Christmas Across Borders

Susan Jagannath
2 min readDec 27, 2023

Christmas is really about journeys, of all sorts. And for those of a literal bent, and a military brat background, it meant real journeys, but most of those were “postings”, when Dad was transferred from one end of India to another.

Except this one — a long time ago in 1971 — soon after the ’71 Bangladesh liberation. My Dad’s battalion had moved up to the Western border, to the Shakargarh sector where fierce tank battles had ensued, (and provided many an Army base with captured Patton tanks that were highly suitable for display, and playing war by hordes of Army brats).

Vijay Diwas occurred conveniently at the end of school, and I had barely arrived home in Babina, Jhansi, and Mum decided that we should pile into our car and drive up to meet Dad at the border. There might be wars, and deployments, trains were full, but the Burgess family was going to be together at Christmas.

In those days, the roads were not so good, and I can remember a four day journey from Jhansi. We took our army driver along, wearing his uniform to deter any bandits as we were driving through the Gwalior ravine, peak dacoit areas. The roads were pretty empty, so soon after the war, and for long stretches we were the only vehicle in sight. We were making good progress across Uttar Pradesh, stopping with relatives, or at Army accommodation, until we entered the Punjab.

To be flagged down at every village, at the first one, we were a bit scared of the wild looking village Sardarjis — only to realise that they were determined to feed and water us. As soon as they knew the purpose of our journey, we were treated like royalty, and not a Dhaba would take money for our meals. And at every gurudwara we were almost force fed lassi. Now we love lassi, but it was winter, so it was pretty cold as it was, and there’s only that much lassi one can drink!

Eventually we made it to Pathankot on Christmas Eve. And the next day being a holiday, we drove up to cross the international border, ( my first “foreign” visit), and gawk at the churned up sugarcane fields and debris of the enormous tank battle in the Shakargarh sector. “Shakargarh” means “Sugarfort”, named no doubt for the huge sugarcane growing area in the Punjab.

Originally published at https://susanjagannath.com on December 27, 2023.

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Susan Jagannath

I escaped corporate to travel, have adventures, write bestsellers, and help others to publish. https://www.facebook.com/groups/writeyourbusinessbestse