and all that jazz...
I meant to put this up months ago, but what with traveling the world and all, I forgot. I know...I understand that you all spend your days alone in your cubicle, itching for new posts, hitting refresh at a veracious speed in hopes that the blogging gods might smile upon you. I'm also clear on the fact that I'm going back to said life in T-3 days and thus should put some good blogging karma into the world. Let's just say I suck and move on.
Anyway, on to the matter at hand. Sarah and I glimpsed hope for world peace back in February.
And we forgot to tell you.
I was going to let it go...but I watched CNN today. After 20 minutes of being bombarded with suicide bombings, bus surfing deaths, honor killings, refugee camps and the end of the world as we know it, I thought I'd put a little hope out there.
That's right my friends. I come to spread the good word. There can be peace on earth. Good will towards men. Teaching the world to sing, in perfect harmony. Taking it in my arms. Keeping it company. (Is that reference about 10 years before my time? Not sure.)
In Punjab, you can actually travel from Amristar up to the Pakistani border. If you time it right, you end up there at dusk, when the flags come down on both sides. Many people were nervous when they heard we would be visiting the infamous border. These two countries despise each other. On the verge of war from time to time. Who knows when we will wake up and find ourselves in the midst of a massive nuclear war brought on by these two countries...if America doesn't beat them to it, of course.
Thus, this optimism was entirely unexpected.
I now give you my own pathetic attempt to do this justice:
We arrived around 5pm, were offered chi, flags, video recordings of the event and other such treats before being herded along some barb wire. Suddenly were turned a corner and there it was...
That's right. Bleachers. Huge, full-stadium bleachers.
I turned to my traveling companions. This was the India/Pakistan border, yes? Not a football or cricket match? I was assured that we were, in fact, at the right place. We took a seat and the pre-gaming began. A man with a megaphone, a powerful set of lungs and a dream began chants, songs and other throughly enjoyable activities. On the other side, Pakistan broke out their loud speaker and attempted to chant over my Indian compatriots. Within 10 minutes, refreshments were served in order to salvage the vocal cords that were being strained around me.
Then the flags were broken out. Not the official flag, mind you. Just a few that they handed out to strong, determined looking young men who were falling over each other desperate to be picked for flag waving/running honors. Careful selection took place. The fittest took their place. A roar went up.
They ran to the gate. The roar became louder.
They came back. It was deafening.
Repeat. 15 times. Then hand off flags to alternate eager fellows in the stand. Inspiring. Really.
Finally, the real show begins. Out come the soldiers with their strange uniforms and ridiculous hats. Baffling knee-altering walks commence. You might call it a march, but I think that's being generous. Soldiers from both sides waddled up to the fancy iron gate, both of which bear their country's flag. With precise coordination, almost complicity, a choreographed lowering of the flags begins. Literally. Millisecond by millisecond. Millimeter by millimeter. The most exact, equal movements of lowering. Indian soldiers jerk at their flag. 5 seconds later, the Pakistanis have countered, the same motion, same distance. It's like a border ceremony for the anal retentive.
(Found a few videos of it for your enjoyment. Thoroughly entertaining stuff if you have a free moment...)
An awkward acknowledgment. The flag is handed off. At the exact same time, equal numbers of soldiers from both sides waddle back to the stands.
Crowds cheer. They stand. Smile. Wave. And file out to their cars and rickshaws to go home. Peacefully. Happily. Quietly, at least for India standards.
(Please zoom in on the small sign in the background. That's right. It says "Welcome to India, the largest democracy in the world." Hmmm...)
For being one of the more absurdly executed ceremonies I've ever seen, it was orchestrated with the full intent of being equal, coordinated and absolutely without incident.
Now really. If these two nations can end each day with a ceremony that has less animosity than your average Yankee/Red Sox series, I ask you...
Is there not hope for peace on earth? Goodwill towards men?
Sweet dreams everyone. No fear. These young fellas are on the job.