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It had rained all day and the crowd at the Indo-Pak border near Attari village (32 km from Amritsar; nearest Pakistani village is Wagah) had come prepared with their rain gear. The main event is a "closing of the border" ceremony that I found comic, surreal, and disquieting at the same time. Hundreds of Indian tourists had turned up (as they do everyday) and stood in the pouring rain in stadium-like stands built for the purpose. They shouted Bharat Mata Ki Jai! (Hail Mother India!), Hindustan Zindabad! (Long Live India!), and Vande Matram! (Hail to the Motherland!), spontaneously when not at the behest of a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan on a loudspeaker. The Pak side had only a dozen spectators.
Periodically, the BSF jawans played patriotic film songs on loudspeakers. In one such, the singer thought nothing better than dying for the motherland. Just then a bunch of young men rushed down from the stands on to the (GT) road to Pakistan and burst into a vigorous bhangra routine a few feet from the border. The border closing ceremony had men from each side marching towards each other with histrionic gestures and speed, theatrical facing-off, and retreating. Flags were hoisted and pulled down, trumpets blown, gates opened and finally shut for the night, as the crowd roared lustily. I couldn't help remembering Toba Tek Singh, Manto's story about exchanging a bunch of lunatics at the border. [- Sep 06]
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