Right through the journey to this remote border post, two words kept popping up, albeit in different forms. Be it on billboards or as graffiti, their regular appearance had begun to irritate. But standing within handshaking distance of the Zero Line (the thin red line between India and Pakistan), the significance of Aman (peace) and Umeed (hope) dawned.
On view were the smartly turned out BSF personnel in battle fatigues and ceremonial attire. Wired-up and replete with the latest AK rifles, sniffer dogs and mine detectors, the sentinels were on guard along an ominous-looking fence, made to look even more imposing by the barbed wire on it. A few metres away, the Pakistan Rangers, attired in grey and black, carried out the same drill.
The mood might have mellowed on Friday with the Queen's Baton Relay crossing over to mark the 100-day countdown to the XIX Commonwealth Games, but behind the smiling faces, the strain was noticeable.
Despite the chill in ties, both sides united to roll out a spectacle. The buildup started early, 7:40 am to be precise, with Pakistan taking the lead by airing patriotic numbers. At 8:12 am, the two sides threw open their gates for the first time to enable their officials to interact.
The catchy tunes, blaring from the giant speakers, on the other side had set feet tapping when the BSF band warmed up with the composition Bharat ke Jawan. It was a well-rehearsed performance, as was the behaviour of the personnel. Prior to the start, the bandmaster exhorted his men to display conduct befitting the occasion.
At 8:35 am, the gates opened briefly and eight Indian children, carrying a chain of small banners, surged towards the Zero Line to mingle with their counterparts and add to the collection that called for peace.
The countdown to the big moment began at 9:23 am with Pakistan opening its gates. The clock struck 9:30 and Suresh Kalmadi, the Organising Committee chairman, flanked by Mike Fennell, the CWG Federation chief, walked to the Zero Line to receive the baton from Lt Gen Syed Arif Hassan, the Pakistan Olympic Association chief, and Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Pakistan Punjab.
Once home, the baton changed several hands before coming to rest with its bearers—boxers Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom. Once the ceremonial bit was over, it was over to the soul-stirring music of the Wadali brothers and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
People on both sides cheered.
Amid the frenetic activity on the Indian side, Pakistan slowly closed its gates, having delivered the baton to its destination and with it a message of 'Aman' and 'Umeed'.
The cultural events planned for the games
September 30, Thursday
* The Queen’s Baton relay enters Delhi from Gurgaon at 11 am.
* The baton will be relayed through north Delhi. It will visit some Games venues like the Rugby venue in Delhi University.
* Cultural event in the evening.
October 1, Friday
* The baton relay will continue in east Delhi. It’ll visit the Games Village and sporting venues like Yamuna Sports complex.
* Cultural event in the evening.
October 2, Saturday
* In Central Delhi, the baton is likely to be carried by different modes of transport like Metro, auto rickshaws and tongas.
* It’ll also be taken to historical monuments like the Qutab Minar and Red Fort during the relay.
October 3, Sunday
* The 340-day long Queen’s baton relay will conclude after the baton reaches Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and is docked there.
* Queen Elizabeth II’s message will be removed from the baton and read aloud, marking the opening of the Games.
Opening day ceremony — 5 pm to 8.30 pm
* The ceremony will kick off with a 30-second aerial display of fireworks from the stadium roof. There will be more fireworks throughout the Commonwealth nations flag parade.
* Oscar winning musician and singer A.R. Rahman, who has also composed the Games theme song, will perform.
* Orissa-based Prince Dance Group, which shot to fame after winning the reality show — India’s got talent — is also expected to perform. There will be an hour-long dance programme by the troupe of a renowned classical danseuse.
* The evening will end with another firework display.
October 3 - October 14
* Light and sound show at Red Fort depicting stories of freedom struggle and independence
* A similar show at Old Fort will be about the six cities within Delhi.
* Dasatan-e-Dilli, a 45-minute show about the story of Delhi will be held at Quli Khan tomb at Mehrauli.
* Previous winners of the annual Commonwealth Writers’ Prize will be brought together at a special literary event.
* All historical monuments and other important buildings will be illuminated.
* Events showcasing Indian folk and classical dances and music will be held at venues like Nehru Park, CP central park, Red Fort, Old Fort, Firoze Shah Kotla, Ravindra Bhawan, Humayun’s tomb, Safdarjang tomb, India Gate and the Games village.
* A special film and theatre festival is also being planned, apart from festivals showcasing Indian arts and crafts.
* Programmes featuring fusion music and dance will also be held at venues like Nehru Park and CP central park.
October 14, Thursday
Closing ceremony — 5 pm to 8.30 pm
* Like the opening ceremony, this event too will commence with a dazzling display of aerial fireworks.
* Commonwealth nations’ flag parade.
* Classical dance and music performances have been planned. The ceremony will be attended by eminent personalities from the field of sports, films, culture and politics.
* There will be a small presentation on the next Game in 2014 in Glasgow.
* Short promotional video of the next Commonwealth Games will be shown.
* The Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag will be handed to Glasgow, the next host city.