Lahore – I See India Again

April 25, 2006

Tentara Pakistan di depan gerbang bulan sabit dan bintang (AGUSTINUS WIBOWO)

Across the border

Yes, this is a trip to the Indian border for the famous ridiculous border ceremony of the two enemous brothers: India and Pakistan. Few months ago I attended the ceremony from the Indian side, hardly saw anything due to the huge crowds.

Seeing from the different sides of the border is always interesting. It’s just a thin line on the map, some inches of line de jure, but it made the two completely different sides on right and left side.

Travelling to the border from Lahore, was passing through dusty areas of uninhabited lands. The area was completely empty since the Partition, and just recently when the relation between India and Pakistan getting better, people started to inhabit the dusty land between Lahore and the border. Equally the same case for Amritsar (Indian city next to the border), but less dusty. It was hot, and dusty. The sweat mixed with the dust to form special ingredients on my wrong-seasoned garment of clothes. The border is exactly between the two cities: Lahore and Amritsar, splitted the distance of 60 kms into two 30 kilometer distances.

I was on the public bus (12 Rs ticket for the 30 km distance) from the station in Lahore. Some young guys made fun of me, and insisted to know my mobile phone number (not the first time). I was happy that I could get rid of them when they arrived to their destination. One of the boys giggled and asked me in Urdu “Tum akeli ho?” (are you alone?). Urdu is a sexist language with different forms of verbs for males and females. And ‘akeli’ is the female form. Addressing a male with female form is derogatory. I replied, “Hai Khan shahab, akeli nehin, akela!” (Hai Mr. Khan, it’s not ‘akeli’, it’s ‘akela’). ‘Mr Khan’, originally refered to the Pathans of NWFP, but it also has derogatory meaning for people who dont speak the language properly, or equally have problems with intelligence. They were surprised with my answer. Laughed for a while, then quiet.

The bus stopped somewhere in a bazaar, and all passengers got down. I thought we already reached the border, but then I found the border is still 5 kms away. Another bus cost me 8 Rs.

Bendera India dan Pakistan turun bersama-sama (AGUSTINUS WIBOWO)

The flags have to go all the way at the same height

The border was quite relaxed. It was strange that for the locals there was an entrance ticket for 5 Rs and 10 Rs (maybe children fare and adult fare) to attend the ceremony. No wonder that Pakistan side was quite deserted of visitors compared to the supporters from India which resembled sea of people in colourful costumes, bands, uniforms, everything anything you can mention. In Pakistan side, this little folk was separated to two groups, you guess: male and female. Husband is separated from his wife, and brothers are separated from sisters. There is special seat for tourists, and also some VIP Pakistanis, just next to the gate for the best view. This VIP seat was also separated for males and females. I dont know why tourists got special treatment here, while in India foreigners had also to struggle with the locals (most locals give way to foreigners though).

The ceremony itself is another patriotic events for both sides. The people from Indian side yelled “Hindustan Zindabad!” and from Pakistan with “Pakistan Zindabad!”. Zindabad means long live. In India they had band and musicians, in Pakistan they played tape recorder of national patriotic songs. In Pakistan the yells are more religious. Dont forget, Pakistan is a country founded on the base of faith. The kalimah “laillahaillalah” (There is no God but Allah) can be heard all the time. Or to be more religious, there was a man started “Narai Takbir!!!” and the crowds replied “Allah Akbar!”.
“Narai Risallah!”
“Ya Rasulullah!!!”
“Narai Haidri!”
“Ya…. Ali!”
There was an old man dressed in green with writing “Pakistan Zindabad” on his shirt, holding Pakistani flag, and kept encouraging people to yell. The folks in Pakistan seemed not that enthousiastic as in Indian sides, that the old baba showed unsastified expression for many times.

Pakistan Zindabad (AGUSTINUS WIBOWO)

Pakistan Zindabad

The ceremony is a flag lowering ceremony, with the armies from both sides reached the gate, did the fabulous ceremony with their legs of the rangers swung until reached the head. The rangers were all very tall, above average. In Pakistan side they dressed in black uniforms, very beautiful. Then the flag lowering begins, the flags of both countries lowered horizontally, on the same speed, so that none would be lower than the other. I didnt see or take pictures clearly, as there was a huge photographer in front of me, saying he was from Singapore, but rushed all other people who blocked his view in quite unfriendly manner. I prefer not to bother.

On the way back, as usual, some Pakistanis came and asked my origin. The second question was about my religion. Actually I ceased the questions for many times as once I said I was from Indonesia people already assumed by themselves that I was Muslim, but there was another guy who insisted to get confirmation from me no matter how I tried to change the topic. Once I told him I was not Muslim, he started to preach me. “You should read our Holy Quran, get one with Indonesian translation, read it two and three times, you will learn about our religion” said him in Urdu without bothering to breathe.

On the bus, another guy, Aslam Javed, sat next to me, and he also asked the same question after five minutes of chatting. But no preaching this time. He also asked the same question, about my mobile number. I was not really keen of giving mobile number to strangers, but I didnt want to disappoint him, so I told lie that my mobile had only Indonesian number so it would be expensive to contact me. He insisted to know. I gave him my family’s land phone number in Indonesia. No messaging possible. And my family dont speak English at all. I dunno what happened if he really try to contact me with that number. I regreted that a lie had to be followed by another lies.

He paid for my bus fare. Pakistan is always fabulous with the hospitality. He was curious about Indonesia. When we passed the the dusty lands, he asked “Indonesia is also like this?”. When there were two young babies playing with their faces, he asked me, “In Indonesia they also play like this?”.

Gerbang Kemerdekaan, pintu gerbang Pakistan (AGUSTINUS WIBOWO)

The Gate of Freedom, the gate to Pakistan

“Musharraf,” said Javeed, stopped and searched whether there were Musharraf spies nearby, then continued, “is not a good man”. I asked why. He said before Musharaf the ticket price for student was only 3 Rs but now 6 Rs. Before the price of sugar was how much, now was how much. I said that price rising was not the standard of saying whether he was good leader or not, as the global price was also rising due to the oil. He answered with more global idea, “His policy was no good!”. No further explanation.

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