So, we join our new guide, Bunty to his friends, and driver and head the 40 minutes or so to the border. The border closes to traffic at around 3.00pm, and trucks line the side of the highway for a solid three or four kilometers before the border. The queue for the car park is something else, and we leave the car early and start to walk.
As we get closer to the entry point, we move to walk on the other side of the highway, where there is hardly anyone walking. We stop as we reach a member of the Border Security Force who is dealing with someone else. However, others have followed us, do not stop, and are promptly the subject of the whistle and some yelling to stop, which in due course they do.
These people have their passports checked are told to get to the back of the queue on the other side of the road. Our guide has a quiet word to the soldier and tells us that if we wait a few minutes we will be allowed to go forward. And we are, and this gets us a long, long way ahead in the queue.
In the makeshift concrete seating to accommodate spectators, there is a section roped off for foreigners. This section is close to the VIP section which houses some lucky locals.
The ‘stadium’ so to speak is packed, and even after the ceremony is under way, the crowd still enters. What follows is a display of controlled aggression, preparedness to fight, and military precision all to a backdrop of national pride. There is a cheer leader of sorts in a white track suit who leads the crowd in chanting “Hindustan” (India) and “zindabad” (long live), and then some other words and phrases which we cannot decipher.
There is some controlled yelling by the soldiers, and then soldiers, sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs go off the long run towards the border, complete with high kicking (and I’m talking ankle to ear here) to pull up just inside the dividing line between two nations.
We don’t have a great view, (nor does anyone else) and anyone who stands to get a better look, or take a photograph attracts the whistle and rebuke of the soldiers on crowd control.
There is a formal element to all of this of course, closing and locking the gate and lowering the flags. Our guide has given us the instruction to leave when the flag is lowered to avoid the worst of the crowds. However, no one is going anywhere until the soldiers say so. And they have chained off our planned exit, which was the way we came in. I try once with the soldiers, pointing out that I had come in that way, surely I could go out that way, but no such luck. We join the throng and start walking for our meeting point with our guide. When we get there I explain that we hadn’t been allowed to move at the agreed time, which he understands.
On the trek back to the car Kerry falls, and has a multi-colored bruise and a sore shoulder as evidence.
We have the option of attending the Golden Temple this night, but given the unknown extent of Kerry’s injury we opt for the sanctity of the hotel, and cold compresses on bruises.