Amristar, Golden Temple, Border closing India and Pakistan


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Asia » India » Punjab » Amritsar
March 28th 2010
Published: July 30th 2010
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28/3/10: We arrived in Amritsar at 6:00am and caught a cycle rickshaw to town 3km away. It only cost us 20rs and we thought that was the bargain of the century. We had breakfast and opted to find accommodation together. This backfired big time as we almost spent an hour walking around with our packs on trying to find accommodation for 350rs/night. We found one that was quiet run down and dirty called the Sharma Hotel and decided to keep looking. We ended up come back as there was nothing under 500rs/night and we were tired. We were that exhausted from the train that we ended up having a sleep for a few hours only to emerge from out room around 2:00pm. We thought we had better do something so we went to see the Golden Temple only 100m away. The town was crazily crowded, it was so crowded that you couldn’t even walk and had to weave your way through. We were hungry and were tipped a good place to eat. The restaurant was just as busy and they took forever to serve us. We ordered, while we waited a mother tried to hurry her five year old out the front entry door, it was only clear why she did this when the child vomited all over the front entry floor. All the other family members sat and watched as the boy puked the rest of the contents in the gutter outside. The family members just sat back down and the waiters did nothing about the puke. People unsuspectingly entered the restaurant walking the vomit through the rest of the floor. It was not nice to sit and eat while a wet vomit footprint slowly dried right in front of us while we ate. We finished out meals quick and vowed never to return. We tried to find out about the temple but the tourist info was closed. We hung around the entrance until we finally met some westerners, hoping they might know what to do. Within 15min of talking we had a crowd of 8 people, all deciding to share a taxi to see the closing ceremony between the border of Pakistan and India. The Golden Temple would have to wait another day as we negotiated a price for a private car finally agreeing on 80rs/ person. We walked to the car all getting in including three other Indians. There was no room to sit as the car was full with not enough room for us, I lost my temper because we paid for the car privately, once again they f%$#d us over by adding more people to the car that already had been paid for. The poor driver got a mouthful from me but it wasn't his fault, I later apologised to him excepting defeat at the hands of his organisers. We somehow all managed to fit 12 people in a car that should only take 8. It took 10min just to move 200m out of the main part of town as the traffic was incredible. We drove the 45min journey, got out and ended up in another crush of people waiting to gain entry to the stands some 200m away. Security was strict, not even cigarettes were allowed. Security took ages, and the body heat ain the crush sucked out all the oxygen in the air. We were so squashed that when we were waved through the next check point we had to shuffle our feet because we couldn't take a full step forward. If one of us had fallen we all would have tumbled like dominos being pinned and not being able to get up. Jacinta lost one of her thongs when someone behind her took too big of a step from behind. There was nothing I could do as she slowly fell behind trying to recover her thong. I had thoughts weather I would ever see her ever again as the crowds bottle necked, packing us even tighter. We were just lucky that crowd control stopped the next group from advancing allowing Jacinta some clear space to find her thongs. I was worried about her the few minutes we were separated as she just cannot handle crowds, feeling claustrophobic. We crossed paths with another westerner that mentioned a special area for tourist, we crossed through more security making this the 5th time, we were seated a couple of meters back from the road but with no height advantage making it hard to see anything. I managed to take most of the video with my arms fully extended above my head. The show started and the whole crowed got excited. They played some real boppy Indian music allowing any females to dance in the street. Any guy that tried to dance was directed to sit down with one point of a big stick held by a 7ft Indian guard. The air was thick with patriotism as they worked the crowd on both sides of the border. As we travelled it was clear to us that the Indians disliked the Pakistanis, this was mainly due to the threat of terrorism. The crowd repeatedly chanted something in Hindi and we really weren’t really sure what it all meant. Then finally a guard sung one note over the microphone holding it for close to a minute before taking another huge breath and repeating the same note, this happened throughout the ceremony. After his 5th breathe the guards rigidly marched as quickly as they could to the border gates reefing them open. The rest of the ceremony took place out of our view, all I could make out was allot of stomping of the 7ft high guards feet and death stares between the opposing guards. We got the gist but ended up buying a DVD for 50rs explaining the whole thing. Everything finished when slamming the two gates on the Indian side and the sliding shut on the Pakistan gates were locked. It was then time to try an escape route out of the crowd before finally getting back to our old Landrover. Back in Amritsar, our group headed into the Golden temple. We had to leave all bags and shoes outside. We washed our feet in a shallow flowing pool and walked into the temple grounds. The Golden Temple was unbelievably beautiful. It is a Seikh temple that is lined with 3.5tonne of gold making the reflection on the night waters something to remember for the rest of your life. We took photos until a Seikh guy told me I had to take my hat off and wear a bandana instead. They were free out front, but I thought as long as I had my head was covered it was fine. He showed me to the bandanas telling me about the temple until finally returning back to the others. He offered to walk us around the temple explaining everything as he went. He said it was free and it was his pleasure to tell us about his religion. We all had out guard up, no one wanted him to explain just encase it was all a big scam to pay him money. Most temples in India run this way so we were reluctant to even speak to him. Even so, he was happy just to talk while standing in one place. After a few minutes we started to pay more attention to the history, even after 45min later we were still cautious about having to pay him, it was only when we had walked away that we realised that he was doing this for educational purposes and not money. It was almost 10:00pm and we were starving, we headed over to the kitchen area where they feed anyone that wants to be fed, for free. We walked up the stairs and were stopped by another Seikh man that wanted to teach us about more religion. We told him about our teachings from the other Seikh man and how interesting the wars, torture and sacrifice the Seikhs had gone through. We were so hungry but he insisted we had to watch the book carrying ritual from the temple to the throne room. We walked in the direction that he told us and waited, within a minute he came over and sat us down for a front row seat to the chariot that carry’s the book. After the chariot he then walked us around another section so we could get photos of the chariot, he pushed other people aside just so we could get poll position. Like clockwork he walked us to each vantage point until the book was finally laid to rest. I was so busy watching other things that I actually missed them carrying the book up stairs. The same thing happens in reverse at 3:00am but we wouldn’t be up for that. With the ceremony over, he then showed us where they read copies of the books in the reading rooms. By the time we actually ate it was around 12:00 midnight, we were so hungry but we were happy to have had the experience to see everything.

