The Wagah Border gate may seem just like any other gate. Situated on NH1, it is partly built on the Grand Trunk Road which is one of the longest and oldest highways of India. The road extends up to Kabul in Afghanistan and still remains as a major trade route between both the countries. Interestingly, Wagah is a village in Pakistan, which shares the boundary with our border village Attari. The Wagah-Attari Border Gate is strategically the most important point on the Indo-Pak Radcliffe Line.
An exodus mix of Patriotism
I took the road from Delhi to Attari( 32 kms from Amritsar), to witness the popular Show of Strength and Beating Retreat ceremony, conducted at the border every day at dusk.
“This simple 45 minute exercise, along with the lowering of the Flag, may seem entertaining. Yet, it does manage to pull those strings of patriotism deep inside you.”
The entire exercise is put together by the security forces of India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers. Started in 1959, by both the governments as a gesture of good will, the ceremony took an aggressive turn after a few years.
The soldiers try to outdo the other side by marching and performing drill in an exaggerated fashion, with impressively high leg kicks. Large crowds on either side of the gate clap and cheer, for their respective countries. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.
Getting the most out of the Wagah-Border ceremony
As the rich hue of the setting sun spreads its wings, I waved back to the people on the other side. I loved the fact that they responded back with a similar gesture. I spotted a young lady with a beautiful baby, trying to click our pictures. For a moment, we stood staring into each other’s eyes, just a few meters away, with the border between us.
Participate in the ceremony. Yes you can, by cheering as loudly as possible. The BSF folks are out there for us. They represent us and need all the encouragement. I did, and it left me with goose bumps.
Take a moment, and walk around (does require a bit more of permission). I noticed the lush green fields on the other side. There was an eerie calm, as the gentle breeze swayed the crops. For a moment I just wished I could turn invisible and cross over.
“But well, we live in a mortal world, of bricks and mortar, and it comes with its share of restrictions.”
India and Pakistan both share a dark common history. Despite the mounting tensions it’s best to not cheer in a demeaning way. The other side is equally patriotic and I believe we must respect that.
Lastly, it’s best to reach before 4pm (unless you have a VIP pass, which I did). Otherwise, you wouldn’t find a place to sit and watch the ceremony peacefully. Mobiles don’t work, due to the jammers around. So just sit back and enjoy the entire 45 minute exercise. It is well worth every bit of it!!!