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Day 28: Lahore to Amritsar

Lahore, Pakistan 
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Strangers from the train. With Azam the accountant, in foreground, and Asim the soldier in Food Street, Lahore.
Michael Palin - HimalayaCross-border trains arrived at Lahore station full of massacred corpses. Men, women and children on both sides were attacked and killed. Law and order were paralysed as the communal violence took its course. The British refused to bring their army out onto the streets to help. Across the subcontinent as a whole it is estimated that partition resulted in over a million deaths.

The legacy of hatred still smoulders. The border post at Wagah is the only official land crossing between Pakistan and India, and even then Pakistanis and Indians are only allowed to cross in specially secure trains between Lahore and Amritsar. Foreigners, if they have the time and patience, can walk through from Pakistan to India, and this is what we intend to do.

The thermometer has fallen to a mere 41C (106F), but the humidity has risen. There was quite a storm across these plains last night and a combination of dust and moisture makes the air thick and sticky. It's what Roger calls a three-shirt day.

The canals that run along the side of the road to Wagah are thronged with people cooling off. Families picnicking on the banks watch children splashing in the mud, men wash rickshaws and bicycles in the water, women, veiled and sari-ed, take tentative dips. Hot-headed teenage boys fling their shirts off and leap from bridges. There seems to be a heightened devil-may-care mood along the roadside today. As the traffic grinds to a standstill boys who would not normally have dared approach us dance like scarecrows in front of our minibus and bang the sides as we move on. It's nice to have one last image of Pakistan with its hair down.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 28: Lahore to Amritsar
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Lahore
  • Book page no: 61

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