Amritsar- the land of the surds.

Also home to the Golden Temple as well as the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre scene. Located close to the Wagah border with Pakistan as well. So just thought we'll pay a visit and here's how it worked out.

First thing in the morning, Amritsar railway station and a hearty brunch at a roadside dhaba polished off with lassi in an inch-long tumbler. Ahhhhhhhh! Heaven. Now that the essentials were taken care of, we moved on to the Golden Temple.

There is a free bus service from the railway station to the temple and back. Once at the temple, there are counters where you can deposit your bags and belongings, your shoes and coats etc etc. The place is very well organized and quite clean too by Indian standards. You also got to cover your heads when you are within the temple, so you can either use the hankies if you carry one or you get head scarves of every possible color. The temple consists of a golden dome at the centre of a man-made lake where the holy book of the Sikhs is kept. You can go up two more floors there and there are priests everywhere reading the book. Some of the prints of the book can be observed at close quarters and I must admit, the book is definitely huge and very delicately written as well.

There is generally a whole line of turbans waiting to get in but if you land up early you might find it easier. There are people singing hymns as well the whole time which keeps echoing from the walls and gives a very nice feel to the place.

Moving on, we go to the fort that is situated nearby where the prasad is served. This is known as langar. Here I was a tad disappointed cos, cumin from South India where we get huge amounts of sweets (read payasams, laddus and the like) the fare here was pretty meager. We had rotis and one subji. It wasn't all that tasty too but I understand that they have to feed everyone and it's kinda of a symbolic thing. I guess none of the people in Amritsar might be going hungry, there's always the langar.

Next on our itineary was the Jallianwallah Bagh. It is quite close to the temple site and was must visit for me. There is a memorial built in the memory of all those killed.

There are a few places where the bullet holes are also marked.

I had expected a much grander version of the things than what I saw. I had it all pictured in my mind especially because of the wonderful images that Mr. Burns(my history teacher) had painted. The monument itself was in quite bad shape and what was more appalling was the absolute lack of information. There were no sign boards around describing the events and how they came about. You have to depend on a local guide to fill you in on the details and according to me they are not all that trustworthy either. I really had expected and lot more and was definitely disappointed.

Moving on, our next hit was the Wagah border before the Evening ceremony starts. Actually you have to be there quite early since a lot of people come to watch this and you may not necessarily get the front row view. To get there you either hire a rick (auto) or some other Sumo etc depending on the number of people you got. But like all things in India, please do bargain and there are many drivers around so don't worry about not getting one. In our case, the guy started off with Rs 550 for the five of us and we finally got him to go for 200 bucks both ways. The border is about 28 kms from the city.

There's Pakistan. Yes that's true, our bhai log are just across that gate and so are the nice looking behen log too. There are stands on both sides to watch the parade and stuff. On their side, they have separate ones for the gents and the ladies while on our side, there are separate ones for the V.I.P.'s and the dudes with the passes and the rest of the common people like myself.

Well the reason for going all the way to the border is to watch the flags of both countries being brought down for the day. There is a huge ceremony of marching, saluting etc that goes on with this entire exercise and that is supposed to mighty impressive. And it was.

It involved a lot of shouting commands and yelling on both sides. There is a series of complicated and extremely difficult marching moves that are followed. You should not miss out on the salutes of the BSF jawans. I would have preferred if they could give a commentary of some sort explaining why all the marching and stamping is going on and what it all means. Instead they were egging on the crowd with slogans of "Vande Mataram", "Bharat Mata Ki........Jai" and couple more from the same stable. The crowds on both the sides responded aggressively and for a moment you could actually feel a lot of the fervor etc. I could not exactly get what the Pakistanis were screaming but they seemed to be more vociferous than us. Of course, the jawans kept warning us not to say anything that would be offensive to the other side and that was very sensible. You don't want the crowd to get carried away.

The flags were brought down and folded in beautiful style a.k.a. Rang de Basanti and then the entire ceremony ends. Please take your binoculars along, you can check out how our brothers and sisters look on the other side and if you like someone you see you could always flash your number on your placard and stuff. After all this is the electronic age. You can definitely work sumthin out.

The International Border Line. This is the Indian side of the fence and it is electrified. The red light signifies that. I wanted to throw a stone and stuff to check it out but I didn't want to end up in jail either. Another thing I noticed, there is a huge amount of land in the No Man's Land region (to the right in the pic) and they look pretty green and fertile to me. I don't know if these actually belonged to India or not but it sure was a waste of prime Border Front Property.

Sadly that's all there was to Amritsar. The shouts and naras had definitely pumped up my adrenaline for the nation but it didn't last long. I am back to my normal state of discussing and criticizing the policy of the government and predicting if India-2020, a developed country is possible or not.

So that was my travelogue for the month of February. I hope to have one for each month of the year. And a here's a last pic to leave you with, one found just inside the Indian side of the border.