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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amritsar in 36 hours

“What’s the use of a mid-week holiday?”, I remarked, as I glanced at the list of holidays that declared Wednesday, 17th November, 2010 as a holiday on account of Eid. “Had it been on a Friday, we could have got three days off in a row”.
Things started falling in place almost by magic. My brother-in-law’s convocation for his post graduate degree gets scheduled on Saturday. My father in law agreed to visit us for about a week. On the Sunday preceding the 17th, we are reflecting on possibilities of my father in law going to some nearby place and my husband, who is relatively free at present, to accompany him. Then the brainwave comes, “Why don’t you use your Wednesday-holiday?” The question is shot at my brother in law and myself, the office going people, who are normally bound by official duties on weekdays.
Where, where, where.. options start cropping up and get discarded due to shortage of time. The old man murmurs softly, “I would like to see the Golden Temple...”
So rare is the phenomenon when a parent expresses his wish, that there was no question of considering an alternative. Amritsar is finalized. Modes planned. We start Tuesday night, utilize the “Wednesday holiday” and return by Thursday morning.
There was a project located in Amritsar sometime back. Unfortunately, I was not part of the team assigned to it. I had been watching people going for site visits, surveys, data collection, meetings, what not. I had been hearing stories, seeing photographs, but never came the opportunity for me to experience Amritsar myself. And lo and behold, everything is planned in that one moment.
The trip was hectic but nice. Golden Temple, the prime attraction, is a place visited by thousands of people round the clock everyday, yet it is clean, serene, organized. So many people have food in the community lunch free of cost. Its all in the name of God. We loved our stay there, although I am quite an atheist. A dip in the holy pool. The cold water. The colourful fishes, fairly big. We also visited Jallianwala Bagh, that stands as a quiet testimony to the tyranny of the British during their rule in India. And finally, Wagah Border. A shiver runs down your spine when you see a gate, marking the Pakistan border right in front. Political boundaries suddenly come to life. Its strange that we can walk up to a certain limit, they can progress till another, and a land in between that is no one’s. One wrong step across would cause war. We watch the Retreat ceremony on the Indian side, where the flag is folded respectfully at the end of the day. We return to the urban core for evening snacks and dinner, and catch the train back.
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