"Would you like tea?" asked the towering Border Security Force officer, relaxing in a white t-shirt and shorts in a plastic chair in the little shade available at Wagah.
A foreign traveller gratefully accepted the offer and sat down with him, interrupting his journey on foot towards the equally towering Pakistani Rangers 150 metres away in another patch of shade.
The Wagah crossing, in the flat, green Punjab countryside, is as fabled as Checkpoint Charlie was in Berlin and the Panmunjom armistice line between North and South Korea.
Each day as the sun goes down, the paramilitary guards on either side come nose-to-nose, bristling with threats, as noisy, partisan crowds cheer them on in a flag-lowering ceremony at which they try to outdo each other in slamming shut their respective gates.
The hostile, goose-stepping histrionics, repeated at dawn when the flags are raised, have taken on a particular resonance in the light of the increased tensions between India and Pakistan.
For the rest of the time, however, the Wagah crossing is a place of unremitting tedium rather than a reflection of the tensions.
On Saturday, only eight people made the one-km journey westwards on foot from the first Indian checkpoint at Wagah to the last Pakistani checkpoint.
One of them was this traveller, a British journalist, another was a Turk and the rest were a Pakistani diplomat, his wife and their four children, according to the dog-eared registration book that a BSF sergeant in crisp khaki filled in by hand.
On the other side, a Pakistani Ranger in a grey-blue salwar kameez flicked through his book to check the number who had gone east. "Five," he replied.
Three years ago, tens of thousands converged on either side of the Wagah border to watch Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee cross by bus on a peace mission to meet his then Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
But ever since the December 13 attack on Parliament, no one has crossed except for a few foreigners and diplomats of the two countries.
The buses that would bring Indians or Pakistanis across Wagah for reunions of families separated by partition in 1947 have stopped. So have the trains that passed through Wagah village.
Nowadays, the moneychangers, porters, border guards and customs and immigration officials on both sides have only each other and the infrequent traveller for company.
For the porters, it means the equivalent of a much-needed dollar or two from a perspiring foreigner, relieved there is someone to carry his suitcase.
A porter, dressed in a blue tunic, bears it on his head right up to the border, marked by a line of white paint on the tarmac, and transfers it to the head of another waiting porter, identified as a Pakistani by his green tunic.
The journey across Wagah begins at a cavernous and almost empty Indian immigrations and customs hall, where officers check a traveller's passport and luggage.
The customs men, at least according to the sign listing items barred from export, are on the lookout not only for weapons and drugs but also for human skeletons, peacock tail feathers and, given that cows are sacred to Hindus, beef.
On the Pakistani side, a moneychanger in the immigration office asks for euro coins as a souvenir. He has seen the notes, but not the coins, since they were introduced in January.
In the dingy customs hall, a man tells the traveller to "sit down and relax". He offers a cold drink, politely declined, then inquires whether the traveller has beer or whisky, prohibited goods in Pakistan.
Satisfied the traveller does not, even without opening his suitcase, the man then requests a little money because times are hard. He offers some news. It proves that however remote it may be, Wagah is not cut off from matters of world importance.
South Korea, the man reveals, has just beaten Spain on penalties in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
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