Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oye Amritsar

I finally took the break that I had been promising myself since a long time. For a change, I took the leave before planning what I wanted to do with it. Since a long time (after watching Rang de basanti to be precise), I have wanted to visit Amritsar. I tried conning a couple of people into doing this trip but they wanted to hang on to the sane side of life (can also be read as were under the influence of their wives) and opted out.

So I landed in Delhi, met the usual suspects. Did a 15km run with Benaazir and Shantanu at the Hauz Khas Deer Park/ Rose Garden. Realized that Delhi infrastructure has only improved with time. Realized that Gurgaon might be bigger Bangalore now!

Managed to avoid the gurgaon malls for two days (No mean achievement that!). Managed to check-out all the usual haunts in Delhi (No mean achievement that as well!)

I took the Swarna Shatabdi to Amritsar. The Railway staff does try and make you eat your breakfast. I would have been woken up atleast four times for Tea/ breakfast/ the likes till I gave up on sleeping and started looking at the Punjabi landscape from the window. After a journey of roughly 6 hrs, I was in Amritsar. My hotel was some 100m away from the station but even then a cycle riskshawala conned me into taking a ride with him. Arre baith jao, 4-5 rupiye jo dena hai de dena!

The first thing that struck me about Amritsar was the noisy roads, incessant honking and the unbelievably chaotic traffic. Brought back the memories of all the towns that I have lived in. Everyone on the road tries to hustle you into a trip to Wagah border. You get the feeling that there is nothing more to the town but that half-an-hr ceremony of the change of guards. But I had two places on my mind before Wagah. The Golden Temple and the Jalianwalan Bagh.

First off the list was the Golden temple, it looks good in the day but is very crowded. May be because of the tourists or may be because getting a ‘dip’ in the day is more convenient. I took a few snaps and then just moved around the place. I did not go to Hari Mandir because of the long queue.

Next on the plan was the Jalianwalan Bagh. It has a despicable entrance. But once you are inside it, you feel the presence of the 2000 martyrs at that place. The marks made by rounds fired on that day are still preserved on a few walls. Check out the white squares on the following photograph. Then there is the well, Shahidi kuan, from which 120 bodies were recovered once the shooting ended.

I had the Dudh Rabdi Sevaiyan and chintoo’s tikkis to refuel myself and then I started for Wagah. The crowd is loud and the ceremony is elaborate. You do well-up with a strong emotion of nationalism out there but was this was not much compared to what I experienced later in the night.

After coming back from Wagah, I went on my own treasure hunt. Trying to get my hands on Kesar da Dhaba’s Phirnis. After a circuitous walk through the old town and trashing the entire ‘men do not ask for directions’ stereotype multiple times, I reached Kesar’s dhaba. On the way, I had figured out that somebody in Kesar’s household was getting married and it indeed was his daughter (People on the road tell you all this along with the directions). As it should have been expected, much to my disappointment, the place was closed.

But on the way, I had learnt that there are three other places which serve as good a phirni as Kesar’s. Ahuja Sweets, ‘The Unmarked Shop’ close to Kesar and one more to which the rickshawala took me.

I was back at the Golden temple as the twilight faded and gave way to the night. The sight was beautiful and the gurbani very soothing. I think I sat in the Hari Mandir for two hours and loved the sufi tone of the bhajans. And after a long long time, an avowedly non-religious person like me was moved by a visit to a religious place. I offered the Karah Prasad at the temple and ambled through the compound. Would strongly recommend a visit to this compound in the night to everyone who decides to visit Amritsar. ‘It’ is something!

Then I embarked on a legendary evening eating out expedition. I hit the ‘Bhravaan da Dhaba’ and ordered a lassi with a thali with aplomb. Only to get the disbelieving look from the waiter. He did almost say, ‘Will you be able to eat it all?’

As I waited for the grub, I realized that on the adjacent table a family of 3 was eating out from a single thali! And I had ordered, wait a minute, a humongous glass of lassi that had just been served to me along with that more than sumptuous thali!! But I did finish it all; much to the approval of the waiter who told me the story of two brothers who co-owned the dhaba had a spat because of the women that they were married to! And this is how 'Brothers dhaba # 1' came to being next the the legendary 'Bhravaan da Dhaba.' Got the feel of the local gossip- warts and all!

Anyway I had a wonderful trip and was all re-charged on my return to Bangalore. Would highly recommend the town to the readers of this journal!

1 comment:

JeevSingh said...

bada mazaa aaya yaar padh kar...