Hailing from a nation which has been a victim of partition, I often feel I have been deprived of something which duly belongs to me. Though I haven’t lost anything personally so as to say, but the very thought of the division gives me pain…something which is indescribable. The partition of the state of Punjab has left deep and unhealed wounds, something that perhaps even time cannot mend…
My frequent trips to one of the world’s most spectacular ceremony, held every evening, leaves me dumbfounded and ecstatic every single time. And I feel every Indian will relate with me as I am about to make an attempt to describe what it feels like when one is at Wagah.
Here I go…
The ceremonial Flag lowering ritual also called “Beating the retreat” held every evening at the Wagah-Attari International Border also referred to as the “Berlin Wall of Asia” near Amritsar is truly a treat to watch. The excitement builds-up even before you reach Wagah. The spirit of patriotism gushes down your veins and you get to sense the warmth of this feeling reflecting on your face. A strong current of emotions submerges your body and with a lump in your throat, you walk towards the stadium built dramatically near the Zero Line.
The atmosphere is incredibly dumbfounding as you feel a sense of oneness with your co-spectators who otherwise are indeed strangers to you. The colours, the sounds of the bugle, the aura, the crowds, the slogans of the cheerleaders, the Soldiers’ march and the “Indianness” all add to the panoramic view of the splendid Wagah. Needless to say the ‘rivals’ and their gusto acts like icing on the cake.
The almost close to 7 feet handsome BSF soldiers in Khakhi & red turbans and their counterparts across the border in bottle green ‘shalwar kameez’ and black pathani turbans look like the true warriors of the earth. You get goosebumps when you hear loud thuds as these men thump their feet on the ground with aggression, symbolizing the “don’t you dare eye my land” kind of a message during their customary march.
You can see a huge portrait of Mohd Ali Jinnah placed on the foundation gate of Pakistan and the Rangers wearing an expression of vigilance as they boldly walk across the memorial of the founder of their nation.
The Tri-colour flutters with pride as the youth of India run across the marching path carrying the symbol of our nation on their tender shoulders. The spectators in sheer bliss live one of the most cherished and enchanting moments of their lives. A breath-taking view of the Wagah Border and the stadium adorned by “Bharat vasis” is explicitly awe-inspiring. The lush green vast expanse of farmland bordered by high voltage electric wires invokes in us a feeling of having lost something priceless!
The humanity on the Indian side looks drenched in the Tri-colour and sings songs, applauds and mesmerizes each other. The iron gates at the threshold on either side of the border drape the colours of their respective flags. The sentiments and emotions of patriotism sink heavily in the air and gradually tears of love for the nation find their way to the cheeks. The white line that runs through, dissecting the two nations is oblivious of the fact that it has indeed separated a body off its own soul!
The electric wires in the adjoining areas mark their perilous presence as a precautionary measure to avoid infiltrators. Humans, such ruthless creatures that we are, deserve every bit of penalty for being what we are- hence every movement of ours, every action of ours is subject to vigilance. Whereas the birds, the breeze, the plants and the soil merrily make trips to and fro… With no watchful officers to govern them or restrict their movement.
For many the experience of visiting the Wagah Border is like reopening closed chapters. The line that intersects a single piece of land and chops it into two often makes some feel like a hostage. It is a barrier that confines them completely. They are indeed victims of the partition. Their wounds shall never heal and a cocktail of emotions descends in their hearts- the spirit of nationalism and the grief of separation.
The clouds of anguish, grief, pride, contentment, friendship, enmity, love, hatred, passion and zest all burst into a shower of a truly captivating moment that clings on as an integral part of the journey of your life. The enchanting visuals remain afresh in your minds entrancing you and leaving you wonder what you have you have lost and gained!
I am at Wagah and I, along with the millions before me, feel the pain…