Chandigarh based Vijendra Trighatia is a film buff and writes extensively on cinema.
A few days back I got to see the Changing of Guard ceremony at the Hussainiwala border post. Having seen numerous photographs and videos of a similar ceremony at the more popular Wagah post, which I am yet to see, I was pretty excited by the prospect. It rained all the way from Fazilka to Hussainiwala but the rain Gods relented by the time we reached our destination. The crowds gathered at both sides of the border but the Pakistan gallery was packed choc-o-block and we were outnumbered by ten to one. Of course this didn’t deter anyone from shouting themselves hoarse. “Pakistan ka matlab kya…La Ilaha ill-Allah”, “Vande Matram” rang in our ears with ferocious enthusiasm.
Mock challenges were thrown and parentage of each other was also questioned but no one got angry and it all seemed like good fun. I was, as usual, dressed in a kurta pajama and the guys other side were clad in salwar kameej. Both sides spoke great colloquial Punjabi which I presume turned red the ears of the ladies who in the good old Panju style sat segregated from the men. So what was different between us here ?
Two days later Chammak Challo and me went to see Masaan. As it turned out that there was no show scheduled at the time and we chose to see Salman’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan instead. I am usually sceptical of Salman movies but over the last few years I find that his movies have been repeat entertainers. This however was totally different. A restrained and underplayed Salman in an emotional tear jerker. I freely cry in movies and this one made me a repeat offender. The little pretty girl steals your heart away with her histrionics which seen in the perspective that she has just one dialogue in the movie is a huge deal.
By now all of you must be familiar with the story which has more holes than a kitchen sieve. Who would believe that you can cross the border with only a request and faith on your side? Who would believe that a horde of sympathisers would facilitate your entry back into the motherland? Small details really if you consider what Bollywood thrives upon. So what is special here?
It’s a belief in innocence. It’s a cry for turning the clock back. It’s a want for getting back to your roots. There would be a million eyes across the North who yearn to go and see that wooden door through which their childhood flew into manhood overnight. There is a whole generation like mine who has heard stories of what life in Pakistan was from their parents many of whom closed their eyes in eternal sleep with their wishes of “once again” unfulfilled. And this is true for both sides of the border. Cross border terrorism and social media jingoism has made some of us believe that anyone who doesn’t share your faith is an enemy. In the same breath these same guys jump at their own for wearing jeans or talking on mobile phones.
Hopeless optimist that I am, I still believe that an overwhelming majority of ordinary souls on either side would still embrace each other if given a fair chance. Good intentions may eventually prevail but unfortunately evil spreads faster. What protects me from turning is my faith in the goodness of human beings, the ordinary ones. I need to protect myself not only from raucous call to arms but also the machinations of scheming politicians of both countries who under the garb of different faiths still have that smell of progressively rotting psyches. Nothing in this world is permanent and perhaps neither would be the Radcliff Line. Maybe it won’t happen in my life time but still I nurture the hope that one day my son would be able to cross that gate at Hussainiwala without the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers in tow and bring home the son of my beautiful friend from Karachi.