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Day 22 of The Candid Odyssey

The only reason we came to Chandigarh was to see and experience what's different. Have we done that? Hmm, to some extent, but not fully. It's okay, we are not journeying to research places. Our primary goal is to explore ourselves and the philosophy of life as we explore India. And India is huge, we have a lot to cover, so, no time to waste! Let's go. We have an early morning train to Amritsar. What about breakfast? Oh, getting into trains so early in the morning doesn't mean that we will be starving till we arrive. There are many options. We can buy some packed food upfront, we can buy cooked breakfast from the vendors in the stations in between, we can order food online and it will be delivered at the next stop. If nothing works, there will always be someone sitting nearby eager to share their food. My breakfast choices are mainly biscuits, idli, samosas, and sandwiches. The point is, we will never starve on the train :) The same is the case in Amritsar. No one will starve here because of the langar (community-run free food service) offered in the Sri Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara, popularly known as the Golden Temple. Right after we reach Amritsar, our first site for today is the temple itself.

It's a special feeling to enter the gurdwara. First, we remove our shoes, wear a yellow headscarf, wash our legs, and then only we can enter the temple. That process itself gives us a holy feeling. It's like we washed off something. And the next level to this is to take a holy dip in the pool. Inside the gurdwara is like another world. A majestic temple that's made of marble and plated with hundreds of kilos of gold. It's pure gold. We also came at the right time, because the gold is shining in the afternoon sun! To protect the assets and serve the visitors, we can see hundreds of volunteers and security dressed up in traditional sikh dresses holding weapons like swords, knives, and spears. It's interesting. The soulful background music adds to the divinity. We could just walk around the pool, observe, and enjoy the beauty of everything in this small world. And what's more interesting is the Langar. Again driven by hundreds of volunteers, this community kitchen provides a free meal to any needy person throughout the day. As we get into the hall, a long queue will be there waiting for the next round of serving. We become part of the queue, wait for some time, and get our turn. We are given plates and glass, we sit on the floor, and the volunteers serve a few food items. We have to finish eating so quick because each round of serving accommodates around a hundred people and it ends in 10-15 minutes. It's perfectly organized. Imagine serving food to thousands of people, every day. It's absolutely commendable! We can stay here forever, but we need to go.

All major places of attraction in Amritsar are in the city center itself. The crowd also proportionates to that. Walk a few steps from the temple, we are now in Jallianwala Bagh, a garden and memorial for the massacre that happened in 1919, which killed hundreds of protestors. The associated museum speaks about the history of the same. The sorrow can be observed in the eyes of each and every person over here. It's a mixed feeling of regret and respect. A feeling that makes us all feel guilty of the sufferings and loss of others. Transform greed into generosity, superiority to equality, and hate to love. Then we will be at peace, inside and outside.

As we get outside the garden, there are a lot of taxi people waiting for us. Where to? Why now? What for? It's for the lowering of the flags ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border. At the India-Pakistan border, security forces of both countries do a ceremonial function every day and invite the public to be part of the same. These shared taxi people will take us there. What are we waiting for? let's jump in :) After traveling for around half an hour with 10 people filled up in a single autorickshaw, we reach the border alive! Since we are not pre-booked, we get a balcony-standing view of the stadium. The patriotic music, dance-like parade movements, funny actions from the soldiers, and the cheering from the crowd complete the ceremony. Overall, this is the place where we can experience patriotism at its peak. We can feel half of it is genuine while the other half is just peer pressure. Anyway, our taxi guy is waiting for us to return. Remember, if we delay, 9 other passengers will also be delayed. Let's not do that. As we get back to Amritsar, we go back to the Golden Temple. To experience its evening environment and also to have that free meal :)

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