Er…. So against the advice of the NZ government and without telling my mother… I decided to go to the India/Pakistan border and check out the border closing ceremony. Its not as bad as it sounds, I asked a lot of local people and established that it was safe before I headed north!
I joined a little tour which took us to the India/Pakistan border via a couple of temples. On the tour was an elderly Punjab couple, an elderly Punjab man and an Indian family of three (mum, dad and daughter). The daughter (Rena) was in her early 20’s and once she warmed up was rather friendly. Except for Rena, no one spoke English – so conversation was limited to lots of friendly smiles and hand gestures.
The temple we went to was a Sikh temple, much smaller than The Golden Temple but similar in design. We wandered around and the family took some photos, of course they wanted me to join in and before long other Indian families were asking me to be in their photos too…. I even had a baby thrown at me to hold! It was crazy… but all part of the fun of travelling.
The family took me under their wing and when we reached the border they made sure I was ok – it was rather sweet. The border ceremony is hilarious and surreal. There is a grandstand on each side of the border, a big gate and plenty of guards dressed up in their traditional costume. There is an MC on each side raaking up the crowd and before the ceremony starts it’s a competition of who can cheer and chant the loudest. There was singing and dancing and the vibe felt very similar to that at an Australian/New Zealand cricket match! Check out the photos:
The Indian stands were full and people scrambled to get a seat to watch the ceremony. The colours of the saris made for a pretty sight. On the Pakistan side I could see two grandstands, one full of men in their Muslim dress (pastel colours) and on the other a small group of women.
After the MC’s on each side had raaked up the crowd to a sufficient level the ceremony began. The ceremony itself just added to the bizarreness of the scene… it involved a competition of who could let out a single ‘Ahhhhhh’ (chant) for the longest amount of time (Pakistan won) and then extremely tall guards on both sides paraded around kicking their legs as high as possible and kind of acted like peacocks. After a bit of parading the gates were open, the kicking/peacock contest continued and then the flags were lowered. The gates were closed with gusto, the crowed cheered… there was another parade, some more shouting and then it was all over.
I was left speechless with a big smile on my face…. Wouldn’t have missed that for the world – it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. Given the British that split Pakistan from India in 1947 I wonder if they had something to do with it?!?