Hindustan Zindabad

We had two other visits on our stay in Amritsar. First of all Jaswinder took us to the ‘Massacre Gardens’ which is very near to the Golden Temple. This is a small public park down a narrow alley. This is one of the other sights that pilgrims to Amritsar visit and it is the scene of a horrible and unnecessary massacre in 1919 where the British Army under a man called Dyer opened fire on peaceful protest of something like 20,000 Indian pilgrims. It all seemed a very unsatisfactory business and it felt very odd being apparently the only English people there. As usual people were very interested in us and I felt like apologising for what had happened all those years ago. Very sad.
After this we did a little shopping in the bazaar and had a cappuccino stop at our new favourite Cafe Coffee Day where Jaswinder also ran off to get some lovely sticky Jalabi. Yum. We then went back to the hotel for a v quick rest and were then picked up in the van ready for our final pilgrimage to the Wagah Border with Pakistan. The ceremony here begins each day at 5pm and we drove quite fast to get there. This was the part of the whole trip that Enid was most looking forward to as she’d seen it on the telly.
As we had foreign passports we were allowed to go in via a different entrance to all the thousands of Indian visitors and sneaked in around the back. When you get in it’s like being in a sports stadium with high stepped seating terraces. We couldn’t actually fit into the foreigners gallery so we went in with the local crowd and went up to near the top as Jaswinder had told us to. Here we had a good view of the crowd which was already in quite an excitable state. You could see the border gate from here and also see through to the Pakistan side where there were also crowds on the terraces although smaller in number.
There was a guy whose job it was to get the crowd going and he did a very good job of getting different sections of the crowd to chant in turn. There were kids dancing on the little street that runs from the barrack room to the border gate and there was music to encourage them including Jai Ho from the film Slumdog Millionaire! This was going to be fun…..
Then all of a sudden, presumably at 5pm on the dot, two girl soldiers suddenly marched out from the barracks down the lane to the gate. They moved so fast it was hard to keep up with them. When they got to the gate they do a big demonstrative high kick lifting their foot up to or above their head and then smack their foot down as hard as they can on the ground. This is then repeated by a pair of male soldiers and finally by a group of six who all then march up individually and with great bravado try, to outdo their Pakistani counterparts who you can just about see matching every move! The gate is opened at this stage so the soldiers are really close to each other. The Indian soldiers looked very smart in red and gold and in particular their headgear is very impressive. They even make a song and dance out of straightening their hats at the gate! The Pakistani guards are dressed in blue or black and look like ninjas.
All the while the crowd is going crazy – cheering, chanting and trying to outdo the Pakistani crowd for noise. The guy sitting next to me was the particularly enthusiastic and at one point the official crowd rouser pointed to him and told him that this was his job! It was easy to feel involved and it felt like being at a football match. I found myself shouting ‘Go on fella’ at one point when one of the Indian soldiers set off on his march, which the noisy guy next to me thought was hilarious and told all his mates what I’d said!! In truth the atmosphere is better compared to a cricket match between India and Pakistan and one of the favourite chants is in the title of this post ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ which essentially means ‘India is Great’ or perhaps the equivalent of U.S.A, U.S.A or closer to home ‘Ingerland’.
So after the marching and leg slapping they lower the flags and march the Indian one back to the barracks and that’s it. Shows over folks! It was all really good fun and although you’re in the middle of a foreign crowd shouting their heads off it doesn’t feel at all threatening. It’s once again incredibly friendly.
We made our way back to our van and headed back into town 25km away with the rest of the crowd. This happens every day and is another essential part of a pilgrims visit to Amritsar- the chance to shout at the folk across the border!
Tonight we had a really great curry with our guide at the Crystal Restaurant in Amritsar- you see we really are feeling better.

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Categories: India | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Hindustan Zindabad

  1. Enid

    Finally got to read the whole of the blog in one go. So many brilliant memories now captured so really big thanks for doing this. I got really emotional looking at the pictures of the children and also remembering the visit to the Golden Temple which had such profound effect. Looking forwrd now to our next big trip!!!! Ex

  2. Jennifer Couper

    Julie – while having a clean out in preparation for the big move down under I came across the Christmas card with the details of your blog which Jane had kindly included on the card. So .. I settled down for a good read of your blog and loved it all – you write so well, and it brought it all to life, especially with the fabulous photos which I’m assuming are Jane’s? Thanks so much for sharing your great adventure – I’m going to put the blog into my ‘favourites’ and look forward to reading about ‘where to next’ – Jen & Angus x

    • Hi Jen and Angus

      Thank you for your kind comments about my blog. I really enjoyed writing it I must say. So much so that this year I have a new blog centred around some more adventures closer to home. I will send you the link to this separately and it would be great to get you involved.

      Xx
      Julie and Jane( the photographer)

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