22nd Feb '02.....
I reached well in time at Attari (the nearest town to Wagha border). While pedalling his rickshaw to the border, the cycle rickshaw driver tells me with a bit of bitterness that he has never in his entire life seen the border ceremony, neither does he like it or want to see it. How could he? It reminds him of his motherland-punjab torn into two parts. While sipping tea, a child shows me all the photos, one of which is here. I am even more curious to see the evening ceremony.
A smartly dressed BSF jawan tells us (a crowd of about 100) what to do (shout bharat mata ki jai/india zindabad loudly) and what not to do (no murdabad slogans, no anti pakistan slogans, no slogans while lowering the flags) - a charged up group of people from maharashtra already starts screaming on top of their voices Bhaaaaarat mataaaaa keeee Jai! The patriotic songs playing on the loudspeakers on either side make the tension lesser.
As 5 jawans on either side start their parade, the crowd falls silent and slowly starts clapping. Every BSF Jawan stomps his feet in turn, shaking the hands (for a fraction of a second) with his counterpart on the opposite side, and comes back. Ironically, except for the colour of their uniforms, there is no difference between the jawans of the 2 countries! My throat is growing hoarse with the cheering! The 2 tall boys who were given Indian flags by the BSF jawan for waving earlier, are tired and keep their flags down. The Jawans strut around like cocks and stomp their feet theatrically. I feel the jawans' behaviour almost kiddish! But then I have always had a soft spot for Indo pak unity.....and my recent trips to Karachi have actually endeared the pakistanis to me. Are'nt we 2 children of the same mother? In Karachi, I always got the impression that they see India as the big brother who struck it rich and who is doing well. The viewpoint seems one of awe and pride - not envy or enimity.
It's an interesting spectacle, though. Slowly the flags are lowered, gates clank shut. I always wanted to see the GT (Grand trunk) road since studying about it in the history books in 6 th standard! And here I am! As the guards nudge us out (this is curfew area except between 1630 to 19000 hrs...and the soldiers with sten guns hidden amidst the cement bags every few metres remind us of this), Some pakistanis look at us through the binoculars curiously, perhaps this will be their only glimpse of life on this side!
Kind courtesy the boys who sell wagha border photographs, I got a lift back to ASR (I am surprised - people here use the railway code ASR in place of writing the full name!) sitting on the engine cover of the bus (of the same patriotic shouting marathi people!). I like to call it the Hot seat!!
While returning, we see a really funny sight - 5 sardar youngsters have stopped their van midway, switched on their car stereo, and are dancing bhangra......IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY!!! The entire bus goes into peals of laughter and cheers them as we pass!
I Sample some more gobi parathas in Bubby ka dhaba, saunter a bit more in the golden temple, and run off to sleep in the dorm!