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Wednesday, August 15, 2007


It's fascinating India. It's where you head to without the best laid plans, often without bookings even. Sometimes, you really don't need them, if you're in the mood for exploring something different. Having watched video clips of the slamming of gates, the furious eye exchanges, lifting of feet high in the air, Amritsar became part of a semi-charted plan two years ago. To think Dad had been here for two and a half years and we'd never made it to the Wagah border to catch the action at dusk.

The sunset at the border crossing between India and Pakistan near the city of Amritsar is one of the most amazing sights. Though before you can watch the sun lose control of its rays, a bigger drama awaits you. It's almost like a theatre of war as soldiers from both sides march to the line dividing their countries in a ritual that has endured as long as the shared history of the two hostile neighbours.

They stride in, glowering at their counterparts across the border, mimicking threats. To a casual observer it seems like a brusque, bizarre march. For us, it's a show of support for the nation. As songs turn on full blast on both sides, the crowd provides the chorus. They come from all parts of India to view this from the Indian side and from all parts of Pakistan on the other side of the fence.

It's an enthusiastic show of hands when the flag is offered to the lucky one in the crowd. After the run, the flags are lowered, carried away, the gates slammed shut, only to be reopened the next morning.

If anything only glances are exchanged as each proud soldier protects his part of the soil. It's a moment of pride, it's something, the men who lead the ritual want to do as long as they can.

They are an inspiration to the hundreds who come to watch them everyday.

There's no time for exchanges friendly or otherwise. Yet, on the 15th of August they set their differences aside to share a box of sweets. Watching the pictures is stirring. A true celebration at 60. A day when the past is forgotten as the sun shines on another day.

As I script to the pictures, there's that familiar tug in the heart to see the neighbour's reconcile, to sense their collective pride of seeing their nation's grow. You can feel it, even from the ringside.