Monday, November 4, 2013

I Shouted Loudly, 'Vande Maataram', 'Bhaarat Maata Ki Jai' After Many Many Years...

I was wondering whether to do a post on our visit to 'Vaishnodevi temple' or the Wagah Border's Beating Retreat first...Wagah border won!

We went on a group tour to North India recently with Nirmala Travels, Bengaluru.  This is our first group tour.  We enjoyed it thoroughly! I will write about the interesting parts in different posts.

We visited  Wagah Border on 20th Oct. '13.  It was a Sunday.  We had visited Jalianwala bagh and Golden Temple, Amritsar in the morning.  We visited Wagah Border in the evening.  All of us, around 40 people, went by a bus.  Our bus stopped at Wagah, a village in Amritsar which connects India with Lahore, Pakistan.  The village is divided into two halves, one part is in our country and the other is in Pakistan.  Wiki says so, here.

A ceremony called 'Beating Retreat' is conducted everyday here, when flags of the two countries are lowered simultaneously in the evening.  Our bus stopped 1 Km from the gate.  We had to walk without carrying our handbags or even water bottles.  But the water and pop corns were being sold at the venue!  Cameras were allowed, thank god! We were warned by our tour manager to walk in single file without making much noise.  Soldiers on horse backs were seen going here and there.  We were 'nervous', don't know why!  I had never seen any video before going there and so everything was new to me.

I heard this song (link) as soon as I entered the stands.  I had goose bumps as usual, whenever I hear this song.  Then came other patriotic songs of Mahendra Kapoor's (Manoj Kumar films) and A.R. Rahman's! I wanted to hear this song, 'Vande aaaa....maataram' from 'Anand Mutt' on that day.  Maybe it was played earlier! Since it was a Sunday, we could see people everywhere...young, old...even small babies!

It was near empty when we reached here.  I could see the gates clearly from where we sat.  It was on the left side.

This gate of ours is on the right side to where we sat.  We thought we were sitting in the best position until more people started gathering! The photo of the father of our nation, Gandhi, is here.
I took this photograph from where I sat.  This was on the left side. The photo of  Jinnah, the father of Pakistan,   is here.  Their colour, green is seen everywhere!
Then the children running with flags on this road started.  And we cheered them.  There was a long queue. Only girls were asked to participate and then women! I and my friend wanted to do it, but the queue was tooo long! So, we just cheered!
Girls and women were asked to dance to the patriotic songs...Rahman's 'Jai Ho' was a patriotic song on that day! His 'Vande maataram' had a different impact there on that day! But 'jahaan daal daal par sone ki chidiyaan karti hain basera' was THE best!
This man was a photographer. Women and girls who ran with the flags were photographed by him.  I think he collected their addresses to send the pictures to them. I noticed money being exchanged.  Good business.  I might be wrong too!
Fullll attendance! This is just on one side.   Men were seated separately. We were peeping to see if the Pakistanis had this sized crowd! NO! We were mean to feel happy!
Another section of the crowd!
Very old people were asked to sit here.  That is the Border Security Force office.  These people are responsible for this side of our border.  I saw a couple of tiny, 2/3 month old babies too, here. Two, very old people came in wheel chairs and sat for nearly 2 hours in the sun.
The marching of the soldiers started! They have got such colourful head gears!  And we kept on cheering them! Before they started to march in pairs, one of them stood in front of the BSF office and made a long sound,  continuously for full 5 mts. without taking a breath.  The army man who was cheering, was holding the mike in front of  his mouth.  You can hear it in the video.  The Pakistani soldiers too make the same sound before starting to march! They were touching their heads with their right foot often, while marching.  The Pakistani soldiers also did the same on the roads and near the gates.
Marching to the gate.
This army man was the hero of the crowd on that day! He was asking/directing us to cheer the soldiers who were marching to the gate.  We were waving our hands and shouting...I couldn't speak the next day!  My throat was aching! He had so much energy!
The sun has started going down and the flags of both countries are being lowered slowly, inch by inch and evenly, to the military music.
The two flags of the two countries at the gate, this flag and the BSF flag on top of their office, were lowered together.  The crowd was cheering... The soldiers from both sides shook hands, folded the respective flags in the same way.  The flags were taken to the office by 5 soldiers...on both sides! The gates were closed for the evening.
I have got some questions, the answers to which are not available in the net.  Does anyone know?

1.  They say that this exercise of closing the gate was started in 1959.  Why was it started? 

2. Who choreographed?

3. How did they train the soldiers of both countries to do the exercise at a same pace at the same time? The military music in the background is the same for both countries!

