So after living in Delhi for close to a decade I decided enough was enough and made plans with a colleague about a weekend trip to Amritsar and Wagah border. My latent patriotism had risen and it was time to answer its call. So despite the fact that we had no clarity on a return ticket, we boarded the train to Punjab, barely. After finishing our work at a frantic pace, after catching the metro, after a lecture on night shifts and women's safety to an unwilling auto driver, we finally boarded the train to Amritsar.
There I was speeding toward yellow fields of mustard. And despite the cold sordid February morning, the colonial style railway station with its sweeping staircase and red brick facade was enough to bring alive Khushwant Singh's 'Train to Pakistan'. In the half hearted darkness we pushed our sleep deprived bodies into a rickety auto. Or should I say the big daddy of all autos. A fitting metaphor for the big hearted 'Punjabiyat' I was about to encounter later in the day.
It began with us being allowed to check in to our hotel a good six hours early. The sleepy receptionist didn't make much of our arrival at that unearthly hour. A quick bath later we made our way to the Golden Temple. After darshan and feeling suitably pious we ate like it was going out of style at one of the many prolific dhabas.
On the way to Wagah after a bellyful of sleep, duly noted were the yellow mustard fields and brick houses with roof tops. Quite the scene from DDLJ. I half expected to see a Raj running around wooing Simran. Yashraj had not disappointed clearly.
The rain decided to play truant and after standing in the burgeoning line to the gates, we were forced to buy Made in China umbrellas. The irony wasn't missed. Here we were standing in the rain to ready to shout out our Indianess across the border buying Chinese goods.
So we walk in and after the customary checks, decide its worth a try to get into the VIP line. I even had my Press card pointed ready to take aim and fire. Of course the BSF guard on duty disdainfully brushed it aside. When nothing else works in India, try speaking in the local language. And sure enough after emotionally blackmailing the guy in Punjabi, it was 'Open Sesame'! We were in!
After jostling for space, something we desis are adept at, we managed to mark our territory right in the front lines to witness all the action front and centre. Except when you are one moron in a nation full of them. Well guess what? Every one had the same idea. So while the Pakistanis quietly made their way into neat rows. Seated in dignity in their starched Pathanis, the scene fifty yards away to the east was pure chaos. People fighting for space, shoving pushing, men women children all for themselves. And no amount of shouting from the guards did anything. One over enthusiastic, SLR totting specimen insisted on blocking everyone's view. Till he was poked by yours truly with an umbrella. Nothing worked, not even a threat to transfer him to Pakistan!
Then there was a smart Rapidex English spouting hottie who managed to squeeze herself into the two inch space between us and proceeded to click pictures from every possible angle. When she was reminded that there were others who had come to enjoy the parade, she questioned our patriotism! Am I missing something here?
In contrast the Pakistani side were a well behaved lot. Meanwhile in India it was Bollywood blaring from loud speakers. Bountifully endowed women jiggling what their momma gave them and kids running to and for with the tri colour. All this against the back drop of an uncontrollably aggressive crowd. So much for patriotism huh?