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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Amritsar Diary --> Day 1014 to Day 1016

I didnt sleep at all in the night. I was surfing the net, watching tv and then headed for the airport to catch my flight to Amritsar via New Delhi. I got a decent sleep in the flight. The halt at New Delhi was meant for 40 minutes. I thought i would get a good 40 winks till then. When i woke, the plane was at a runway. I thought, Amritsar had arrived. Turned out we were still at New Delhi after 60 minutes because of traffic. The plane finally took off and we reached Amritsar a good 25 minutes late.
I had booked a car for the entire day and the driver had come to pick me up. My Hotel, Indus., was about 20 feet away from the Harmandir Sahib or what we popularly know as The Golden Temple of Amritsar.
And the rooftop hotel had a fabulous view of the temple as well.
I freshened up and immediately headed for the temple.
Now i have heard stories where people have had to wait 2-3 hours in the queue on any given day. I thought i will still take a chance. Not only did i NOT have to wait, i managed to take lots of pictures, went and offered prayers peacefully and came out in less than an hour.
Then headed for Jalianwala Bagh which is a 5 minute walk from the temple. Now this is a normal park, except that it has a historical significance.
In March 1919, there was a massacre and i would go to the extend of telling that it was a genocide.  Reginald O'Dyer ordered shooting on unarmed peaceful protesters and killed, unofficially, over 1000 people. Most of them were Children, The Aged and Women.
I even saw the well in which over 100 people had jumped to death to avoid being shot by the bullets.

After that went back to the hotel, chilled for a while, had nice lunch at the rooftop hotel and then headed for Sightseeing.
Our first stop was the famous Durgiana or the Lakshminarayan Temple. This is a routine hindu temple, except that it is built very similarly on the lines of the Golden Temple.
After that we headed for another temple which is built in the similar fashion as that of the famous Vaishnao Devi Temple.Offered my prayers there as well.
After that headed for the famous Wagah Border.
Now Wagah is a place which connects India to Pakistan via Amritsar. This is the only border posting where tourists are allowed to see the famous flag exchange ceremony which takes place for about 25 minutes during sunset.
Every day for years, over 5 to 10 thousand people gather to watch the march and the build up to that march is absolutely fantastic.
This is one of the places that one must visit in India before you die.
Over the last few weeks, the BSF has developed a new strategy. They allow women and small kids to enter first and get the best seats. And then they allow the guys to come in.
Then many women and small kids are called on the parade ground, given the Indian Flag and asked to run with it till the Border and come back. There are patriotic film songs and cheering and dancing and its mesmerizing.
Then headed back to the Hotel in the night. Before that i did some memorabilia shopping.
One of the things one must also do in Amritsar, is night visit of the Golden Temple. I have put a couple of pictures on facebook and its absolutely breath taking.
And this time i managed to offer prayers in just 25 minutes. And for nearly 2 hours i was just sitting by the lake, and doing nothing. I called a couple of close friends and even meditated for a bit.
It was sad leaving the temple because it was extremely peaceful but i had to have dinner so managed to get the last order of the day and enjoy a nice dinner at the rooftop.
I came down, packed my bags and was lying on the bed watching, aptly, Hereafter on TV.
I slept for a couple of hours and then left to take an early morning train to New Delhi.,
Thankfully got some good sleep on the wonderful Shatapdi and reached New Delhi at around 11 AM.
Checked in to the superb Royal Plaza Hotel at the famous Ashoka Road.
Got a fabulous deal of Rs 5000 for a night's stay with Breakfast. This is fantastic considering New Delhi, as a city, is as expensive as NYC where Hotels are concerned.
After settling down and freshening up, met a friend. Now Gurpreet or GK as i call her, is someone i have known through the internet through a common forum we are/were members of. We have known each other that way since 2004 but this was the first time we actually met in person.
But because we have had always been in touch via phone/sms/web chat, it never seemed like a first meeting at all.
GK is a very close friend. She has been supportive of me in more ways than one. Distance apart, she is, by god's grace, one of the very few people i consider as my own.
It was because of her encouragement that i actually managed to visit Amritsar and the Golden Temple despite the fear of standing in a huge line. (Which never happened so thats great).
We took a rickshaw and headed for Bangla Saheb Gurudwara. This is one of the famous Gurudwara of the world, situated in New Delhi, where The 8th Sikh Guru, Har Krishan Singh, had come.
Legend has it that this was actually a bungalow of Raja Jai Singh. There was a small pox epidemic during his tenure, once, and Guru Har Krishan Singh has said to have offered some fresh water from a well here and miraculously the person who was offered was cured.
The King built a water tank(Which is still there) and it is said to have lots of healing powers.
We walked around the whole Sarovar, as per traditions, and then headed for lunch. Had some good lunch at Bikanerwala (And terribly missed mum as she would love having food at such places).
The headed for Connaught Place to see a movie - Heroine.
Now Madhur Bhandarkar, as a director, has rarely made bad films so when one goes to see a film which is famous for its director rather than a star cast, it has some expectations.
I found the film just about ok. It was surely not worth all the hype. Infact his last film, Dil to bachcha hai ji, which was not hyped at all was a far better film.
After the movie, we walked around the huge circle for a bit and then she headed home and i was back at the hotel.
And finally after a long nearly 60 hours, i decided to take a break and relax. Wanted to go to a restaurant for  dinner, but was so tired that for the first time, in my travels, i actually ordered for room service.
While watching Shanghai on TV, ate some yummy burger and salad.
Woke up at ease on Sunday and had a good breakfast at the hotel. Strolled for a while in the premises and then watched some TV In my room and then checked out for the airport.
Now my flight was at 2 PM but i decided to reach airport by noon to avoid any delay (As i am quite fearful of missing a flight or a train).
 Was pleasantly surprised to see WH&S Smith store in the swanky airport and browsed there for a while. Got an amazing book - Love Sonnets of Ghalib.
Now this one has many of his love sonnets in urdu, their transliteration in English and then the actual meaning in English as well.
Being an admirer of Ghalib and his work, it was a great catch.
Arrived in Bombay at early evening. Relaxed at home for a while and then Scrooge and me headed off to Sterling(After many months for me), to see Fire in Babylon. Both of us wanted to catch this movie as we have been fans of the West Indies cricket team of the 1975-1995. This is a documentary on how the team evolved to be the most feared team of the 80s and how they managed NOT TO loose a single test series between 1980 and 1995. A record unmatched, by any team in any team game anywhere in the world.
Wanted to write the blog but was too tired so decided against it.
Will surely update the blog for remainder of the week by tomorrow. 

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