29/3/10: The next morning was a late start but we were excited to go back to the Golden Temple so we could see the works behind the kitchen that feeds over 100+ thousand people every day. The first thing we noticed is the huge amount of noise that comes from the dishwashing section. All the plates are stainless steel and are washed six times each so with stainless clanging onto stainless x thousands of dishes = allot of noise. We wondered around until an Indian lady called Jacinta over to help peel and cut ginger. I sat down to help and tried to communicate as much as we could. Our Hindi was none existent so we did our best; we came at the end of the ginger so we headed to the garlic section. Everyone was so welcoming and always found space for us to help. Everyone scurried to find us a knife, we started to peel, it didn’t take long for the word to get around that we were Australians and once were settled in an Indian man came over and wanted to make it clear he wasn't happy about the recent Indian murders in Australia. He started to insult us and Australia in general, saying that we are welcomed to India but we don't hurt Australians like the Indians that have been hurt or killed in Australia three months ago. It turned out that it was mostly other Australian Indians killing family members, hurting themselves or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. This didn’t matter, because the media in India is one sided they portraying Australians as Indian haters making a story out of anything that involved Indians being hurt in Australia. To some of the uneducated Indians they took offence to us and the Australian people. If we tried to explain what actually happened they do as most Indians do and walk away not wanting to her what you have to say. This is exactly what this guy did after Jacinta got stuck into him as she was totally insulted, we were both pissed off, out of all places he did this in the most religious and most holy place in the world. The Golden Temple represents all religions and the Seikh people believe that there is only one of the same God for all religions. This is why anyone can come to pray including Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus etc, that all men are equal weather you are poor or rich, this is why anyone can help and eat for free. Jacinta was so upset she cried as we walked out, I had to contain myself as I wanted to throttle the guy, I made sure Jacinta was alright and then went back to give this guy a gob full. I didn’t have to, all the Indian woman that we were sitting around us surrounded the man and shouted at him. I only wish I could have understood Hindi at that time as they didn't hold back. Another Seikh guy came over putting a hand on my shoulder and told us to follow him; we followed him out the back kitchen area to the main chapatti maker that makes 6000/hour. He then showed us to the main cooking kitchen showing us huge massive steel caldrons filled with stewing Dahl, lentils, rice, curries and sweet pudding. The pots were so big they would easily hold more than a 1000+ litres of food; we even got a chance to stir the massive spoons that are like shovels. I think the Seikh guy was so embarrassed by what had happened that he showed us around the renovation of the old Seikh temple and the archaeological diggings of an escape passage that went under the ground 15m, they were still digging. He then left us with an older boy that wanted us to follow him. We didn’t know what he wanted as we both couldn’t speak each other’s language, we headed outside the temple walking bear footed down the road as our shoes were still in the locker. Jacinta was freaking out because she didn’t want to stand on anything nasty ie; spit, shit, piss, glass etc.. We ended up walking 300m until finally turning up at Jallianwalla Bagh where the British army open fired on innocent peaceful protestors without warning under the orders of Edward harry Dyer without any authority from above. This is depicted in the movie Gandi. You could still see the 60+ bullets holes in the different brick walls around the courtyard were over 379 protestors were killed and 1200 were injured. We finished taking some photos before walking back to the temple for a much needed foot wash in the temple foot bath. We weren't going to let anyone stand in our way to volunteer or as they call it in India (Saver), so we sat back down to help shell peas, within seconds we had a dozen Indian woman all sitting around us wanting to know where we were from and why we didn’t have children yet. This was a common question for us right throughout India, especially amongst the older generation. Jacinta ended up meeting a nice lady called Vinny. She was volunteering (Saver) as well and they talked for an hour. We later met her husband Manpureet who is also Siekh. They lived 250km north in the Punjab region and had only been married for one year. As with most marriages in India they are arranged and most ceremonies last from six months to a year. They were keen to catch up with us again so we agreed to meet them back at the temple at 9:00am the next day so we could chat. We finished the afternoon off with another fabulous free meal from Golden Temple, it felt great to eat the food that you took part in making. I remember looking around the hall of some 500+ people and wondered who were eating the very veggies we had cut up. Back to the hotel for an early night.

