Amritsar (wiki ref) – first day.
What a day! Firstly a trip to the Golden Temple (wiki ref) area of the Town. Parking in a closed parking garage, which looked liked forty cars packed into twenty spaces – but it worked – all cars constantly on the move from aisle to stall.
The area leading to the Golden Temple is a pedestrian mall lined with boutique stores, selling the usual wares, shirts, swords, and anything you can think of; all at reasonable prices. The mall had been created a few years earlier by bulldozing the existing houses and laneways and expanding the walking space. An impressive way of doing things as the displaced people were all promised space in the new area, and that now means controlled rents. Beggars and peddlers were few in number and I did see a couple arrested and hauled off by the straps of the bags they carried. The Police didn’t show them much mercy but it does tend to keep the ‘nuisances’ under control.
Before one gets to the Temple precincts the memorial to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (wiki ref) is on the left and merits a visit. Walking past the statue of Udam Singh – the man who assassinated Micheal O’Dwyer (wiki ref)and through a small lane one enters a green space park where the memorial is placed. Leaving the way we came in we carried onto the Golden Temple.
The first thing to do is to remove your shoes and we all placed our shoes in the bag that Sultan (our guide) had obtained. This gets exchanged for a token and retrieved later. only one gate is used to enter the inner sanctum. This area contains the Temple, the food-hall the huge lake and bathing areas.
As we walked around one notices the people who are sitting in groups, in the shade under the verandah. Some of these people are just resting but others are there to discuss and pray.
We moved into the food-hall area, we were not going to eat but up to 100,000 do. They are served donated food by volunteers who prepare and serve. The eating is performed in shifts – the whole room is filled, sit down, eat and then leave. A ten minute cleanup then the whole cycle starts again. Twenty four hours a day! We stayed about two hours and in that time there was always something to see. A lunch at a westernised restaurant and then drive on to the next event of the day.
The next event was watch the Wagah Border closing ceremony (wiki ref). Leaving early for the thirty-five km drive enabled us to get good seats and instructed by Sultan we knew exactly what to do to get them – we did. We arrived in the seats at 1545 hrs for a 1730 hrs start. But that time passed very quickly as it became obvious that there are really two shows at this place. The first show is the ramping up of Nationalistic passions and then the closing. This was achieved by firstly playing songs at a high decibel rate, these songs are popular ‘bollywood’ type rhythmic songs and then the audience participation by, mostly middle aged women who dance to the same ‘bollywood’ songs. After that Nationalism rears up, in the form of some of the same women running in a circle holding the Indian flag high. All the while the performers and the crowd are being exhorted to yell chants – Long Live India (in Hindi of course) and “Hindustan”. This cheerleader was the Star of the first show. dressed in BSF (Border Security Forces) uniform he was certainly the most aggressive and musical I have ever seen. He did his job, the crowd whipped up then the second phase kicks in.
In 1959, in a sign of friendship between India and Pakistan, erstwhile enemies who have fought many wars and skirmishes along their Western Borders, Pakistan and India agreed to hold a Border ceremony to seal the friendship. But in doing so the two Army Detachments, who use the same drill and have different uniforms face each other and demonstrate their ferocity toward each other without actually coming to blows. So exaggerated drill movement and high kicks feature constantly – see the video, each side trying the better the other. The final movement is the Chief Warrant Officer in a solo effort high kicks, stamps his boots and then shakes his fists and bares his muscles. Content that he has bested the other side the final insult is a twirling of his mustache and preening his hat.
Amritsar day 2:
A day spent at the Markets. Markets here are of three styles – roadside bedlam, controlled manufacturing/wholesale places and the large stores located on the same streets or places. We only had the driver today, as we didn’t need to be guided anywhere so he asked where we wanted to go and he would try to accommodate. However on the way to the first place he received a phone call and quickly took us to a Cooperative full of local crafts and highend objects, carpets, stones, objects – Buddhas, elephants and some very interesting furniture. Recognising the place for what it was – not what we wanted and a perfect example of the ‘no-sales-pitch sell” we didn’t stay long. In the end we went back to the Golden Temple area and really explored it. The remnants of the old lanes and stores are still there so it was easy to imagine how it used to look – no wonder the authorities had to demolish everything just to accommodate the crowds.
On to a similar place we again didn’t stay too long and the ladies hadn’t really seen anything they wanted to buy, the last place on the list was a computer store to buy a replacement mouse for me. The wireless dongle that goes with the mouse and stays connected to computer had disappeared in its constant packing and unpacking for use and the necessary airport screenings. Anyway the place he picked out had two, I picked the smaller one and asked the price “400 rupees” less half the cost at Staples. I grabbed it.
On thing I should mention is that although all of the hotels we have been to advertise ‘free wifi’ it wasn’t free in one and the efficiency of it takes some getting used to. Usually sign-in problems emerge and in one hotel my Surface laptop would get kicked off the network if I tried toupload/download pictures. This morning is another frustrating experience. Last night we had three devices connected, the limit is usually four, this morning I tried to sign in with the laptop only to be told logout of the other devices, I did and still cannot get in on the laptop. Just tried it again and it now lets me in. Minor problems I know but time consuming to fix.
But back to the shopping – that’s it none left.
Onto Kathmandu tomorrow – an early flight early start.