Queen’s Baton: Will Bonhomie at Indo-Pak border be replicated in participation by Pakistan at Commonwealth Games?

Queen's Baton Published in Pb Kesari on July 14, 2010

BY RASHMI TALWAR

Wagah-Attari Indo-Pak border never looked so bridal…..
The marigold rivulet like strings on the border gates–a witness to millions of passersby over the past 63 years to either side of the Radcliff line- today looked in ‘merry’ celebration, as if on the entry of the girl back to her ‘sasural’ (marital home).

Yes, the girl was the “Queen’s Baton” –shining in her elegant glory, handed over from the Pakistani side by Punjab (Pak) Governor Sulman Taseer to Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi at dot 9.30 am of a particularly pleasant morning of June 25 2010, amidst a colorful frenzy of emotions as the Indian side’s –’Sare Jahan se Acha …’ matched the Pakistani side with ‘Jea, jea Pakistan..’.

Taseer, Kalmadi walked alongside, crossing over the zero line into India with a team of 20 Pak members, to an equally euphoric welcome to the undisputed symbol of sports amongst onlookers and participants on the Indian side.
This was after all, the first time a South Asian country was hosting the Commonwealth Games and India was a front-runner!

Indian stands responded eagerly to the waves from Pak enclosures particularly to Beena Sarwar- Pakistan peace activists’ of ‘Aman Ki Asha’ –an Indo-Pak joint venture through the powerful medium of ‘words’– Now converted into an open display of bonhomie between the people of both countries.

A beaming Suresh Kalmadi petted his team for the excellent welcome, particularly Jagmohan Bhanot OSD Commonwealth Games, who conceptualized the idea of joining hands with “Aman ki Asha”, to march forward on this historic turf, in an effort aimed to clearing the detritus of past bitterness, of blood, wars and revenge, of shattered families and loot–Into emotions of undiluted joy and celebration!
All of the past, was forgotten momentarily, as rivals set aside differences in a collective effort to usher in the Baton – that perhaps would help ‘warring countries’, direct their energy flow in the playfields towards human endurance and team competitiveness, rather than policy-stands by Heads of countries with their formal nods & nays, swayed by pressures within or without.

A chain of gaily colored handkerchiefs with peace messages that flowed into India, made by Pakistani children, alongside the Baton Relay, was given a virtual ‘nuptial’ knot with similar kerchief chain by Indian children, bonding the two countries on a note of Peace in the region.

As the ‘new generations’ stood face to face smiling and in awe of this historic moment, the hope of having ‘different’ playmates from across the border, writ large on their glowing faces.

From either side of the gates they looked at each other- surprised, but found ‘no horns’ that have been fed about each other’s features since their senses took charge. The little ones took no time to gulp their initial inhibitions and animatedly responded to each other in all their pure innocence! -As children are wont to do.

Celebration started on the Indian side and Political compulsions did rear their head, but remained mostly unnoticeable. First, Punjab’s ruling BJP-Akali and congress MLAs sat in stoic silence next to each other feigning concentration on the jubilation of color, music and rhythm of Punjabi Bhangra, Rajasthani and of Jammu and Kashmir –all border states with Pakistan, sharing a common and composite cultural heritage.

CM Parkash Singh Badal from the dias, shared about his formative years in Lahore and claimed to know every nook, corner and ‘gali’ ‘especially the famous ‘lassi’ of Lahore. He cited some personal instances of his college as an under grad in arts at Foreman Christian College, Lahore and talked about removing the Indo-Pak Gates and walls between the two countries through sports.
In the last leg of the baton passing ceremony, Punjab CM passed the baton to Minister of External affairs Parneet Kaur wife of former CM Capt Amarinder Singh, ‘as if he was passing the reins of his government to her’… Badal addressed Delhi CM Sheila Dixit as his sister but reserved the ‘familial endearment’ only for her avoiding any reference to the other female lead- Parneet. Parneet on her part sat dignified in the VIP stands and avoided any glance towards the border gates ..that had caused much consternation in her personal life from a particular female enchantress.

But the crowd hardly noticed this ‘fee-fa’, lulled as they were by the unique audio-visual treat and the grandeur setting of this event.
If anyone could be singled out for thoroughly enjoying this moment it was the IOA Prez — ‘Tu Maane ya na Maane … Dildara …Asan tenu Rab Maneya by Puran and Pyare Lal Wadali (Wadali Brothers ) brought emotional bonding.
The Commonwealth Queen’s Baton carrying the message of “Peace through Sports” had landed a day earlier in Lahore at the ‘Allama Iqbal International Airport’ carried by A crew of QBR, including Ajay Chautala, Member of Indian Olympic Association (IOA), Raj Qadian, Avny Lavasa, Louis Rosa and Asokan.
Sheila dixit said she felt honored to be the chief minister of Delhi at the time when India would host its first Commonwealth Games.
Pure bonhomie between neighbors India and Pakistan gripped the occasion, that drew not only the youngsters to dance impromptu but also the IOA Chief Kalmadi was seen swinging merrily in the mood, created by Pak artists at the Wagah-Attari Indo Pak Border on “Ab jaan lutt jaye…. Yeh jahan chutt jave …saang pyar rahe, ……Mein rahun na rahun… Sajda ! Sajda ! tera Sajda !……” a peppy emotional number from ‘My Name is Khan’ sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan- Live On stage!
It was joined in equally chorus by a Fusion, by music troupes of ‘Wadali brothers’ (India) and ‘Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’ (Pakistan) and the climax through ‘Duma Dum Mast Kalandar…”–a popular folk song of both Punjabs. There was then no stopping the elation.

The baton has specially been designed on an 18 karat gold leaf and the relay was the largest of all the previous editions, covering a distance of 1,90,000 km during its visit to 71 participating nations across the world. It had started from Delhi to Buckingham Palace (England) and was formally launched by Queen Elizabeth-II to travel to all 71 Commonwealth Nations.
And the countdown of 100 days began…for the baton to reach back to Delhi–the venue of the XIX Commonwealth Games from October 3-14, after setting foot in 28 states and seven union territories of India.
It was passed on to the Indian sports greats Vijender Singh Olympics Bronze medalist Boxer and four-time world champion woman boxer M C Mary Kom at Indo- Pak Border and thereon to many a great Indian sportsperson.
However, it remains to be seen if only 70 countries or will the 71st country would also participate as enthusiastically as seen near the Wagah-Attari dividing line, …or was the ‘undivided’ feeling just a fleeting gesture…..

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