Partition: our experience at the India-Pakistan border ceremony
On the 70th anniversary of India’s independence, we’d thought that we’d look back at our family’s time at the Indian-Pakistan border ceremony.
If you are planning a trip to India and are putting together a list of must-do items, put the Indian-Pakistan border ceremony at the top of the list.
The atmosphere at the ceremony was, without a doubt, THE most electrifying I have ever, ever, ever (…ever) experienced. Imagine the intensity of the crowd at a football match and a concert, add those together and you’re only about half way there.
However, here’s a little further information before I share our pictures, to help put them into context…
India’s independence meant that part of Indian was divided to form a new country – Pakistan. This division largely affected Punjab, which was divided in two (approximately 2/3 of Punjab now sits in Pakistan, and 1/3 sits in India).
Muslims had to move to the new country of Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs had to make sure they were in India (if they were living in the newly formed Pakistan). Partition was the largest mass migration in human history. It goes without saying that the movement of approximately 14.5 million people was not without panic, chaos and some heartbreaking personal accounts.
Before attending the India-Pakistan border, you should visit Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, as well as the Golden temple. Visiting these two places beforehand, will help to give a much more profound sense of understanding when at the border ceremony (it really puts that unbelievable atmosphere into context).
We were lucky enough the be seated at the gate during the ceremony, so were able to see into the Pakistani side.
Before the ceremony started, officials called out to the crowds to invite girls to come down. They handed them a huge Indian flag, and they ran up and down the path leading from the main seating area right up to the gate.
The ‘MC’ emerged and, to say that the crowd went crazy is an understatement (at this point, we honestly thought that a major A-list celebrity had emerged, but no, it was the compere). He began to rev the crowd up to an absolute frenzy, and it was an unbelievable sight.
The ceremony then started. The Indian soldiers and the Pakistani soldiers proceeded to goose-step up towards the gates. India, as they proceeded, with their flag waving, started off the ceremony with female army officers. Now, these female officers were not just the typical army officers..they were nearing 6ft tall, with the most beautiful mocha coloured complexion and the most piercing blue, green and grey eyes, looking as if they has stepped out of a Miss World pageant. Let’s just say that even my mother and I were mesmerised during our security pat down (!).
The male army officers continued throughout the ceremony to kick their legs high up into the air (almost to their foreheads). They wore the most amazing peacock shaped turbans and solid black boots, which stomped down to make the most impressive and imposing sound with each step that they made.
The most profound moment though, personally speaking, was right at the end of the ceremony. I won’t spoil it for you by saying what happens (in case you are planning to go), but it gave me a strong feeling of hope and that the ending to the ceremony is how the story of this very painful partition could perhaps end…one day.
Note: All photos in this post are from our family trip to India in 2010.