Home > India > Amritsar – The Hindustan Pakistan Circus

Amritsar – The Hindustan Pakistan Circus

MAD MAD MAD. The Indian Pakistan border closing ceremony was something we were not expecting. With Middle Eastern politics as it is, the border is effectively permanently closed, opening only for 2 hours each morning for a handful of trucks and 2 special buses, one from Delhi and one from Lahore. That is it, no cars, no people, no other transport – nothing. Yet every evening, they close the border for the night.

 

The crowds on the Indian side of the gate

The gates that form the border - Pakistan in the background

This border closing ceremony is performed in a modern day gladiatorial arena, each side competing in various challenges either side of the gates to roars from the home crowds. The challenges take the form of speed marching with ridiculously high kicks and goose steps, to the most bizarre OOOOOHing game. The OOOOOOhing game is simple. One soldier from India and one from Pakistan is pitted against one another as to who can “OOOOOOOOh” into a microphone the longest. They start at the same time from their respective side of the fence, their OOOOOH amplified to thousands of rapturous flag waving countrymen. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, as one runs out of steam – the crowd listen , Pakistan manage an extra 2 seconds and the crowds go completely wild. Then again OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH, and on it goes for some 20 minutes. Completely barmy.

The OOOOOOOhing contestants line up.

The crowd goes wild as India win an OOOOOh

Once the OOOHing contest is over, they are back on the run-marching at each other from each side of the gate, finishing in a triumphant flourish of concusion inducing leg kicks, again, crowds go mental. This carries on to cheers of Hindustan Zindabad (Long live India!) when suddenly, the gates fly open, two officers  do a comedy speed salute in the half hearted don’t really mean it way that two children saying sorry shake hands, before both sides emphatically slam the gates shut in each others faces! – The border is closed for the night. We have never seen anything like it, especially between two countries in such political tension. It made our day.

And they're off to get their flag!

Subsequently we found that the Pakistan Prime Minister or President was visiting India,in an effort to resume discussions and that relations may be warming. This would be great, but I hope that they don’t water down the border closing ceremony, this would be a major cultural loss!

For those interested in the history, Amritsar is also the setting for the brutal 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre – a turning point in the opposition to British Rule recreated in Richard Attenboroughs film “Ghandi”, and more positively the largest Sikh College in the world – the crossroads of Indo-Pak-Persian history and culture.

the beautiful golden temple, built by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

Next morning we headed to the wonderful Golden Temple, named after it’s large gold dome. Sukhdeep, our driver, was telling us that many Sikh’s bring gold jewellery to be melted down for the roof, (in his case, his wife’s wedding ring!), thus becoming part of the temple. But it is really not just the lovely temple, but the education and kitchens serving 30,000 free meals a day that is mind boggling. This is the place where Sikh’s put most other religions to shame with their open welcoming and inclusive approach. No “one-god guilt”, my god is better than your god stuff here. A leisurely couple of hours people watching, and our final bout of being hijacked for photographs and we were back in the hotel, getting organised and ready for the trip home.

escaping the sun for a spot of people watching.....................

..............and within minutes we are surrounded. Knowing we only have one more day of celebrity status, we smile and relax.

we get our own back and hijack a local

the pneumatic drill was a bit incongruous

 

back outside the serene temple, the pace of life returns to normal

 

 

I won’t lie, as excited as we are about going home, it is a sad feeling thinking that our adventure is effectively over. Jo summed it up – it feels like we are about to sit an important exam.

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Categories: India Tags: , , ,
  1. Steve & Patricia Willis
    April 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Well – the days aren’t going to be the same without your world travel blog – it has made fantastic reading and you have all done very well – what an adventure ! You will have wonderful memories. Steve & Pat (Willis)

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