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  • Day51

    The Beating the Retreat Ceremony

    January 24, 2019 in Pakistan ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    The Beating the Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah, Pakistan/Atari, India Border.

    This one really deserves its own entry. It was so colorful and loud! We arrived about an hour before the start of the show after a short, half hour drive from Amritsar. We took our seats in the foreigner section right on the 50 yard line or midfield. I looked at my phone and Google fi was texting 'Welcome to Pakistan, your regular rates apply.' Obviously the location was a bit off as we were still on the Indian side. As we sat we watched a few individuals push carts and carry children through the road right in front of us. It was still operating as an active border until about 10 minutes before showtime.

    While we waited the stands on the India native side got more and more packed. Soon they started sending groups of students over to swell up our side. About 4pm a gentleman in uniform came out to MC and drum up the crowd. Nationalistic Bollywood music blared full blast for the next half an hour as women ran down from the stands to join a queue to carry the flag. The women took the flag and ran to about midfield before turning and running back to hand off to the next in line. Between the music and the women, and the MC yelling "Hindustan!!! One Day!!! Hindustan!!! One Day!!!, Hindustan!!! One Day!!!", it all got really raucous. Just as festive as a Bruce Springsteen or MAGA rally in the States. After they shut down the flag bearing event all of the women gathered in a cordoned area at midfield to dance to the latest tunes. It was really something and everyone was having a great old nationalistic time.

    Hindustan is the name of the region of the world that includes both Pakistan and India. It was never a true independent nation per se, even before the British Raj. It is still envisioned as a divided region by most Indian nationals. Hence the chant Hindustan!!! One Day!!! Personally I'm still trying to imagine what it might be like for Modi to be Prime Minister of a billion people, as is, let alone tacking on another half billion.

    By the time the main event happened it was almost denouement. Soldiers dressed in color guard uniforms from both sides marched and stomped and postured until the border flag was lowered and the border shut.

    Regardless it was quite a show. Our photos don't really do it justice. There are YouTube videos of the proceedings galore if I want to revisit the experience. In the meantime I did drag up an old Michael Palin travel show video on the event that explains things better than I can.

    Next it's off to Dharamasala in the foothills of the Himalayas for some Tibetan culture.
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    Elizabeth Russell

    Now there is a border wall, eh. With theater. Thank you for the Enlightenment ~