Today Monique and I were off to Wagah, the "Berlin wall of Asia." During the 1947 partition when Pakistan and Hindustan became two countries, this divided town became just that. Half the town lies in Pakistan and the other half in India. For sixty years this was the only border road between the two nations. Every evening at dusk there is the 'closing of the boarder ceremony. This ceremony has become so popular with the locals and tourists that grandstands have been built. There is also a MC to oversee the event. An event it is indeed.
At the platform of the guardroom, one guard yells into the microphone for as long as he can. Once finished, he marches with all the flair, chest puffing, over exaggerated fan-fare stepping he can produce until he reaches the twin gates of the India/Pakistan boarder. All of this while the crowd goes berserk cheering him on. Then, the MC yells "Hindustan!!!" over and over like a mantra with all replying in response to him. Not knowing what they were saying, I would just yell wildly. Then the Pakistan side would respond in kind with equal pomp and parade of his Indian counter-part.
The flamboyant style of marching is, apparently, to intimidate the other side as they try and out do each other. It's a mixture of marching, crunk (a very aggressive form of hip-hop dancing), tango and Americas Best Dance Crew with Mario Lopez. I would have never believed if I hadn't witnessed it.
Once all the guards from each side have made there way down the short road, the lowering of the flags is done. They are lowered at a snails pace as not to have either flag higher than the other, showing superiority. The flags are folded with amazing speed and double marched back to the guardroom. With a hand shake between the two countries so fast that no on would suspect them to be on good terms, the gate is closed for the day.
With the end of the ceremony at an end, the crowd, several hundred strong, rush the area for a photo op with the guards.
Here is a great little video with Michael Palin showing the ceremony.