Punjabi Vs Pakistani Dance Off
Punjabi Vs Pakistani Dance Off is an excerpt from the book, Eye On The Road – The Beginning.
India and Pakistan have had a tense border dispute for as long as Pakistan has existed. The 1947 partition of British India was intended to cleanly separate Muslims in Pakistan and Hindu/Sikhs in India. This has hardly been a success. Three official wars, as well as countless other conflicts have broken out in India’s disputed northwest region Karshmir. The area is a hotbed of hostility.
The Wagah nightly border closing ceremony may be grounded in the bloody history of partition conflict but it’s a peaceful back-and-forth between the rival countries. A taxi van shuttles us 28 km from the Punjab city of Amritsar to the Wagah border in northwest India. Along the way, our cab is picking up anyone and everyone heading in the direction of the border. Pack it in!
One of the passengers picked up appears to have been walking for a long time because he is extremely tired. He is sleeping on my right shoulder. This intimate contact from a complete stranger doesn’t startle me. I’m becoming accustom to personal space intrusions.
The border is packed. Thousands of Hindus/Sikhs have gathered around the entrance to the psuedo-staduim. Entrepreneurial youth are selling flags and postcards. Street vendors are selling roadside concessions of rock roasted corn, bottled waters, and ice cream sandwiches. You feel the crowd’s anticipatory energy building. It’s a similar feeling to a WSU’s Cougar College Football Saturday – minus the inebriation.
The giant gates open. The mob surges forward. Jesse has his right hand up in the air. His camera capturing the chaos. The left hand is firmly holding onto my shoulder blade. I’m the lead blocker.
The border closing ceremony is such a popular local event that both sides have constructed stadium style seating. This has to be some kind of record for a border crossing. And, judging by the crowd’s excitement, an expansion will be needed soon. Jesse and I barely find seats. Serious men with bold beards surround us. Our 21 days of patchy facial hair growth smacks of immaturity. Amateur status by both Punjabi and Pakistani standards.
The ceremony is quick to begin. Men, women, and children take turns enthusiastically running large Indian country flags to the border 100 meters away. At the border line, they take their time to taunt the other side by passionately waving their flag in the face of the opposing crowd.
Next, National Indian soldiers perform an aggressive synchronized high kick march. The crowd is going wild. I haven’t decided if this is more like an English premier league match, or a So You Think You Can Dance episode. These Punjabis know how to rock!
After an hour or so, the ceremony is over. Everyone begins to exit. While walking out, Jesse stopped by a group of young Indians girls dressed in decorative sariss.
Indian Girls: “Do you have (a) wife?”
Jesse: “Not yet.”
Indian Girls: “Do you want (an) Indian wife?”
Me: “Ladies. My boy, Jesse here, would LOVE an Indian wife! Which ones of you are single???”
I thrust Jesse in the middle of the potential female suitors for a group photo. I encourage the timid girls to run their fingers through Jesse’s sunshine blonde hair. He is blushing.
Just before we head back to the taxi, Jesse turns to me.
Jesse: “You wanna go to Pakistan? The border doesn’t officially close for another 20 minutes.”
Me: “You crazy? No!”
Jesse: “Why not?”
Me: “Pakistan, dude. Too dangerous.”
Jesse: “Stop being a baby. We will go for a day or two and then come back. When are you EVER going to visit PAKISTAN? Let’s do it!”
Me: “Hell no!”
Jesse was right: When would we ever get an opportunity to go to Pakistan? Sure, our plans were fairly concrete. But travel plans are meant to be broken. You live for spontaneous travel moments like these. I should have said, “Hell Yes!” to going to Pakistan. I did not. Lesson learned.