Enough has been spoken about the Wagah Border. Rather, enough has been spoken about the whole length of the Line of Control or ‘border’ as it is often called. But do the people of the nation really know what it’s all about to visit the Wagah Border, or any other part of the border and to be part of the border’s daily evening parade?
I knew about the Wagah Border’s daily and lavish evening parade ceremony, but I never really went to see it until a few weeks ago. A sudden trip to Amritsar, and to the Wagah Border to watch the evening guard-change ceremony, made me, for the first time in my life, feel overly patriotic and proud to be an Indian, as I stood on the Indian side of my country, watching my Pakistani counterparts cheer their nation, with probably the same emotions I had.
That day, on one sunny summer evening, as I entered Amritsar and made my way towards the Wagah Border, I imagined what it would have been like during the partition. What it was like, for many of our ancestors, to cross over and leave everything behind? Some of them left their homes, their jewellery, and their clothes for an overnight escape. Hindus from across that border crossed over to India, while Muslims from our side went to theirs. Neighbourly ties were broken by different beliefs, forever.
Entering the Wagah Border area means being subjected to thorough security checks every five metres or so; you can’t have a bag with you, nor bottle of water, you carry absolutely nothing in person. You are allowed just one camera, if at all.
After standing in a long line and several frisks later, you can enter the seating area, from where you can watch the guard-change ceremony. This ceremony involves both sides of the border forces loudly challenging each other, whilst screaming their own respective nation’s slogans, during a fierce march and parade. This all happens amid a crowd of people cheering their respective country on.
Smartly dressed soldiers march toward the Wagah gate, to take down their respective nation’s flags every evening. What separates us? A fence, that gate and different coloured flags. On the Indian side, hoards of Indians scream patriotic chants, while the same goes on in the Pakistani side.
One can literally experience the patriotism gushing through everybody’s veins on both sides. Indian and Pakistanis are so close, but still so far apart. We live through this divide daily and talk about it often enough. It’s funny how some people in Punjab and Sindh still have family members who belong to both sides. It’s unnerving how we are divided by religion and belief yet look and speak the same way. Actually, come to think of it, it’s not funny but very unfortunate.