The places where moments reside

Punjab : History revisited

मेरा नंबर कब आएगा ?? - this was the line of a very famous pepsi ad and this was the same line I was singing all these years after majority of my friends had gone on the famous round of Golden temple, Jalianwala bagh and the wagah border. My trips more or less have been long ones but this was the perfect weekend holiday. Joined by the original team from Kashmir trip, it was a go. A few things went exactly as the last time in Kerala, the same IGI T3, the same awe looking at the big passenger planes ( and secretly hoping that these get converted into military ones and I can get a ride). हम और हमारी यह ख्वाहिश , हम नहीं सुधरेंगे .

A short flight of 90 minutes and a lot short by my standards because...the airhostess was awesomely, extremely beautiful and I lost track of time I spent staring at her. Deboarded at the airport and headed to the hotel. The rest of the time was spent waiting for few more people who were arriving by train (and which unfortunately got late). The tour of punjab was supposed to commence from the next morning in this case. While in the meantime, my heart surely had a hard time keeping a normal beat rate.. पंजाब दी कुड़ियाँ देखन बाद बस धड़के ही जाये..

The next day commenced with the visit to the golden temple, the place about which I had heard a lot. Being the day the eve of Baisakhi, it was damn crowded but it was not a stampede like situation which really surprised me otherwise in the various places like temples and all tend to become really crowded on special occasions. Just before entering the temple, some boys tied the trademark yellow cloth on my forehead even before I got a chance to take out my handkerchief. For quite sometime now, I had wanted to visit a Gurudwara but had never thought that the start would be from this awesome site. Being a kid, once I visited the Sheeshganj gurudawara in delhi but the memories of that place had faded away.

Golden temple

So it was the entry that had me mesmerised. Washing the feet in the clean water and heading to the place. In the middle of the pool sat the majestic temple. I was awestruck. The pool also had its share of big fishes and crystal clear water. Taking sweet time to explore the premises, it was organised chaos. People were busy in themselves – taking pics, praying, sitting idly, bathing..all sort of things.

Fishes in the temple sarovar

The queue for the Maththaa was very big. Inquiries from one of the volunteers told us that it would take us min. 2 hours and even more and there was definitely no option of aborting once we got into the line. Our eyes were on the clock. It was a Sunday and we wanted to explore Wagah asap as the reports suggested that it was first come first serve. So bidding the temple a temporary goodbye I moved to the next stop- Jalianwala bagh. Its located very near to the temple. Being a bit hot, ventured to the nearest Kulfi falooda wala and gupled down one. A interesting thing which I noticed at the traffic intersection was a giant digital display board showing the timings of the various trains departing from amritsar. These 3 places of the golden temple, jalianwala bagh and border are the most visited ones and such info display would help a lot of people keep a track of their programmes.

Jalianwala bagh- the place where the first shots were fired 95 years back on the 13 April and many innocents lost their lives in the killing of epic proportions. This place is testimonial to that day over the years. When I stepped into the narrow lane leading to the park, the walls were adorned with writings telling the people that this is the passageway through which Gen. Dyer lead his troops. The passage is wide enough to allow only 3 people to walk side by side. I was so overwhelmed with emotions of history that I really didnt click any pics of that. The way lead to the park where on the right side you have the sacred flame burning in the memory of all those people ( just like Amar jawan jyoti at India gate). Straightahead there is a memorial erected in the memory of those killed. Heading towards that it felt that all the energy from my body had been seeped out.

Next stop- the well in which a lot of people jumped in order to save their lives. Its called as the Marytr`s well. 120 dead bodies were taken out from the well. Its been fenced so you can only peep inside and see a dry well now.

Remember the flashback scene in Rang de basanti where its shown that people are jumping in the well to save themeselves from the firing? The only difference is that this well is at the corner of the park and the park here is quite small. People say that the walls of this park were quite high at that time so you couldn`t escape by jumping. It became a death trap. Next I headed to the wall which has been preserved as it still bears bullet marks. Gauging by the bullet holes, they seemed to be quite big bullets.

Bullet marks

The tree plantation fences were moulded and shaped to look like soldiers in firing position. A gruesome reminder. Next I headed to the exit through the hall which had various photographs of the various people killed that day, news clipping, reactions from persons etc.

Figure out what this is ....

The final stop for the day- The wagah border. It was time to meet the enemy..face to face and no emotions barred. Just outside the bagh, various auto walas keep calling for border. You can hire the full if you are a group or share that. A approx. distance of 30 kms from there it was a smooth drive in our vehicle. Its first come first serve and so it was necessary to get there asap. The powerful jammers render all networks useless. It was a rush, huge one...looks like the whole of India had converged there. My relative had sourced a VIP entry but we still got in the crowd near the barriers. It was 3.10 pm. The barriers lifted at around 4 p.m. The barriers lifted and the crowd pushed and ran. The woman were already told to go ahead by the BSF. All the blocking tactics in rugby had to be put to use. After 2 more barricades, the 3rd one had frisking by the BSF. Saw the VIP entry and after confirming our names from the list, we were made to take the back route to the VIP seating places. It was the stairs which had seating places, barricaded off from the general entry. The crowd was hugeeeeeee on the Indian side. People were standing outside of the closed gates too. From where I was seated, I could see the Indian gate towards my left, a no man`s land and then the pakistani gate.

