Every evening, at a small village along what has been called the "World's Worst Border," India and Pakistan follow a display of flag-lowering that is second to none. The ceremony at Wagah, the only road border crossing between the two countries, is an adaptation of a simple military exercise that has become a spectacle over the last 60-plus years since independence was gained from the British. (Un)fortunately for those on both sides, the famed flag-lowering exercise is being toned down, and for some good reasons.
Wearing turbans topped with huge fans, members of the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers in shiny black boots high-kick and walk simultaneously toward one another, with crazed eyes and waxed mustaches. They snort, they stamp, and they meet. In the background, slogans like, "Long live Pakistan!" and "Go India!" are shouted. National passions are further enflamed by displays of precision nastiness in which outstretched thumbs are used to terrifying effect. Following that, flags on both sides are simultaneously lowered. The ceremony ends with a simple handshake.
Comedian and travel writer Michael Palin described the evening show at Wagah as "chauvinism at its most camp." Simply put, it is a unique, masterly demonstration of how angry you can get without hitting anyone. The 45-minute parade manages to be by turns, ferocious, ridiculous, and touching, all in one.
Despite gathered crowds on either side of the border every evening, authorities from India and Pakistan have decided to tone down the drama to help improve relations between the two countries (and leg injuries from all that stomping).
Peace comes at a price. What a shame!
Watch the entertaining ceremony below: