What was planned for a two-day get-away eventually ended up as a memorable trip good enough to enrich ourselves with the rich Punjabi culture. The Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi is just the ideal mode of reaching Amritsar, if you wish to be pampered all along the 7 hour-long journey.
The Golden Temple fully lit-up during Diwali is a mesmerizing sight to behold. However we didn’t attempt to get into the inner sanctorum seeing the long queue.
The authorities have indeed done a great job in doing up the entire approach road leading to the Golden temple. New constructions are being built-up with Artwork, Murals, Sculptures, New facades, benches etc giving it the look of a Mall ( like a hill-station mall and not the supermarket one) which I realized is very important to have in a tourist spot.
We lazed up next morning and after a sumptuous breakfast set out for our second attempt to get into the inner sanctorum. While it was comparatively less crowded, however sensed it would still be a two-hour queuing up and quickly gave up the idea. The morning sight of the Golden Temple was very refreshing. Cleanliness is next to Godliness is indeed a reality both figuratively and literally in the Golden Temple so much so that you start discovering your spiritual self.
After taking a holy dip of Spirituality we thought of immersing ourselves in history and that too into one of the most painful chapters of India’s Freedom Movement – The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The place is just next to the Golden Temple. As we entered thru’ a narrow lane into the main ground, we stumbled upon a Stone engraving which read “ People Were Fired At From Here” . The paved lane led us towards the Well and then the Wall. The Martyr’s Well” from where 120 dead bodies were recovered and the Wall at the other end of the compound riddled with bullet marks seem weeping even today as meek silent spectators and tell a thousand stories of the barbaric act committed on unarmed crowd gathered to attend a meeting at the ground on that dreadful evening on the day of Baisakhi of 1919. As we walked passed the compound filled with anger against General Dyer and grief for our countrymen, into the Art Gallery, our eyes got stuck at the portrait of a firebrand youth named Udham Singh who eventually avenged the massacre by shooting Lt. Governor Dawyer at Caxton Hall, London on 1940. We felt a sense of retribution as justice meted out. Our head held high in pride as we met the portrait of our Rabi Thakur (Rabindranath Tagore) and his letter to the British Viceoy renounced the knighthood as a mark of protest.
I have been to this place some 16 years back but felt the goose bumps this time and it lingered on for sometime.
We were reminded by our Cab driver to hurry up for the Wagah border show as it takes a good 1 hr to reach there. As we were reaching the Wagah border, the Delhi-Lahore bus crossed us reminding us that there is still a ray of hope as far as the social/ business connect between the two countries are concerned.
We stopped at a Dhaba 1 Km before the border and very aptly named as ‘Sarhad’. What struck us really hard was a slogan “India Pakistan Friendship Zindabad” written on a small truck parked at the entrance of the Dhaba. On the left we saw a wall Mural depicting the Story of Partition of India. From the notice board we understood this is Asia’s Biggest Wall Mural in Cement Relief. There are five panels of the Mural, the first two depicts the story of pre-partition bonhomie to post-partition agony. The third and fourth panel depicts the daily Retreat ceremony of the Wagah border. However I was fascinated with the fifth Mural. It depicts a utopian dream of seeing one day the gates at Wagah border open for free travel of both countries and enjoy a heart meal at Sarhad restaurant. Can there be a better advertisement. Almost in a trance we ordered Lahori thali. It had Mutton Biriyani, Mutton curry, chicken tikka , Dal Makhani and Dahi. We ate to our hearts content and the Biriyani was by far the best we had after shifting from Kolkata to Delhi.
We then headed towards the Attari – Wagah border. The sight of BSF jawans filled my heart with deep respect reminding me of our PM’s message. We wished them Happy Diwali along the way. Thanks to my colleague Naveen, we had VIP passes and could wade our way through to the pavilion easily and occupy the vantage points. Couldn’t imagine the Pakistan border was almost at arm’s length. If one has to feel the patriotic fervor this has to be the place . Patriotic songs played on the mike and girls in colorful dresses danced merrily to them, flags flying high. On the Sarhad paar, the atmosphere was much less happy though they were playing patriotic songs too. While tourists and common people filled up the stadium this side, got the feeling on the other side the crowd comprised mostly of delegates, officers and their families and locals too. The behavior of Women in particular was the palpable difference and much freer this side. BSF is expanding the seating capacity; the new stadium is being constructed and would eventually take the shape and size of a cricket stadium. Though this is a daily affair, the mood in the Indian army was cautious and calibrated given the current political situation. And then it was time for the show to begin. The parade was a display of pure passion, pride, valor and bravery by the Indian Army. The crowd backed up with rapturous applause on each military maneuver. The show continued for 1 hour culminating to the customary lowering of flags and blowing of bugles at both sides with the sun setting at the backdrop. After the event, people clicked photographs with our real life heroes before dispersing.
By the time, we reached Hotel, it was 7.30 pm and we were reflecting the days event, when we got our third calling. At 9.00 pm we set out to fulfill our last agenda. The queue was much smaller this time and we could have the darshan of the inner sanctorum or the Akal Takt at the Golden Temple. We were offered prasad in the form of sweets and halwas and they were truly delicious.
Next day we boarded the Amritsar-Delhi Shatabdi early in the morning at 5am, myriads of emotions and feelings collected in this trip crowded our minds all along the journey, particularly the prophetic ray of hope depicted on the 5th Mural at the Sarhad resteuarant.