Thats what people come to look
Music was playing in the background but the man of the moment was surely a BSF personnel ( looked like a PT instructor or so by his sports dress). In all the noise, he was signalling us to shout and chant as loud as we could so that the other side could hear it well. He was the most enthusiastic of the lot and his hand signals to shout were duly followed. 

The motivator

I dint shout as I didnt wanted to parch my throat in the heat. I just let the feeling sink in. The feeling that I am so much close to a foe I`ll never forgive. You can never thrust the patriotic feeling in someone, it comes from within. The words of Hrithik from lakshya just kept running in my mind जानता तो हमेशा से था की मैं एक हिंदुस्तानी हूँ

Soon there was an announcement and the ceremony was about to start. The crowd on the Indian side was atleast 4 times from the pakistani side. Must be a crowd of atleast 5-6k people down there. There was a line of girls and ladies who ran with the flag upto the gates and back but the man who got the loudest applause and claps was one of close to 75 years carrying a tricolour in the flag ( there were 2 two which had been handed over to the people by the bsf). Initially he tried to run but was advised by the security forces to instead take a walk. As he approached the starting line on the way back, his son greeted him just as if some long cherished dream had been fulfilled. His face showed the amount of happiness and glow which i wont be able to put in words. Its an unexplainable feeling when you are walking with the flag.

The most cheered person
An impromptu dance was done by quite a number of ladies which set the tone for the main event of 25 minutes. 

The dance
The team got ready to do what they are best looking at- the beating retreat with the ferocity of the high kicks they are well known. After permission from a high ranking official , it all went underway. What I witnessed there can only be witnessed by self, it cant be explained or put into words. You have to be there at the wagah to see it for yourself.

After the show of strength between the bsf and the pakistani rangers, all the flags came down and the tricolour was carried with full honours. The gates were snapped shut with the same ferocity with which they had been opened for those 25 minutes.

The flag

When it all ended, the crowd swarmed each and every security person for photos. Maybe its this support that keeps these people motivates. No beating retreat is complete without the crowd being behind them, shouting, egging them on. The jammers although made my father`s phone go malfunction. The network just disappeared from the phone. Felt just like an EMP burst which makes the electronics useless. After a 3 place trip , it was time to head back to city. The next day was there to complete the incomplete – golden temple. Today the crowd was less and we had no watch to see. Melting into the crowd , hearing the chants of “ Satnam Waheguru” we moved at a slow and leisurely place. The kar sewaks ensuring that the crowd was managed well, glasses of water being passed to the thirsty in the lines. In the midst of all things, I had forgotten that I had my shades on. There were few barricades put up to create small spaces in which people were made to stand and act as a cushion for too much crowd. One kar sewak gestured to me pointing to his eyes and speaking softly , “ कुछ देर की ही तो बात है यारा ”.

I nodded and took them off. Inspite of others clicking pics of the gold in the temple while waiting in line, I decided against it. Religious places need to be maintained of their sanctity. The inside of it was beautiful with a few people reciting from the Granth sahib (which was also audible through the loudspeakers outside). Its was good. Once again I clicked the pics of the fishes while heading out to collect the prasad ( halwa). From start to finish , it had taken me only 1 hour in the whole thing. While everyone in the family caught their breath, I noticed a 15-16 year old girl on a wheelchair. It got me thinking that everybody finds peace at Guru Nanak के दरबार irrespective of the condition. Maybe this is the place of only hope of the girl`s parents. Dont know what I wished for myself but surely wished for the speedy recovery of the girl.

The girl

After the langar ( not to be missed) , headed out to the market finally completing my visit list on this trip. A trip to Amritsar and that too without the trademark lassi? Not to be. While roaming the market , headed to Kesar da dhaba and gulped down 6 glasses of lassi alongwith Firni. So I had some 1.25 lt of lassi in my system and I felt damn sleepy afterwards. Each glass must be some 200 – 250 ml. The moment my family stopped at a shop to purchase, I really drifted off to sleep. Explored the city a bit more and got ready to catch the early morning train to delhi.

As its with every trip, I tend to make some observations everytime. Here are the ones for this time-

1. Take your time in the Golden temple. There is just no rush for anything.

2. A lot of people put their yellow cloth in the big buckets at the entrace of the golden temple once they are done with the darshan. If you have forgotten to bring that hanky along, dont worry. Just take one out from the bucket and put it on. The head needs to be covered the whole while you are there.

3. If you are looking at completing the wagah border round, make sure you have enough time in hand to make it there as it purely on first come first serve and the crowd on the weekends would be huge.

4. 4 pm is the time by which the barriers are raised at wagah for entry, make sure that you are there before time accordingly and beware of stampede like situations. Ladies and gents have separate lines.

5. Jammers at the border would render phones useless. Dont carry anything apart from water bottles, cameras, mens wallet, small ladies purse and nothing else. No eatables are allowed. You can eat while you wait at the barrier, nothing after that.

6. The main ceremony is just 25 minutes but the whole thing overall takes much longer than that. Try if you get a VIP entry. It as separate seating and a few relaxations are there. Otherwise rush to get a place.

7. If your modern smartphones wont catch a connection after the trip to wagah, show it to the nearest customer store in the city. The executives there just reset one setting to make it work and they`ll also ask you the first question , “ Did you visit any border area ?” when you explain what is the problem with your phone. Its the jammers. The older phone models work just after a simple restart.

8. Try the must have lassi.

Now lets just see where I am headed next ???

The Wagah Crowd...only a small glimpse

Punjab : History revisited Punjab : History revisited Reviewed by Shwetabh on 5:49:00 PM Rating: 5

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