21st March-22nd March
From Delhi, among the ‘overnight journey’ places is Amritsar (distance 447 km). And, if you wish to get a glimpse of ‘not so old’ history, ‘not so old’ religion, and our ‘always fresh’ patriotism, all in one bundle, I am telling you guys go there. You will thank me later.
How we made this plan is an interesting episode. On the day of Holi, only Rachna and me were in our hostel. As always, we discussed all our faraway fantasies. Then suddenly we made a list of the places we wished to visit. We checked the distance of the cities and our chances of going there. The next day Rachna booked the reservation (fastest girl) J . Thanks to the ladies quota offered by IRCTC. It always helps at the eleventh hour. I never plan my journeys and frankly speaking totally depend on this. Many of my near and dear ones have warned me thousands of times not to take this quota for granted and suggested me to try to plan ahead. But till today it has never ditched me J . Anyways… we got to and fro reservation in Golden Temple Express for the five of us -Rachna, Jancy, her mother, her aunty, and me.
Departure time of Golden Temple Express is 7 pm from Nijamuddin railway station and it reaches Amritsar at 7 am. And from Amritsar it starts at 9:30 pm at night. We started with our bags and home-made food (thanks to Jancy J). As this was March end, and just a day before it had rained, the weather was very pleasant. This added to our enthusiasm. This journey was an escape for me from Delhi too. I am always a little tensed during the starting hours of any of my secretive missions. But soon we started chatting, and playing antaksari, and I forgot all the terrorists of my life:D We had a delicious dinner of poori and sabji around 9:30 pm. Soon after the dinner, I went up to my berth, the uppermost. From there I saw Jancy, her mother and aunty praying their night ritual. Christians are very deeply devoted to their religion and have strong believes and that too without any external force. This has always fascinated me. Soon after that I fell asleep.
I slept like kumbhkaran. This always happens with me in trains as before every journey I always have to finish so many things at the last hour that makes me exhausted. Once, when I was going to my hometown haldwani I fell asleep soon after the train started at 10:40 p.m. and got up around 7 am only to find myself alone in the compartment. To my surprise, Haldwani had already been crossed. Anyways that was another story. Here I was free to sleep. These nice people wake me up just 5-10 minutes before our destination. I thanked my lucky stars for my friends. The train was late. We got down at Amritsar at around 8:30 a.m.
By 9a.m., we were on the premises of the Golden Temple. We were asked to deposit our bags, remove our shoes and get our heads covered to show respect to the Almighty. We went towards the main entrance. After climbing some stairs, we got the first glimpse of the grand temple which was shining beautifully. “Hey, here it is!” we shouted. It was a thousand times more beautiful than our expectations. We were all amazed with our eyes wide open. We took so many photographs of the first site. Temple surrounded by large Sarovar, known as the AmritSar (Lake of Holy Water). To reach the temple one has to take almost half a round of the talab.
We watched lots of fishes lurking in search of food. They were bright red, white, and blue with patches.
We saw people praying by the side of the Pavitra Talaab. We bought Prasad. The famous halua made with desi ghee. It was tempting. We thought that since we were very much in time we were not going to find crowd there. We reached the main entrance of the temple. To our surprise thousands of people were already in line, waiting for their turn. They were shouting “Jo bole so nihaal sat sree akaal”. Line was moving slow but was satisfactorily obedient. It took us some 2 hours to reach the inside. Thank god! the sun was friendly with us.
We entered the temple. The first sight of the Swarn Mandir is still alive in my eyes. Just beneath the grand chandelier, the beautifully decorated holi pustak the “Guru Granth Sahib” was kept. Around 20 people were reciting the guru-wani. The sound of guruwani made the ambience serene. We went upstairs,took some photos secretly. Did a parikrama and came back. Outside the temple area there are a number of shops. We bought amritsary badi- papd , some kadas and kurtas. My mausi told me later that the badis were very delicious.
It was 12 in the afternoon, and we were informed that the famous Jalianwalabagh is very near. We crossed the road and started for it. We ate delicious paranthas with layers of butter, just outside the jaliawala Bagh which is around 200 metres from the temple. The entrance of Jaliawala Bagh did not provide any clue for what lies inside. We asked a watchman if this is the Jalianwala Bagh. He said yes. We entered. The passage is very narrow and it is the only entrance. That’s why on that fatal day(April 13th, 1919) those who were inside could not flee. Here the history is kept safe and alive. The sign of bullets on the wall has been marked and kept as such. We peeped inside through the window on the wall surrounding the Shahidi kuan. A martyr’s memorial was also there in the Bagh. And the entire Bagh was surrounded by a high wall and by some old houses. It was more like a park than bagh.
We were there till 2:30pm. Then we moved out, hired an auto for Model town temple and Wagha border. It is some 20 kms from the main city. The Model town tample has all the gods and goddess of India. It even has a Vaishnaw devi surang. Rachna and I enjoyed all the tunnels. It hardly took an hour. We then started our journey towards the Wagha border. The popular show at the border starts at 6 pm. On the way to the border, our auto-driver showed us the famous khalsa college, and India gate that is still half built. Near the border, he pointed towards the Pakistan’s railway station. We were all thrilled. We got down at around 4 pm with still a lot of time in our hands. We took noodles in one of the many restaurants. We left our bags in this restaurant and bought national flag and tricolor caps. To our surprise, we were informed that one can exchange Pakistani currency here.
A huge crowd was waiting there outside the main gate, which is opened just 10 min before the ceremony. It had always been my dream since childhood to watch this. I had learnt about this ceremony first time from a series broadcasted in DD named Surabhi. It was my favourite programme those days. We all were very excited and thinking about our strategies to enter and grab seats. We decided to run at the fastest possible speed as soon as we enter. The place where the ceremony takes place is around 1 km from the main gate. I had been unwell for some days, and was still unable to run fast. But still I was determined.
When the gate opened, we all ran and got the seats in the first row. We were overwhelmed by our initial success. From here, we could see the Pakistani side, their flag and their population. Patriotic songs were being played from both the sides. Then, a session of narebaji took place. We yelled Bharat Mata ki jai, jai hind and, jai Bharat. Suddenly we got filled with the spirit of patriotism. It was unbelievable to see that all the barriers were being crossed by the people as the place is overpopulated. The situation was a bit chaotic. And all the people suddenly rose to their feet to watch the ceremony and nobody cared to listen to the announcer who requested everyone to sit down.
The army men tried hard to bring the situation under control, but it was all futile. We could hardly see the happenings. With the help of lens, we could see an army man taking the flag down and rolling it. He, then, ran with the flag and kept it inside a room of border security forces.
We rushed outside. Our auto driver was waiting for us. It took us almost an hour to get outside the area as there was no place to move even for as small a vehicle as an auto. It was around 7:30pm. Temperature also fell down and we had to put our jackets on. Our return journey started at 9:30pm.