14 October 2009

The Ministry of Silly Walks

Other than the Golden Temple, the other main reason for us coming to Amritsar was to enable us to visit the town of Attari where India has a border with Pakistan. Every evening at sunset there's a border closing ceremony which has to be seen to be believed.

The entertainment starts at about half four in the afternoon when a couple of thousand people file into the grandstands on either side of the gate at the boarder frontier.

There then follows an hours worth of frenzied flag waving, music, dancing, chanting and shouting where the two countries try and out do each other on the noise front.

It was almost as angry as the crowd at a Wolves v Albion football match. During all of this people out of the crowd queue up to take it in turns to run giant Indian flags to and from the border gates as if in some sort of relay race.

To help whip things up even further the compare gets on the mike and leads the crowd in a chant of "Hindustan zindabad" (long live Hindustan).

After about an hour the main event starts with the arrival of the border guards dressed in their rather impressive head gear.

There then follows a half hour period where the border forces of each country march up and down in front of their own supporters and try to out stomp and out shout the opposition guards. This results in some fantastic moves that are like a cross between a goose step and something from Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. In some cases the kicking is so high that the guards appear to be in danger of knocking their own teeth in.

Once the soldiers on each side are suitably psyched up the border gates are briefly opened and the flags of the two countries lowerd. By this time we really struggled to see the action because the crowd in front of us had been whipped up into such a frenzy. The flags are then marched back to the guardrooms and the border re-closed.

We're not really sure what all this nationalistic ranting does for relations between the two countries but it was certainly an entertaining, if not slightly surreal, afternoon out.

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