Published: January 14th 2010January 9th 2010
We are now on the Indian/Pakistan border. Our friends' Scott and Bianca introduced us to couch surfing and while in Amritsar with stayed at Mr Singh‘s farmhouse. Mr Singh’s family was originally from what is now Pakistan, but they were forced to leave after the borders were re-drawn following Indian independence. His family was compensated with this fabulous fort which he has restored.
We have had a surreal time here. On our first night we were invited to join a group of men from Amritsar who had come to the farmhouse for dinner. They spoke a little English but most of the time we had very little idea what was going on. The second day we met Azad Sidhu. He lived in this area until he was 25 before immigrating to Canada. He had come back to India to attend family weddings. He invited us to join him for the day and took us to a Dastar Bandhi (Turban ceremony). Needless to day it was an interesting afternoon. There were about 300-400 people there and our presence sparked a lot of attention! All afternoon waiters came around the tables with chicken, fish, coffee and bottles of scotch (a favourite Punjab
Dastar Bandhi (Turban ceremony)
One of the many family photos we were in that day.
drink!). We thought that this was lunch but no, that was just an appetiser and lunch was actually served inside - plenty of delicious curries and chapattis. We were dragged up on stage to dance - everyone with their hands up while money is tossed into the air! As the afternoon wore on, the shotguns and revolvers came out and were fired with live bullets (very unsafely!) into the air. So much was going on. People kindly invited us to their homes the following day and the parents sent their children over to us to practice their English. Azad then took us to the India-Pakistan border ceremony.
Every day an elaborate ceremony is held at the border, with Indians on one side, cheering and chanting and the Pakistanis on the other, doing the same thing. The soldiers on each side march up and down, high kick and yell for about 20 minutes before the flags are lowered and the gates slammed shut. We were lucky to get VIP treatment and sat right at the front while the rest of the crowd watched on from a distance. There were maybe a couple of thousand people on each side showing their
loyalty to their respective countries.
The next day we headed to the amazing Golden Temple, a very spiritual place for Sikhs. The temple itself is made of 750kg of gold and is absolutely amazing. The Gurus’ Bridge leads to the temple, this stands in the middle of the sacred pool, Amrit Sarovar. Four priests inside the temple continually chant in Gurmukhi from the Sikh Holy book, and this is broadcast around the complex. Each day the community kitchen at the temple serves over 40,000 people for free. We enjoyed our lunch there, joining 1500 other people in the one sitting. The food was simple chapati, dhal and kheer. The free kitchen runs 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Azad took us around his village, Sangerkot. Word quickly spread that there were some white faces in the area and the villagers came out to greet us while the local children followed us around the village. We then had dinner at Azad’s friend’s house. His wife spent all day preparing the food - about 4 different curries, chicken and sweets. It was an incredible experience to be invited into someone’s home. We were told that next time
we are in India, we are to stay with them and not at a hotel. Late in the evening, the guns came out again and fired into the air - of course Matt and I had to have a go, firing both a shotgun and a revolver! Something I had never done before!
It was so cold the following day that we decided to go to the movies. We saw 3 Idiots in Hindi but we understood basically what was going on. On our last morning, the lady who has worked for Mr Singh’s family for the last 30 years, took us to her village, Raje Wala. Every house we went to we were treated to chai, I received bangles and flowers in my hair and Matt was made to try on a turban. It was a fabulous morning. At first the kids were a little wary of us but before long there were 20 or so everywhere we went, shaking our hands and saying hello.
There are more photos below