Tuesday, Apr 09, 2002
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Sir, Reading Christopher Hurst's impressions of the Wagah border stand-down ceremony in `Lines of Contention' (Literary Review, April 7), I was struck by the contrast with my own experience. While Hurst seems to have had a rather negative experience, I remember something different. I was depressed by the very existence of the border and the militarism it produces, but surprised by what I experienced. The first thing that struck me was the theatrical absurdity of the two armies coming together to perform the ceremony.
As Hurst also says, and as must strike everyone (even perhaps the soldiers themselves), it does seem the soldiers of both sides should join together afterwards for a cup of tea (if not something stronger). But what impressed me was not so much the ceremony itself, mind-boggling as it is, but the reactions of the Indian and Pakistani visitors amassed at each side. People on each side were extremely interested in seeing their neighbours on the opposite side. It was just like looking into a mirror. After the ceremony, the audience on both sides rushed to press against the two fences that line the no-man's land. There was not the slightest sign of animosity between the two.
The experience of going to the Wagah border ceremony is an eye-opener for any citizen of this world full of borders that governments impose upon us. The third thing that struck me was the archway welcoming people to India. I would have expected the signs on the archway to have been put up by the Indian Government, but instead they were posted by some multinational companies to advertise their products.
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