It's tough out here, really tough. You just can't imagine it. Although I am the one who is guarded by hundreds of soldiers, thousands of people visit me daily and millions across the globe just dream of having a rendezvous with me. Everything is a farce on my part though. I am hurt deep within.
I am the most important object of South East Asia, greater than any President or Prime Minister, but everything here has come at a price. I have been the standing here across the Grand Trunk Road for years, silently witnessing some of the most important political activities of the area.
Can you recognize me? Still NO?
Okay, then let me introduce myself. I am the Berlin Wall of South Asia. I am the Wagah Border.
For a long time, I've kept my feelings to myself. However, today I've decided to share my feelings with my esteemed visitor, Saurabh.
Wagah Border HistoryI am neither a supernatural thing nor a creation of God. My identity came into being when the Radcliffe line was drawn, thus distinguishing India and Pakistan, and dividing the village of Wagah into eastern and western parts. The eastern part went to India, and the western part in the newly born Pakistan.
I was the gate that saw the bloodshed of the partition and the exodus of millions of people across me. I suddenly gained supreme importance as I served as the international border checkpoint between the countries. Personally speaking though, my heart broke into tears that day. I was unable to distinguish between men who had grown playing in my vicinity, but I was helpless. I couldn't do anything but to accept their decision. Yeah, the boys had grown up and they could take their own decisions.
In these heavy years I have seen the ice of hatred melting many times with the Delhi-Lahore bus and Samjhauta Express train services resuming from Delhi to Lahore via me. Nothing has been ever lasting though.
Since then, I have just been a silent spectator, hoping to see the brothers make up some day and ending my ignominious life. Rendezvous with me!
Wagah Border Flag CeremonyHey, I forgot to tell you that there is a flag retreat ceremony happening at my place, everyday throughout the year at sunset. It attracts more than one thousand people from both sides. I can't tell you how elated I feel to get a mere glimpse of these people.
For the ceremony, you have to arrive at my place well before sunset to get a proper seat in my open air theater. Around 4 p.m. is a good time. There are separate seats for men, women, and foreigners just approximately 100 meters from me. Please be early, as it sometimes gets very crowded and occasional pushing may happen.
If you are coming from Amritsar, then I am 30 kilometers (19 miles) away. Please take a private taxi (500 rupees/$10 for round trip) or a shared jeep (negotiable price around 100 rupees/$2 per person), and let them know you want to meet me. You will be kindly escorted here.
Once you arrive, you can sense an aura of celebrations with patriotic songs played before the actual ceremony begins. You can even march on the road towards me, with the flag waving in your hands. Sometimes, I wish I could turn transparent, just for a moment, and allow you to cross me. Alas, living in this mortal world of bricks and stones has its own restrictions.
The procession is marked with loud shouts of patriotism from both sides that sometimes makes me deaf. I welcome the spirit of patriotism, but please don't make me a symbolic battleground. It's a humble request.
Anyway Saurabh, I was telling you about the retreat ceremony. I just got lost in between; sorry for that.
The procession happens with clinical military precision and lasts for around 45 minutes. You can see well dressed, six-seven feet tall, Indian "Border Security Force" soldiers in khaki, and Pakistani "Sutlej Rangers" soldiers dressed in black, taking part in the ceremony.
For the flag retreat, the soldiers take the permission from their commanders and march towards me, the gate at the border. Their march is extremely energetic and passionate, with the feet of the marching soldiers rising almost to their foreheads. The tapping sound that their boots makes is very loud, and is audible at quite a distance.
The spectators remain extremely quite in awe of the ceremony. You can sense the pin drop silence pervading the entire area.
As the soldiers of both sides reach the gate, it is flung open. The flags of both countries, flying high at the same height, have to be lowered with full respect and brought back. The soldiers salute each other other and start the flag lowering.
The strings with the flags attached are of equal lengths, and the lowering of flags is so immaculate that the flags make a symmetrical "X" at the point of crossing. The flags are then carefully folded and the gates are slammed shut. A loud sound of a trumpet announces the end of the ceremony, and the soldiers march back with their respective flag.
I watch this procession daily, but frankly this entire procession makes me question my being. I wish if I could somehow run away and allow the two lands to get united again. Oh God! Can I end the boundaries and make this subcontinent a paragon of peace and understanding? Unfortunately, I can't do that. Yes and yes, I am the obstacle on the road less traveled, and that has probably made all the difference. It hurts me, it definitely hurts me. Life is not so easy here.
Well, Saurabh, you might have to go back to your friends now. It was really satisfying to talk with you about my feelings. If you could tell others about how I feel being here, it would be a great help.
Anyways, I have some tips for people visiting me in future.
Next page: Wagah Border travel tips.
Saurabh Srivastava, the author of this travelogue, can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org