I found peace. It is called Amritsar.
The boarding for Amritsar began. I was one of the last few to enter. For the first time, I found a morning flight to be vibrant and loud. First, I thought, one big family, is traveling to Amritsar. Later I found out, it’s just Punjabi people. They get pally with almost everyone even at 15000 feet.
Since the flight was full, I could not get a window seat. Seeing me lurk at the clouds with my camera phone out, a sardarji offered me his seat. I politely declined but he insisted and got up and handed me his seat – Koi nahi betaji, aap beth jao.
I landed at 12: 30 in the afternoon, I asked my cab driver an old man: Uncleji, Yaha khane ki jagah kaunsi aache hai? Ek dhaba hai, ekdum ghar wali vibe aayegi.
He dropped me at the Dhaba.
The Dhaba was flooded with people. Seeing me with my bag, the owner said ‘ Puttar, Pehli baar aaye ho Amritsar mein? I said – Ji.
Aap aao jao. I was hesitant to cut the line but what he said, won my heart. ‘ Betaji, aap mehaan ho hamare, Mehmaan ko koi interzaar karwata hai bhala, aa jao.
Bhai Saab, Thali milega? Haan ji, Bilkul. Seeing the thali, my eyes popped out. Makai di roti, sarso da saag, suji ka halwa, aam ka aachar, papad, 2 types of daal, 2 types of panner, 4 rotis, jeera rice, one cup of ghee, and one big glass of lassi. The food was so tasty, authentic, and full of love, I finished the plate and felt super content.
My plan for the day was to visit the Wagah Border and relax for the next day.
I left my hotel for Wagah Border at 2:00 pm. The Wagah border parade starts at 4:15 during winter times. One must reach the Wagah border at least by 3:00 pm to witness the parade and grab the seats. It took me 40 mins to reach Wagah Border and about another 20 minutes to reach the gate. To my luck, one of my university batchmates was covering the shoot for his travel channel. We met there and he offered me a seat next to his crew.
The show began at sharp 4:15 pm. Our forces, parading with such firmness in their walk and fire in their eyes, my posture changed from sloughing to being upright. One of the officers turned hosts and said ‘ Scream, let your blood scream through your veins, and may it reach the war tomb right from Kargil to Thar.
The gates opened. The scream from both ends evoked patriotism. All strangers around me turned into my family. One big Indian family as we yelled – Bharat Mata Ki – Jai. Vande Mataram. Now imagine saying this on loop for 15 mins. All the cells in your body will turn patriotic. Soon the gates closed.
A song in the voice of Shankar Mahadevan played – Suno Gaur Se Duniyaan walo, Buri nazar na Hampe daalo, Chahey Jitna Zoor lagalo, Sabse aage honge Hindustani. The way the last line was sung by our crowd, dancing and enjoying the warpaths, I had tears of joy. My brain froze. Every breath I took pumped me with energy and vigor.
Being a deep sleeper, I woke up to the faint sound of – Ek Onkar Satnam. It was 4:30 in the morning. I immediately refreshed up, wore a Kurti, cotton pants, and put on a dupatta on my head. It was dark outside. I did not feel scared to walk on the streets at 5:00 in the morning. As I reached the Golden Temple, I washed my feet and went straight inside the gurudwara. Numb, I sat at one corner, listening to the kirtan and looking at the holy – Harmindar Sahab.
Being an impatient person, surprisingly I did not flinch. I sat there, letting the kirtan and the surrounding cleanse my soul. It was when the sun rays fell on the holiness, I moved. I sat there for an hour without any thoughts running in my head. As I stepped out, I sat near the steps, near the pond where fishes were moving joyfully. The sun shimmering at the top of the golden temple. What a morning.
I saw a line where Kada prasad was being served. Kada Prasad is given to each devotee with ghee dripping in your hand. The taste of the prasad cannot be explained. As weird as it sounds, I licked it off my fingers, reminiscing each morsel.
My next stop was to Jallianwala Bagh.
As I entered the Jallianwala Bagh Chowk, I could see white rectangle marks on each bullet point. It pained me. While reading the names of the people who laid their lives here, my body shivered to even imagine their plight and the state of their families. Even though I had read it in my history book, to watch the scene right in front of my eyes was painful.
I found solace in knowing, that the place is a war memoir for generations to be aware of the sacrifices they live on. As it is famously said, the turban is a sign of royalty and sacrifice, and not every man is blessed to have his sardari.
My next stop was shopping! Amritsar is known to have one of the best street markets in India. One can buy Shawls, carpets, dress materials, phulkari embroidery work textiles, Pakistani jutties, saris, dry fruits, imitation jewelry, handicrafts, woolen garments, and Pashmina shawls. I bought about 3 pairs of jutties, some shawls, and embroidery dupattas.
It was 4 in the evening. I had decided to be a volunteer at the langar in the temple. The golden temple feeds about 50 thousand to 1 lakh people daily in this langar without discriminating on any basis. As it is said, no one sleeps hungry in Amritsar. The Langar serves – Roti, Pickle, Daal, and Kheer.
I volunteered to make 100 Rotis. While doing so, I came across a lot of people. What touched my heart was seeing a Hindu man making daal with a foreigner and feeding thousands of diverse people without judgment or any expectation. This act of selflessness cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
I asked them about the history of langar and the reason behind men and women always covering their heads in the temple.
The people in the group said, ‘ Puttar, This is our Guru’s house and no one goes empty stomached from here. Every person is his child. How can he let his child go to sleep hungry?
Another lady said, - Men and Women both have to cover their head when they enter the gurudwara, as it is said in our holy Granth – The head stores energy in the body. This energy is sacred and must be cared for.
I smiled again.
The golden temple in the evening looks nothing short of a golden entrance into the lap of heaven. The lights shining in the pond and reflecting in your face. Even with so many people around you, calm is not lost. It is found in everyone’s face. Humanity is sensed in every eye and peace is felt in the air. The kirtans that go on, charge your body with affection and tranquillity. It reminds you of who you are and what is your purpose. That is what I felt.
To see my reflection, in the water that reflected the holy Harmindar Saheb, the people laced in humanity and kindness. I told this to myself – The golden temple is part of my existence. I was unaware of peace and the golden temple gifted it to me, without seeking anything in return.
Waheh Gurji da Khalsa, Waheh Guruji ki Fateh.
Picture credit as per the order of occurrence.