“Everything happens for a reason”. With this thought and absolutely no plan in mind, I boarded the bus to Amritsar, Punjab. By the time I reached Amritsar bus stop, fear had gripped me – “What the f**k were you thinking?”. My sleep deprived mind did little to improve my vacillation. I cursed my friend who had cancelled on me at the last minute.
Every problem’s solution can be found over a cup of masala chai!
I walked towards the chai shop and ordered a cup of tea. As I stood there sipping the warm liquid, feeling my nerves calm down, I saw a man standing right next to me.
“Saasriya kaal, Sardaji” – I greeted him. He looked like a regular friendly neighborhood Sardaji with white beard and blue turban but his eyes reflected calmness and self-containment.
My Nana used to say “A smile can win hearts and trust”. He greeted me back with a smile.
I told him how my childhood yearning to visit the Golden temple had brought me to the footholds of the holy city of Amritsar. I didn’t have any hotel reservation or idea of where and how to go about the city! I was trying to figure out my trip.
Patiently, he listened to my dilemma. “Puttar, phikir na kaar” he spoke with a heavy baritone. He took out a piece of paper and started scribbling. He wrote a detailed plan for my entire trip, starting from the best places to eat to the most reasonable shop to buy souvenirs. He even called up a hotel and arranged a comfortable AC room for just Rs 500. I could have never negotiated such a sweet deal all on my own. His help didn’t end there, he gave me lift on his cycle rickshaw to the Golden temple. I thanked him profoundly for his help.
All our life, we are told not to trust strangers but in that moment, the myth of the statement came crushing down on me. I was taken over by Sardaji’s altruism.
There are a lot of hyped places in the world but Golden temple isn’t one of them! I always wondered why Golden Temple is so special.
That day, I found out the answer.
It’s not the unique gilded architecture but the serenity in the air and people like sardarji that make the place heaven on earth. As you walk near the temple’s pond, a wave of tranquility hits you, leaving a smile on your petty face!
Not only my face but my stomach was happy too!
This was proven at the langar* where the mouthwatering food especially the kheer put me in a state of ecstasy. “Happiness is food and food is happiness”.
I was touched by the gratitude and humility of each volunteer. Despite being millionaires, many people were serving the community by cleaning plates or cutting vegetables. There is no rich or poor in the god’s kitchen!
Also, “no one sleeps in Amritsar with empty stomach” as the food is served in langar for 24 hours of the day.
After paying my homage at the golden temple, I went towards the bazaar.
You can feel the pulse of a city by walking in its bazaar. It was filled with embroidery work, shoes, souvenirs, and street food. I bought phulkari for my mom and few souvenirs.
After strolling in the bazaar, I went to see the Jallianwala Bagh where 1000 people were killed by British during a peaceful protest. Bullet marks still afresh on the wall ran chills down my spine.
In the evening, I went to Wagah border by pooling in a big auto rickshaw. It’s the only official border between India and Pakistan. Every evening, parade and flag hoisting ceremony takes place. When the ceremony starts, chants of the patriotic slogans such as “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” echo loud in the air. It enfuses a proud feeling of being an Indian.
Of course, you can’t leave Amritsar without eating at kesar ka dhaba especially their signature lassi* – “Woh lassi nahi, amrit tha” (Trust me, it was elixir)
Amritsar trip will always have a special place in my heart. This was the stepping stone for my insatiable thirst for solo travel! I discovered my passion for traveling which inspired me to do solo Europe backpacking for 1.5 months!
Moral Lesson – We’re the sum of our experiences and not our material things. Experiences stay with us forever and build us into who we become.
Do share your unique experiences by replying!
*Langar – It is the term used in the Sikh religion for the common kitchen/canteen where food is served in a Gurdwara to all the visitors (without distinction of background) for free.
*Lassi – a sweet or savory Indian drink made from a yogurt or buttermilk base with water.
*phulkari – it’s an embroidery technique from the Punjab region literally means flower work, which was at one time used as the word for embroidery.