The Pakistani Border

“Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon.”

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Besides the Golden Sikh Temple, the other tourist attraction in Amritsar is the changing of the guards ceremony that takes place every night between India and Pakistan, a border that is only thirty kilometers outside of Amritsar. Now, “changing of the guards” brings to mind a serious and important ceremony, at least in my mind, but I quickly realized that it was anything but that.

As we arrived we saw hordes of Indians waiting behind a large gate, presumably the entrance. At one point the gate opened for a car to pass and the whole crowd surged in a scary push to make their way through. The guards on the other side screamed and pulled people back (knocking a few women to the ground in the process), and as most of us were shut back in, the rest of the crowd became restless to enter. Finally the gates opened for real, and thousands of Indians literally ran down the pathway towards the security station and into the stadium. For once us westerners were grateful for our special treatment as they have set up a separate and completely civilized gate for us to enter through, one where pushing and shoving is definitely not necessary since the Indians aren’t allowed in it. I definitely couldn’t understand how they were all so excited to enter, and so anxious to be first, but it certainly was an amusing scene.

Once we got in we were surrounded by Indian guards in funny outfits directing people on where to sit. The loud music started to blare, and for at least an hour we watched as thousands of Indians rushed into the stadiums. Many of them had flags and face paint, and it seemed to me we had stumbled into their version of a football game. Though our side was completely crowded, the Pakistani side was virtually empty, with a few men in white on one side, and women in colorful burkas on the other. Kevin and I wished we could have snuck over and joined their more civilized side, unfortunately the guards with guns behind us probably wouldn’t have appreciated that much.

As the ceremony commenced, it was more of an exaggerated Indian style comedy than anything. The guards walked down the pathway towards the gates kicking as loudly and absurdly as possible, and then faced off in an equally ridiculous match with the Pakistani guards. Though it was amusing to see, mostly just to watch the reactions of the extremely excited Indians, it’s not the kind of thing I feel I need to see twice.

One thought on “The Pakistani Border

  1. If I recall correctly the stamping parade is a choreography reminiscent of peacocks strutting. Also check out Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

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