Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 152: Wagha Border "Lowering of the Flags"

Click here to see clips from the Wagha Border ceremony on Flickr!

"Tumhari maa ki kasam, zor se chilao!!!" screams the man in the green kurta, pumping up the audience on the Pakistan side of Wagha Border. When I'd first heard about the "Lowering of the Flags" ceremony, what came to mind was something quite serious like London's "Changing of the Guards." But one look at the Pakistani women dancing with joy on the top of the bleachers to bhangra music told me this was going to be nothing like London.

Stadium seats on both sides of the border gate between Pakistan and India were filled with hundreds of people waving their country's flags and cheering, clapping, and dancing. Each side had its own entertainment, and the ceremony itself was a symbolic show of brawn and might, soldiers on each side kicking and stomping their legs like angry roosters.

After the ceremony we walked around to another part of the border where rangers on either side stood to take pictures with tourists, and Indians and Pakistanis were separated only by a small gate. We waved to those on the other side and smiled and they waved back, and then the rangers told us not to do so, which made me sad. Although I understood the precautions they have to take in such a situation, it immediately reminded me of our traumatic Partition and made me sad to think that we were all once one people and one place. While corrupt politicians and power-hungry religious leaders on both sides may try to incite hatred between the two countries, all I know is I saw Pakistani and Indian Punjabi locals standing two feet away from one another smiling and waving hello to one another, wearing the same clothes in the same beautiful brown skin and sending a message of mutual understanding through the same dark eyes.

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