An email I just sent to the professor who is essentially responsible for my becoming a traveller:

Everyon'e probably heard this story by now.

In Amritsar we took a jeep to the Pakistan border at Wagah. They do this ritual bringing down of the flags thing every day at sunset. So a thousand people–I don't really know how many, I've never been good at estimating quantities, but a lot–come from Amritsar and Lahore respectively. On the road up to the border are dhabas and kids selling plastic Indian flags, cardboard visors that are printed with the pattern of the Indian flag, and DVDs of the ceremony which are playing on televisions at some of the dhabas. At a certain point soldiers on horseback wearing funny hats let everyone into the grandstands on either side of the border, which they fill; to occupy the remaining time until sunset they play what we assume to be nationalistic songs and people get down with their bad selves, basically. Every so often someone will begin a chant–"Bharat matar ki" and the entire crowd answers "Jai!" Which means something like "victory to mother India." And on the other side you can hear them chanting "Pakistan Zindabad!" Zindabad means, I think, "long live."

Then when it finally gets going the soldiers do some goosestepping for which they recieve many rounds of applause, shake hands across the border, goosestep some more, and begin to bring the flags down. They cross the ropes and lower them at the same rate so that one is never higher than the other. Once they are down everyone files out, buys a cup of tea while waiting for the rest of the people they came with to find the jeep, and goes home. We have no idea what to make of this. It was certainly nationalistic, but not entirely hostile. It was also during this trip that I realized India has a long way to go in fostering environmental consciousness when a Punjabi woman, assuming I hadn't understood her gesture towards the window, ripped the empty chai cup out of my hand and pitched it somewhere along the highway to Amritsar.

By the by, I did get around to putting up the rest of my pictures on a different Flickr account.


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