Bragging Wagah Border

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Indian flag waving at the Wagah Border for the evening flag-lowering ceremony.

Hindustan! (I don’t know the rest)! In politics there is a theory called Tit for Tat, also called equivalent retaliation, where an agent will mimic the actions of the opposing agent. They cooperate, you cooperate. They bomb you, you bomb them. They stand at the border and yell, “I’m the best!” you stand at the border and yell, “I’m the best!”

Okay so maybe you won’t find the last scenario in your theory book, but all theories are adaptable and that’s exactly how India and Pakistan have adopted these rules.

Every evening at sunset the wonderful citizens of both India and Pakistan flock to the Wagah Border, located between the Indian town of Amritsar and the Pakistani town of Lahore, and begin festivities that end in hoopin’ and hollarin’ and the retiring of the flag.

When you first drive into the area, you are surrounded by entrepreneurial salesman selling water, popcorn, fruits and teas to people waiting in line to enter the stadium a quarter mile down the road. However, as you pass through the various security check points, each one becoming more narrow and more squished, you’ll notice that the only thing you can take with your is a camera–no purse, no water and definitely no popcorn.

Now, I have a knack for being able to worm my way to the front of lines/concerts/maneuver through large crowds. Knowing this skill, my friends shoved me to the front, latched on and we got as close to the front of the chaotic mess as possible before it narrowed to the first check point. When I dove into the women-only line, some ladies were a bit angry with us. However, I was quickly absorbed into the hip-holding-hip line and began shuffling ahead. Amidst this elbowing and marching, I hear someone yelling “stop touching me! Why are you pushing me!” I turned around and 15 people back, my friend is yelling at a 4-ft tall little old lady, and our other friend is laughing as they scoot ahead. After some commotion and a flash of our foreign passports we were ushered into a VIP section of the stadium to watch the events unfold.

The crowd passes the time waiting for sunset by dancing, chanting “Hindustan! Zindaibad!”, and groups of two–young and old–running the Indian flag to the gate and back. Michelle and I wanted to participate in the festivities, not just watch them, so we joined a group of girls dancing and chanting at the top of our section. They loved that we came and immediately started teaching us the dances–it was FANTASTIC.

When the peeing match ceremony finally began, we stayed up top and watched (sneaky sneaky) instead of returning to our seats. The Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistani Rangers almost simultaneously begin yelling, carrying the last syllable as long as possible until the last breath is completely spent, and then march menacingly towards the partitioning iron gate, stamping their feet and kicking legs high. Amidst the shouts of “Hail Mother India!” you here a sort of reverberation from the other side of “Long live Pakistan!” And this procession continues until each guard has had a chance to do their peacocking. Then, the flags are lowered, the gate is locked and the crowd is dismissed until tomorrow when they’ll do it all over again. Same time, same place, same high kicks.

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