Patriotism at its best is at borders not in cricket matches, not in movies, not in diplomacy politics. Billions of Indians are living peacefully each moment because few of our brothers in uniforms living their life in extreme horrible weather conditions standing tall along borders without blinking an eye for protecting India from any possible threats. War stories and movies gave us some insight on their struggle, their life and most importantly their spirit, their proud for being an Indian soldier guarding the border.
And getting a chance to join with Indian border security forces in an India Pakistan border and encountering a face to face action with Pakistan soldiers in presence of many Indians and Pakistanis will make anyone feel like fought a war successfully. That was Wagah border along with Pakistan and a beating retreat ceremony offered. A place in Punjab along National Highway # 01, 22 KMs from Amritsar or slightly modified with another starting point that approximately 500 Kms from Delhi.
From the day I settled in Delhi the show off in the Wagah border between Indian and Pakistan army was one thing that wanted to witness live in front of my naked eyes. So when it realized that it is only a half an hour journey from Amritsar in a shared Auto Rikshaw my happiness had no bounds. A three consecutive off days from office during a Duserah festival was finally came in the way to witness it.
Punjab, the moment that name comes across will bring a patriotic feeling. Despite many Sardar jokes we always remember this place for the bravery of their proud sons which is famous since before independence. Punjab is a big state too bordering with Pakistan and no wonder why it is so strategically important and sensitive.
A military parade known as Beating Retreat Ceremony would be held every evening for around 45 minutes in this location namely Wagah border between Indian and Pakistan soldiers. Facilities were arranged on both sides so that general public can witness this Military Exercise. The event is actually closing of International gates and lowering of both national flags.
The Auto and taxi services starts around 3 pm only and the place from where they starts were so crowded that it was very difficult to identify and locate the previously booked driver. Then after another half an hour they dropped me in a place where people from all parts of India has gathered like a mob whose faces were filled with such pride that, it looked like to they were going to border for fighting a war and as if myself too.
Strange feelings while standing in the separate queue for man as it was neither like a picnic nor a sports event but watching everyone from kids to grownups, rich and poor, men and women, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslimm, Christians, Jains were happily allowing their faces to be painted in Indian tricolor. Everyone was thrilled to the core of getting a chance to come so close to the Pakistan soil that could be visible from inside.
Wonderful moments of being welcomed by Indian soldiers with friendly faces who were standing at a throw away distance from Pakistan in fact. Those who were familiar with the horrible stories of partition through books and movies are well aware about Lahore and its importance and the visitors on the Pakistan side were came from Lahore like Indians who were traveled from Amritsar.
Once inside people were seen screaming and scrambling for a perfect location from whatever spaces left unoccupied to witness this rare exhibition by Indian soldiers in uniform. Few people were lucky or they were already aware about the seating arrangements that they were seated so close to the parade area and we were in Gallery. (And during the next visit I made sure that my small group has got a place in those rows).
Some soldiers were behind the outpost practicing the different moves for this retreat ceremony by long steps, stretching of legs as high as possible etc. Also at a far away place, in desert location wired fencing were also seen. On the other side across Pakistan gate many Pakistanis too were assembled in galleries to witness this patriotic show. BSF soldiers for this particular event must be selected based on their height, impressive and striking physique among other things.
Patriotic songs were in the air and even before the ceremony started people were shouting Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Hindustan Zindabad, it was also seen that few selected groups of kids and ladies from spectators were invited to do dance movements and sing along with the patriotic songs already plays and few lucky ones were allowed to hold the flag and run up to the gates which means a handshake distance from Pakistan, their soldiers and back. Guards were requesting all those present to make the Bharat Mata Ki Jai sound louder and louder. These things were more than enough to engage everyone for almost one and half hour before the official ceremony had begun.
Strength of visitors on Pakistan side found to be getting bigger by the time the ceremony started and now it was like a fight for which side scream better than the other with patriotic chant. It looked like one of the BSF staff is assigned a role so to manage the crowds and guide the visitors when to chant and when to raise the voice. We shouted back to neutralize every Pak sound, every time by roaring our heart out.
So far I came across the word electrifying and Oh Boy” here it was,witnessing an atmosphere of absolute priceless spectacle with thousands of Indians across the length and breadth of the country shouting together in a single voice “Hindustan Zindabad” that no one could put it into few words or sentence.
The guards were directed to start the event with each movement choreographed and practiced to perfection. Few women guards too were involved in this march and we could hardly feel the difference between them and man. The event starts with Indian soldiers march towards gate and a brief shake hand with their Pakistan counterparts after opening both gates. Then they will return back and another pair will march with lightening speed as it felt, high kicks along the road. The program will continue with lowering of flags, folding it with carefully attended precision movement with many steps and bring back the folded flag to the guard room. After this one more march towards gates for closing it declaring the end of this ceremony.
It was an awe-inspiring entertainment extravaganza unfolded in a surreal atmosphere, through which patriotism infused in every Indians blood with incredible performance by our Border Security Guards in front of thousands of Pakistanis and Pakistan Military force. Even if it was only for few hours every minute spent with the soldiers in an India Pak border was worth for a life time to keep the memories.
NB: Pictures courtesy Google used for better clarity than own