Sunday, July 25, 2010

The kick’s out of Wagah

The choreographed hostility between India and Pakistan at Wagah border is reportedly being toned down. Here's a look at what has made the 45-minute drill such a big tourist attraction and what you will miss

The India-Pakistan dialogue may have collapsed as of now, but things have mellowed a bit along what is known as the Berlin Wall of Asia. A ritual zealously followed by the Indian and Pakistani armies, the daily Change of Guard Drill at the Wagah-Attari International border near Amritsar is being toned down following complaints of leg injuries suffered by army men on both sides.

Started in 1959, the choreographed aggression has been a huge draw with curious onlookers and patriots, who cheer and raise slogans as the soldiers high-kick, stomp, wave their fists and speed march their way through the 45-minute drill. The routine, which may seem both genuinely hostile and comical to outsiders, ends with a lowering of the respective flags and a slamming of the gates amidst much shouting and jeering from crowds on both sides.

The decision to change the tone of the drill from one of aggression to that of friendliness has been mutual, say some reports, after the high-kicks left even the toughest of men painfully hamstrung. One look at the routine and you will know why.

Certain sections of Pakistani media, however, quoted their army personnel as refusing to do away with the exaggerated kick and foot stomp, much to the delight of those who travel all the way from Amritsar and Lahore to watch the stunts. They may, however, have to do without the staring and the shadow punches.

But fans of the drill are questioning if the emotionally charged ritual will retain its appeal after the soldiers open up their fists to shake hands.


» Pakistan Rangers and BSF men approach the ceremonial border between India and Pakistan dressed elaborately with crisp turbans

» A part of the routine involves vigorous foot stomping, which the Pakistani army is allegedly desirous of continuing, while the BSF says no

» The wildly popular high-kick sees the soldiers kicking over their heads menacingly close to the rival’s nose. This, say reports, has injured most of our men

» The stares and the angry glares with nostrils flared is on its way out

» The shadow punches, displayed for obvious reasons at safe distances, come with an arrogant shrug of the shoulders. Will this be replaced with a polite handshake?

» The speed march sees the men literally rush at each other, heels digging into concrete. Guess, doc’s just advised them to slow down a bit

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