On my way, standing at the border

On my way, standing at the border
Another day alone I wander
 – The Turbo ACs ‘Fistful of fury’

After spending three days sick in Lahore listening to the ceiling fan chopping the air like a chinook taking off it was time to leave for my rendez-vous in Delhi. I gave up on a desultory morning sight-seeing after failing to find an open internet cafe to print off a train ticket. I bought some naan – the only food I could stomach – and some more tinidizole from a pharmacy. I arrived back at the guesthouse 1.30pm. Sweating. No time for a shower; the border closed at 3.30pm.

I didn’t have the 400 rupees the rickshaw driver asked for the 30km ride to the border so I asked him to drop me at the railway station instead. From there I piled myself and my packs into a crowded bus and paid the 30 rupee ticket. The bus left immediately but stopped every 100 metres to pick up or drop off more passengers. We made slow progress and I kept fishing in my pocket for my watch with the broken strap. Then, inexplicably the bus stopped all together and everyone got out; three kilometres from the border. End of the line, despite what I had been assured earlier.

I quickly negotiated with another rickshaw driver to take me the last few ks down the road before the border closed. It cost 50 of my last 70 rupees. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any more unforeseen expenses. The rickshaw departed but, like the bus, the driver kept stopping to pick up passengers, ignoring my pleading that I had less than half an hour left to get across the border.

I was hot just sitting in the rickshaw but as I shouldered my pack and walked towards the customs house the sweat bgan running off me in rivulets. A moustachioed border guard stopped me and asked for my passport. I wrote my details in a ledger, drenching it with my sweat. My passport was then stamped and my bags x-rayed. I was the only person undergoing customs formalities travelling in either direction.

“Please hurry, border closing,” the guard yelled to me as I jogged on towards the border.

Five hundred metres further down the road I reached the border gate, light-headed and queasy. I had flashed my passport a further three times and been told to hurry each time.

I cleared the Indian side of the gate and stepped into the customs building. Behind the glass of the counter the customs officials had air-conditioning on and I leaned into the hole in the glass to absorb as much of the cool air as possible.

“Welcome to India. What is your good name sir?”

My good name given and my passport stamped I was free to leave and I stepped into India as the local patriots were arriving in droves to cheer on Hindustan during the daily border closing ceremony.

I collapsed into the nearest chair of the nearest chai stall and waved over the chai-wallah.

“Namasté. Coca-cola?”

“Yes, yes”, he waggled his head. “You have very beautiful moustache, you want taxi sir?”

The coke was 40 Indian rupees, twice the price as in Pakistani rupees which in turn are worth half as much as Indian rupees. Back in the world of tourists.

Namasté rickshaw driver, full speed ahead

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The photos were taken a few days earlier at the border closing ceremony.

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