South Asian Voice at Davos
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Honoured at Davos 2001
     Anant Singh
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Technology   Feature     

Reinventing India

Role of Internet In South Asian Development
Successful case studies
    What the Gurus say
    - Vinod Khosla
    - Gururaj Deshpande

Technology - a weapon to
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South Asian success     stories
   - Bangladesh  
     Village Phone
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   - Madhya Pradesh State
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Cultural feature
Sadhus - Holy Men of India
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Sundown Madness at Wagah Border


Heritage & Travel

Rajasthan's Forest Forts


Three Brothers & A Violin 


Editor's Note



Silk Road on Wheels

South Asian Shop

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the-south-asian.com                            February 2001

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Sundown 'Madness' at Wagah


Mridula Kapur


Wagah is an army outpost on Indo-Pak border - between Amritsar and Lahore.  I had the opportunity to witness a ritual of ‘madness’ at this border post recently.

Our journey began from Amritsar, on the Indian side of the border. As you drive in one of the specially run buses or taxis, which do this trip routinely, you see some of the most fertile land and prosperous rural areas of Punjab. The milestones of yore still inform us of how close we are to Lahore and reminded me of our family’s stories of pre- partition days. Both my parents had studied in Lahore. My father often travelled on this road to pay his respects at the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. My mother moved frequently between Delhi and Lahore with her father, a government doctor. I knew so much of our ancestral home in Hafizabad, that I could have passed off as a native without actually having visited the place. Our links across the border were so strong even fifty years after the partition that we felt a pull or yearning as we approached Wagah .We wished we could drive straight to Lahore and see the Anarkali Bazaar for real.

The border outpost is an elaborate complex of buildings, roads and barriers on both sides. The daily highlight is the evening  "Beating the Retreat" ceremony. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, quite a crowd gathered on both sides. It was a holiday scene. Families had arrived with picnic baskets. Parents were heard asking the children to remain patient and wait for the "spectacle" to begin. There was an air of excitement. And then it began. Soldiers from both countries marching in perfect drill, going through the steps of bringing down their respective national flags. But the striking feature of the occasion was not the smart drill, but the attempt to outdo each other in showing their anger and contempt against each other. Soldiers raised their boots to show the soles to others across the border, chests were puffed out and touched others’ when they came face to face, and feet were stamped so hard that the road must require weekly repairs! The soldiers adopted every conceivable gesture to show their hatred in a most unsoldier like manner. The crass shouts of joy from the crowds on both sides were even more disheartening. People were cheering the soldiers as if they were gladiators. Ordinary men and women were turned into ferocious warriors wanting to rush to the defence of their respective countries. Faces flushed, the people behaved as if in a tantric trance. Each shout of command, louder than the previous, further enhanced the atmosphere of hatred.

Finally it was over. The crowd fell silent, drained of energy. What it left behind in the minds was sure to last a long time. What was the purpose of the entire proceeding ? It bred nothing but intolerance between two neighbours who could surely do without more animosity. Two peoples who have been brothers till recently are separated by artificial borders and daily events like these are only helping those wanting the relations to remain sour. It is time for sane persons in both countries to put a halt to the madness in these ‘showdowns’ held daily at sundown.



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