An Adversarial Brotherhood

 

My clothes were drenched in sweat as our car approached the border. Anxiety and claustrophobia had taken over my entire thought processes. The noise, the crowd and random dudes trying to sell “I love India t-shirts” were all a bit overwhelming. That was my situation when we entered the stadium.

This is how I would describe the scenery. If you combine the movie Gladiator, Cadet Kelly, a Bollywood musical flick and two longtime political adversaries what do you get? The answer is the most epic, chaotic, and most flabbergasting dance off you will ever see. On the weekend of June, my colleagues and I decided to go to Amritsar for a weekend get away and the. Amritsar is a city that is only a fifty kilometers from Lahore, Pakistan. Two cities, of two nations that have over the past century, have had shall we say a tense relationship.

The rivalry between India and Pakistan extends from beyond the cricket field. These two nuclear states have been at each other’s throats for nearly fifty years especially with regards to their opposing political ambitions and the armed conflict in the Kashmir region. However, I’m not here to write about the political family drama that has embroiled these two rival nations but rather about something truly breathtaking in the Wagah Border.

Every evening for the past sixty years, these nations have engaged in a passionately choreographed military exercise. Soldiers dressed in lucrative head gear covered in the most brightly colored feathers as they were boasting their military swagger by drums that echo through the roaring cheers of nearly twenty thousand spectators. It is a scene like no other.

This beautiful ceremony is a demonstration of an everlasting brotherhood that has withstood the political tension and military grandstanding of post-colonial India and Pakistan. As the sun sets, upon iron gates that separate these two nations, the border is opened, and the flags of both countries are lowered simultaneously. After the grandstanding and military routines are over, the infantrymen folded the flags, and the ceremony ends with a brief handshake between the soldiers of the opposing states.

Aside from my clothes being soaked in sweat, getting dehydrated and having the most insane migraine of my life (thanks to the noise), I found this entire experience to be one of the most excellent hallmarks of my stretch experience. To me, it was amazing how two countries that politically oppose each other so much can come together in a symbolic ceremony of mutual respect and cooperation. The ceremony to me is a personification of the real power collaboration and its ability to one day bring about a relationship that promotes peace rather than perpetual conflict.

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