch the popular tourist attraction from specially erected stands.

Indian guards sporting outrageous moustaches and outlandish hats perform synchronized speed marching along a 100m walkway to the border gate where they turn and stomp back. Raucous cheering, clapping and much blowing of horns accompanies the spectacle. Guards on the Pakistan side then emulate their neighbours’ efforts to much the same sort of cacophony on the other side of the gate. The guards strut their military catwalk several times and then vanish into the guardhouse. Flags are simultaneously lowered, the gates slammed shut and the crowds on either side rush forward for a massive and congenial photo session. On both sides, more empathy than ever occurs on a cricket pitch permeates the air; photos are taken with the stone-faced guards and then everyone heads home – back to business as usual.

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