30/3/10: We got up early as it was out last day in Amritsar. We were eager to catch up with Jacinta’s new friend and to volunteer/ saver in the Golden Temple again. We waited at the agreed place finding us without any trouble. We seemed to be the only westerners around at the time so we stood out from the crowd. We sat down in the middle of a courtyard and started to talk, within minutes we had a crowd of people gathered around us interested in our conversation. The large gathering of people drew in more people until there must have been over 30 people all standing around. With over 1billion people in India this is pretty common as there is not much privacy at all. We took random photos of people who wanted them taken. We spoke to the married couple for over 3-4 hours, they were so nice that they even bought a gift for us to both wear around our necks. The ambulant is meant to protect us from evil and if you get scared. We were meant to wear it at all time except when we wash. It was a very generous gift and we were upset that we had nothing to give back. They even went as far as saying that if we couldn’t come back to the Golden Temple to prey they would come back to prey for us. Even though we are not the praying type it was an incredibly nice gesture. We finished off our conversation back at their free Golden temple room saying goodbyes and wondering when we might see them again. Our train left for Delhi at 4:00pm so we grabbed our packs and got a cycle rickshaw to the station only costing 20rs, once again another bargain. Our train ride was interesting as well; once again we had a crowd of Indians wanting to know where we were from. We ended up getting the camera out as they all wanted to swap cameras and photos of us and their family. It was hard to get them to smile as they don't like to smile in photos. We ended up settling into the trip with Jacinta trying to come up with a good excuse why we weren’t pregnant or why we didn’t have children yet. I was occupied talking to a 23 year old guy named Sony, who sat next to me and was extremely interested in western women and ask all sorts of interesting questions. Almost all Indian young men have a fascination with western woman and he was desperate to meet them. He showed me through his mobile phone that contained photos of all his favourite things including favourite cars, singers, actors, wrestlers, photos of his Mum and Dad, brothers and his brothers children. It was strange and I can only explain the conversation as talking to a 10-12 year old instead of a 23 year old. I had always witnessed a lot of Indian men all grouped together looking at each other’s mobile phones on previous occasions and you actually can tell a lot about the character of a person by seeing all the things they are interested in right on their phone. He was extremely interested in talking about sex with girls and why he didn’t like the Indian woman as much as the western woman. When I asked him about love marriages and organise marriages; which would he choose? He said he would rather have his parents pick his wife as it was less hassle and stress for him. My new friend even gave me a gift of 5 rupees; I asked what this was for? He said it was a gift from him to me. I was speechless and tried to give it back saying “no no no, I can’t take this from you.” He said “I’m not a rich man but I am a happy man, this makes me happy.” I couldn’t argue after a remark like that so I held onto it until I could find a way of give it back to him. A few minutes later a plain clothed lady came over and started to argue with him, getting heated I looked at Jacinta and wondered what it was about as they spoke in Punjabi. After 5min or so they finished the argument, the young guy handed over 315rs, I asked what it was for and he explained that he had just been fined for not sitting in the correct carriage. I asked why he didn’t say something to us as we might have been able to help? He said everything was alright because he wanted to talk to us instead of sitting in a different carriage. I felt so bad and tried to give the 5 rupees back that I still clutched in my hand. There was nothing I could do to give the 5rs back so I reluctantly put it in my pocket. He had to get off on the next stop and even though he was a nice guy I was getting tired of him showing me all his photos on his phone. The other family on the train tried to buy us drinks and food, we had to decline as politely as possible just so we didn’t offend. By this time we were convinced that all Punjab people were the nicest India people so far, right next to Keralan people. Another Indian guy had settled into our top sleeper so we settled into the lower births to go to sleep. I usually sleep well on the trains as the rocking sends me to sleep. On this occasion I hardly slept as the train seemed to rock and shudder more violently than ever before, this combined with the constant talking of Indians coming and going from the train, their lack of respect for people’s privacy and the shocking mosquitoes made it impossible to sleep. The mosquitoes were so bad they even bit us through our sleep sheet.