Though I don't want to accept, I was/we were happy to see less crowd and less cheers from the Pakistani side.  Is it because we hear them intruding our space, killing our soldiers, often?  I tell myself that they are people like us and their soldiers go through the same agony like ours? But...

I got to see this video now... I was sitting through this atmosphere of patriotism.  Yes, we don't have much discipline...people were going here and there all the time through the parades.  But the cry of 'Vande mataram' compensated every flaw of ours! We are lucky to be born here.  We have got more freedom here to do anything. Our women are not 'disciplined' like theirs.  Let us be happy about these things!

I had tears in my eyes, without my knowledge, when I got up from my seat when the ceremony was over! A friend who was with me also was crying...she was my age!

This video which was taken from the Pakistan side of the border, shows what happens at the gate, clearly.  The shaking of the hands of the soldiers of both sides is clearer.

While watching I felt that these soldiers from both sides must be friends at other of them must be telling the other, how his leg hurts while stamping on the ground!

The crowd looks less here, in this video. Maybe it was not a Sunday.  We went on a Sunday and the stands were full.

Our throats were aching, the next morning after the full-throated shouting!

I will cherish this experience throughout my life! 

Wagah Unity symbol!


Edited to add: My friend Shail has sent this link which gives some answers to my questions.  Thank you, Shail.

P.S.: Thanks 'you tube' for the two videos!


Rachna said...

My husband witnessed this last year when he visited Amritsar but for him it was stifling due to terrible crowds. Thanks for sharing your account and pictures. I also wonder how and why they started this tradition?

Destination Infinity said...

Looks like an interesting Military ceremony. Wonder what songs were played on the other side of the border, if any? Huge crowd!

Destination Infinity

Shail said...

You are right you know. They do sit together and even play cards after the day is done, is what I have heard :)
Take a look at this:

From the page: "The ceremony has been filmed and broadcast by Michael Palin for one of his television around-the-world travel programs; he described it as a display of "carefully choreographed contempt."
I couldn't help but smile at this :)

Sandhya said...

RACHNA: Nobody know why they started this exercise and who choreographed it! Thank you!

DESTINATION INFINITY: I am not familiar with the Pakistani songs. Have a look at the second video!

SHAIL MOHAN: I guessed so! They are seeing each other the whole day, they must be, at least some of them must be friends!

I checked this Michael Palin. It is his career information, couldn't see the video there!

I have heard about the 'contempt' will be there always...even a cricket match between our two countries is a 'war'!

But we have to remember one thing: We are not aggressive people by nature, Shail! Don't you agree?

Anonymous said...

Love the idea that it is only carefully crafted contempt - I don't like the thought that the aggression is really felt.

Sandhya said...

INDIAN HOME MAKER: I don't want to write any negative views here, IHM! But I agree we felt it there, esp. when our hero wanted us to cheer more!

ashok said...

I wish to visit Waga once...interesting!

SG said...

We visited Amritsar last year (including Wagah Border). Wrote a post about it. My lifelong ambition of visiting Wagah Border was fulfilled. One thing I would criticize is the best seat in the whole place is reserved for foreigners. Though I enjoyed the ceremony from the best seat, I felt bad for the Indian citizens.

“Hey, Indian citizens are paying your salary and rooting for your welfare. Please give them more advantageous seats than to these foreigners who just don’t care for you”.

Priya Anandakumar said...

Wonderful and a beautiful ceremony, very very interesting. I have always wished to see this ceremony, thanks a lot Sandhya for sharing the pics and video. I felt as though I was present there. Vande Maataram...

Sandhya said...

ASHOK: Yes, it is interesting! I would like to go there again and sit in a better seat to watch!

SG: Even I felt that, SG! I thought I sat in the best seat, but then they started filling up the front seats with VIPs and then foreigners. But that is India!

I noticed some foreigners shout Bharat Maata ki jai with us!

PRIYA ANANDAKUMAR: In some corner of our heart, patriotism sleeps. It wakes up at these times. Many people in the crowd felt that on that day, I am sure. You too will enjoy this atmosphere, it one day. We are really privileged than our neighbour, Priya.

Rama Ananth said...

Beautiful post, and it is touching too.
Good you had a good time with the group. Waiting for more updates about your trip. The pictures are all really good.

Renu said...

very interesting..I have nevr been there..

Feeling happy when they loose in cricket or here with less crowds is natural...for last so many years they have tried to harm us, how can we feel normal towards them?

