Attari: “Hindustan!” “Pakistan!”

Purl Interrrupted


Writing from: Pushkar, where I will not buy a baby camel, I will not buy a baby camel, I will not buy a baby camel

Sat in the VIP area of the most patriotic crowd I have ever been a part of, watching men with fans on their heads attempt to almost kick themselves in the face while marching, while the throng around me chants football-crowd-like songs at a just-as-patriotic, just-as-loudly-singing crowd across the border.

The Attari border closing that takes place in the no man’s land between India and Pakistan is maybe one of the oddest spectacles I have ever seen. The crowds turn up and fill the stands on both sides (the Indian side a mixed bag of smart and sloppy colour, the Pakistani side male-female divided swathes of well-ordered enthusiasm from where I sat, which was quite far away, in India), they play very loud music at each other in the run up (which caused all the girls on our side to rush out and dance on the parade area pre-march).

Where did you get that hat?

Where did you get that hat?

The soldiers (in green on the Indian side, and black on the Pakistan side, both with fan hats that make them look a bit like cakes) do some very long chants at each other (each soldier trying very hard to make his note outlast the note of the soldier on the other side). They march up and down in a very Monty-Python manner, which really has to be seen to be believed (I notice the Pakistani side soldiers add little peacock-like head flicks to their marching making it a bit snappier. They scare me more.) They march a bit more (they really do almost kick themselves in the face at the end of the march, their legs get shin to nose. That must take some stretching.) They finally take down the flags (not sure if the winner was the most efficient one or the one whose flag was up highest last), and then they put the flags away, shake hands, and march out.

(Hee heeeeeeeeeee. My bad phone video has come out ultrafast. Making it look all the sillier. Excellent.)

And all the while an MC (civilian) is directing the cheers and chants of the crowd to rise and fall in and out of the chants of the other side, each crowd desperate to outcheer and outchant the other.

They do this every single day, and hundreds of people turn up for it. I don’t understand it in any way shape or form. The atmosphere is sort of amused but not amused, and there appear to be no real winners or losers. Still anything with good hats and silly walks gets my vote. I doubt I will ever so the like again.

1 Comment

  1. Bravenewmalden
    November 9, 2008

    Michael Palin covered this aaaages ago. You need to stay in more.