Sunday, September 09, 2007
Dateline Wagah - Pakistan Versus India
Eyewitness report from Ground Zero.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Watching the flag-lowering ceremony in the Pakistan-India border at Wagah is entertaining. Thousands of people attend the evening spectacle.
No one is disappointed. The performance is thrilling. The military regiments on both sides co-ordinate their actions in perfect symmetry. Soldiers stamp their foot on the ground with attitude. Marching commands are barked out like wounded warriors.
Of course, the hostility and the aggressive mood is all unreal. Just for the show. Most Pakistanis know it. Most Indians don’t.
I recently attended one such ceremony from the Indian side of the international border. There were at least a thousand Indians – tourists, students, and families from nearby towns and villages. The crowd in Pakistan was a little less.
While waiting for the flag ceremony to start, a Pakistan Tourism bus, carrying (presumably) Pakistani passengers from Delhi to Lahore, drove its way through the crowd. Proud Indians displayed their patriotism by teasing the bus passengers with taunts of “Aatankwaad band karo” (stop terrorism). The passengers, in turn, looked bewildered - like lambs flung inside a lion’s cage.
Surely not the best of Indian hospitality was on display that day.
We don’t know how Pakistanis would have responded to a bus carrying Indians to Delhi. Yet, they were the politer audience. They were less noisy, laughed more, and clapped most of the time. As if it was a picnic game. Indians, in contrast, took their nationhood a little seriously. Besides, there was contempt in their gestures. They looked angry and their rage was real. Unease lingered in the air as they waved the tricolor flag. It could have been a cuntdown to war.
The kind of songs playing on both sides strengthened the perception of Pakistanis being cooler than Indians.
The public address system in India played patriotic hits from Bollywood war films. The songs boasted how great the country is compared to its enemy and so on. In contrast, Pakistanis were swaying to contemporary Urdu pop chartbusters. Their lyrics had feel-good phrases like “healing the divides” and “hands of friendship”. Compared to the cantonment mood of Indians, Pakistanis were behaving as if they were in a concert.
Perhaps Pakistanis have a happier spirit. They remained easy going, tolerant, and smiling throughout the evening. Indians, alas, played a spoiler with their sourness. Clearly, as far as Wagah border is concerned, it is sexy to be a Pakistani than an Indian.
The Haughty Indians
The Cool Pakistanis
Lambs in the Bus
Can You See Pakistan?
Mother India's Hateful Sons
Pakistan Paindabad; Hindustan Zindabad