Back to Delhi

31/3/10: We were interrupted in the very early hours of the morning by some Indians accusing us of being in their seats. We both tried to explain that other Indians took our seats so we are in theirs. They didn’t understand so we had to get up and move. We were both so tired that it didn’t even occur to us that we were already in Delhi and the train had been sitting for over 15min and was just about to leave. I looked at my watch, it was 4:30am and the train actually had arrived on time. I asked if this was Nuzzabinum train station and they all confirmed. I yelled at Jacinta “where hear!” and to get out of bed! Our packs were padlocked under the seats so we quickly got all our shit together just exiting in time before the train left for Mumbai. We made our way back to the Main Bazaar area checking back into the hotel we stayed at previously. We reserved a room knowing we were coming back, this didn't make any difference as they never check the books, having to clean the a room for us at 5:30 in the morning was a nightmare. They cleaned a more expensive room that we had to decline because we had asked for a room costing 350rs. We were so tired we just wanted to go to bed. I wanted to show Jacinta Bullet Wallas work shop noted in the previous Delhi blog. By the time she had spoken to Vivian (owner of Bullet Wallas) and saw some of the other bikes, she was convinced that she wanted to by a bike. We ended up speaking to Vivian for more than an hour swapping stories about India and our experiences.



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30th July 2010

hell of a blog..kudos
8th November 2010
dteailed marble work

I did this
Hi this is what i did couples of years ago. marble inlay art tiling and flooring as medallions.
8th November 2010

Marble Inlay
You have a talent and patience that i can only dream about. The work on the Taj and Golden Temple is some of the finest i have seen yet. It is a shame that we don't see more of this in the western world. Keep up with the skill Mohammad Azhar, it is a beautiful one.

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