Bhagyashree said...

I so want to visit Wagah. Maybe some time soon.
Waiting to hear about your other travel experiences :)

Ramakrishnan said...

Great post, lovely colorful pics & generates great degree of patriotism. Good you have made this trip. It is in our to do list sometime next year.
Every Indian should visit Wagah Border and witness the awesome drill routine.

Avada Kedavra said...

That was very interesting. I had no idea about this ceremony before reading your blog. I now want to visit Wagah border someday and witness it live.

Sandhya said...

RAMA ANANTH:Thank you, Rama!Other posts will follow!

RENU: We can never be normal with them!

BHAGYASHREE: Please visit, you will like it!Other posts will come!

RAMAKRISHNAN RAMANATHAN; Yes, I felt like it there! Every Indian should visit this place at least once in his lifetime.

AVADA KEDAVARA: Please visit this place! Everybody should do it!

Ankita said...

Lovely pics and awesome post! I would love to visit this place as soon as I can!


Onkar said...

Lovely pictures and apt narration

Krishna/കൃഷ്ണ said...



Sandhya said...

ANKITA: Thank you, please do!

ONKAR: Thank you, Onkar!

KRISHNA: Thank you, Krishna

Unknown said...

Sandhya you have narrated the whole ceremony so vividly that I felt I was in that group.I visited Wagah border long ago. The whole ceremony is such profound that patriotic emotions are aroused.Pics are superb.

Saritha said...

Wonderful post Sandhya...a bit late here....

Heard abt it from my sister,she says she cried there...wish to go there once....

Sai Charan said...

Great post Sandhyaji :) Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences :) Nice to read and check the photos and videos, very interesting!! :)

Sandhyaji, you have an award at Beyond Barriers... please visit and collect it :) There are 5 simple and fun questions too :)

Take care,
Sai :)

Sandhya said...

USHA MENON: Thank you, Usha! I was very emotional on that day and while writing about it too!

VARUNAVI: You sure do after the children grow up and understand what this means to us!

SAI CHARAN: Thanks for the comment and the nice award, Thank you! Will read it now!

KParthasarathi said...

A very interesting and informative post.I missed this place and the colourful beating the retreat when I went to Amritsar.Thanks tou I could get a glimpse of what I had missed.Yes, the ambience there is bound to give rise to patriotic feelings.You are lucky to have witnessed this.

sm said...

in depth post
have to read once again

Sandhya said...

K.PARTHASARATHY: Yes, I was very lucky to visit this place, Partha Sir! Every citizen should witness this, I feel! Otherwise we don't have the opportunity to come across our soldiers physically and feel their responsibilities. Once we visit this place, we know what they are doing for our safety...we are enjoying our lives because of them.

SM: Thank you, SM!

Proactive Indian said...

Our patriotism can normally be seen only when we watch a cricket match. It was good to feel the intense patriotism in your well-composed post.

I think "carefully choreographed contempt" is an apt description.

Sandhya said...

PROACTIVE INDIAN: Yes, 'carefully choreographed contempt' is a right expression. We can feel it there!

Indyeah said...

I am soo tempted now to write one on my experience there Sandhya:) Your post is such. Colorful and infectious. brimming with enthusiasm :D Yes, there are many stories associated with that place. Because many were PM's friends there, I kind of know the background. We went to Hussainiwala later (near Ferozepur) That one is even closer. The soldier's are almost at arm's length from you and each other as well.
ANd isnt it just madness there? I mean you get caught up in all of it! it is some experience!

Sandhya said...

INDYEAH: At the back of my mind one voice was saying all the time, 'is this necessary?'. It just aggravates our hatred for Pakistan. It is not 100% wrong, I tell myself. Unnecessary provocation is still there. But we, common people cannot do anything. We just develop hatred and it stays there forever.

I met some Pakistani drivers when I went to Dubai. One driver said that 'the mud for Dubai comes from hamaara Hindustan to grow trees'. I don't think I will ever say 'hamaara Pakistan'. But he said that 'sub ek hai maaji'! 'Yahaan hum sab ko koi problem nahin hai mil jhulne mein', he said. He has got 4 children and all are studying. Got a brother who is not well and a mother in Pakistan...stories which are common in our own country.

Well, I would like to read your experience Indyeah. I am sure it would be heart-warming.

I had a memorable experience there. Thank you, Indyeah!

Sandhya said...

INDYEAH: I feel that NCC should not have been abolished from schools. Patriotism word is gone from the vocabulary of our children. Who is going to take action? Modi?

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