Long before we left for India, Brandon and I stumbled across a video of the India-Pakistan Wagah border closing ceremony. One would think that the border closing between two countries with tenuous relations would be somber and stern. Not so!
Amritsar is only a 45 min drive to this border closing. It’s a popular tourist attraction and like tourists, we joined a share jeep with 8 others for the evening’s ceremony. Our driver was a capable Sikh (with dagger! Still fascinates me!), who got us there in record time.
As we approached the border, the men were separated from the women for a security check. The women had a little tent to go into and there was no line. Myself and the Dutch woman I was with were asked what country we were from and we proceeded to the other side. Our poor male partners waited in line for the patdown.
Brandon getting frisked by the Indian border police
One thing we’ve noticed about India is that we regularly get VIP treatment. It’s embarrassing, feels unfair, but also is endearing and welcoming. Our foreign passports got us into the VIP section at the border closing ceremony, which meant we got to sit in the bleachers closest to the border, although the “real” VIP section,which had padded seats, sat closest to the border.
The border guards wear these crazy hats. I’ve noticed other police with little tassles but these win. This guy below guarded our section, yelling at us constantly to sit down.
The sillier the hat, the meaner the officer!
The festivities began with loud Indian music pumped over the loud speakers. Children and women lined up to run Indian flags back and forth. It appeared to be a real honor to be selected. A minor dance party erupted on the street.
Running the Indian flag back and forth: a privilege
The guards came out and marched around. The ringleader shouted things in Hindi and the crowds responded with zeal. Fists pumped, flags waved, massive amounts of cheering!
The ceremony lasted about 1.5 hours in the blazing sun. There were 2 key elements amongst the ringleader’s chanting: marching and shouting. The guards marched and kicked as high as possible around the street and back and forth to the border. More peculiarly, there was a shouting competition between the Indian guards and the Pakistani guards. (note: a similar ceremony was taking place at the same time on the Pakistan side, albeit with fewer supporters)
At the same moment, one guard on each side would begin to shout for as long as possible. Whomever shouted the longest won. It didn’t matter that India lost most of the times, the crowd still roared. It was quite hilarious.
At around 7pm, the flags of both countries were lowered dramatically and the gates shut. The border was closed for the day.
The gates are closing for the evening
Check out this video I made of the border closing ceremony. It will give you a much better visual of the event. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in the area.