Hellos… I am back with the a post on the trip. KC and I had planned to take a trip to Amritsar in December’11 but had to cancel. Why Amritsar??? 3 reasons:
• Visit does not have to be seasonal like for Himachal
• Direct Shatabdi train which reaches in 5 and 1/2 hours
• How can anyone not be tempted to visit the Golden Temple?
I booked the tickets one month in advance and yet could not get tickets for the weekend. We decided to leave on Sunday and return on Monday to beat the crowds. The Shatabdi leaves from Delhi at 7.20 am and arrives at Amritsar at 1.25 pm. It is a pleasant journey and we were seated in the 1st class. I had booked Hotel Lawrence and received a corporate discount. Lawrence road is new Amritsar which has branded shops. There is also a Mall road nearby. As soon as we left the station, autowalas gheraoed us (Indian style) and demanded 100 bucks for a 5 mins trip. I was pissed… I am not foreigner. How dare anyone try to rip me off in my own country? Please double check the rates with your hotel before boarding an auto.
The plan was to visit Wagah Border that day. After a nap and lunch at the hotel, we left for Wagah Border. It is a 45 mins journey and you have to reach before 4.40 pm. The gates close then and entry is not allowed. The ceremony begins at 5.15 and ends at 6.30 pm.
We were overwhelmed by the crowd waiting outside the gate. Worst part is men and women are seated separately. Very weird. The gates opened first for the women and we were let in through the jostling, shoving and pushing (just the way we Indians are so comfy with). The men were let in later. At around 5 pm, the patriotic music started playing. I hate old patriotic songs… I am more of a A R Rehman “Vande Mataram” kinds…. none of the Manoj Kumar stuff for me. But the crowds were enjoying the music. To kill time, the BSF guys invited the women to run in the center with the Indian flag.
The ceremony started at 5.15 pm… it was a complete blur for me since we were seated in the most inconvenient location. Discrimination against women here also. Is there any place where we are treated as equals in India? I guess not. The entire time was a bore and marked by craning my neck to watch, holding onto my space, asking women behind to stop kicking my ass, keeping away from the kids around. Not a fun time. I should have just watched it on youtube only.
For KC, it was different. I could see him and he was obviously enjoying himself (so annoyed). He had a good view and was cheering when asked to do so.
I was more interested in seeing the Pakistan side. They were more conveniently seated… even the women. All the women were in burqas… not one in jeans or anything. Its a scary thought. My ancestors came to India during Partition. If they would have stayed back my life would have turned out differently. Touch wood.
Anyway, I was happy to leave and return to the hotel. We had dahi puri and pani puri on Lawrence road. The best I have had till date.
After another short nap, we left for Golden Temple which is located in old Amritsar… 15 mins away. We thought we would beat the crowds at 9 pm… but no luck… or maybe the crowds are worse than this during the day. The temple looks beautiful in the night… with the gold gleaming under the lights. We had to stand in a queue for 1/2 hour and KC wanted to leave without entering. That would be a blasphemy… not that I am religious or anything. But you always enter a temple… nobody admires it from the outside and leaves without entering. I was determined to wait till midnight, if it came to that. While waiting, I realized we had not bought any prasad to get inside. I have always gone to temple with family (through pressure and scolding) and my mom always bought the prasad. Also, it has been years since I entered a temple. We entered a small room where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept (assumption… why else will people queue up outside). It was crowded and stuffy… with no place to pray or kneel or bow down. With some pushing and shoving I moved towards the door barely managing a slight bow and joined hands. No time or space for prayers. A far cry from a regular temple visit. We left without taking the prasad (I do not like the sweet stuff) or checking out rest of the gurudwara. Its just not my cup of tea.
If you ask anyone on the good places to eat, everyone says; “My Brothers Dhaba” near Golden Temple. We decided to have dinner there. It is a vegeterian restaurant and was extremely crowded at 10.30 pm. The waiters were too busy to take orders or serve food. We waited for 10 mins and when nobody took orders we left. It was a disappointment. We went to the dhaba next door where someone seated us and brought our food in 10 mins. For Punjabis, vegeterian food has only choley, paneer (many, many variety of gravies) and daal makhani. Thats it. Nothing more. We had choley and Mango lassi which was too flavoured. Another disappointment.
The next day we checked out and went to Jallianwala Bagh which is 5 mins away from Golden Temple. There is not much to see there- a park, some bullet holes, a gallery, the well where people jumped to save themselves. Reading about the incident again gave me a shitty feeling. The British tortured Indians like tyrants. Don’t they have any guilt? Are they not ashamed of themselves? I would be.
Shopping was the best part of the trip. Right outside JB, are shops which sell jutis. I bought 4 pairs (2 for me, 1 for mom, 1 for sis). The fellow selling it would not buy my tactic of walking away when he did not offer a good discount. He was pissed and would not let me leave. Finally, he gave it to me at 40% discount. KC was irritated when I told him that we will have to go to other shops to buy at a lower price. He would have paid a higher price rather than go to 2-3 shops and repeat the same process. Men!!! I had to send me out of the shop and then bargain since he was siding with the shopkeeper.
Amritsar has a huge cloth market for Indian wear. The suits are fab. I bought Phulkari dupattas and stole. I had purchased a red Phulkari dupatta online for 700 bucks. I saw dupattas in Amritsar at 750 bucks with better quality. Also, Pakistani suits are in huge demand there. Many women came asking for Pakistani suits.
Lunch was at Surjit Chicken- the most famous non veg place. It is located on Lawrence road. The tandoori chicken was soft and spicy (so spicy). The tawa chicken was amazing. Wished we had eaten dinner also here.
We left by 5 pm Shatabdi and arrived in Delhi at 11 pm. Seeing all the kids in the regular compartment made groan and wish for the first class. Sigh!!!
It was a good trip. Amritsar is just like Rajkot. It is not as major a town as Baroda, Surat or A’bad. People are filthy rich and love their bling. As a Sindhi, I am used to seeing bling at weddings but on regular days everyone dresses normally. Not in Punjab… no matter where, they wear blingy stuff. Also, there are too many cars on the road. I come from a small town. My parents own a car and 2 wheeler. When we go to the small markets, we take the 2 wheeler… never a car. Not so in Amritsar. No matter how small a lane, the big car is driven. Also, it is very safe. At 11 pm we could find an auto and there were people on the roads. It was weird to be in a place where men were not leching. In Delhi or Haryana, men lech… no matter what… no matter where. They generally stare. I have not faced teasing yet. Over time, I have gotten used to it. Whenever I leave my building I know men will stare… no matter what I wear or look like. Sometimes, when outside men- electricians, delivery boys etc travel in the lift with me, they will stare. I stare back which shames the men and they lower their eyes. This always works. There is no man who is shameless enough to out stare.
Anyway, Do visit this town.