I arrived at the place a couple of hours before the vening flag down ceremony but was too late to be able to get a comfortable seat in the crowd of a few thousands; the place was already packed. Luckily, a BSF ranger (who incidentally was not allowing the crowds in any more) looked at my tripod and camera, thought I was a journalist and led me to the VIP section which is as close to the gates as one can get.
For a very long time preceding the ceremony, there is nationalist music blaring on the tannoys, crowds screaming in unison: LA ilAha ill-Allah on the Pakistani side and vandE mAtaram, bhArat mAtA ki jai on the Indian side. On either side of the border gates, kids run up and down the road with their respective national flags while young men climb onto the top-most walls and wave flags high in the air. One gentleman was commenting that while women on 'our' side are allowed to dance and sit anywhere, 'they' don't allow that, "see how the men and the women there are grouped separately".
The half hour of the retreat ceremony is full of action with the Indian BSF rangers in their red turbans and khakhis, and the Pakistani rangers in black salwaar-kameez marching heavily down the road, glaring into each others eyes, competing on who can kick higher into the air and possibly also on who has the best kept moustache. The rangers on either side of the gates know that they are entertaining their home crowd and spare no effort to do their best.
The retreat ceremony is so popular that it is difficult to allow in all the people that come in to watch. So a clone of the ceremony has been setup at the Hussainiwala border. However, Hussainiwala is popular not because of the flag retreat, much less because the 1971 war memorial still has a lot of marks of artillery firing, but because of Bhagat Singh's memorial. The memorial moves one to tears.
Few more pictures from the Hussainiwala memorials: