******** DAY 2: Amritsar sojourn ********
At the breakfast table we met the other families and I met a few people of my age-group. One girl of my age, two elder girls, four elder boys and another girl who closely resembled someone I knew but couldnt remember; besides a few younger kids belonging to my sister's age group :) Anyway, after having had our fill we proceeded to the Golden temple. We were split into two coaches and rumbled for an hour though the very very very dusty roads of Amritsar.
Amritsar is a peculiar town. it looks quite unkempt during the day. Everywhere you look, you see unfinished houses, bricks exposed, unpainted, half constructed, walls without plaster, shops painted only on the business side of them, etc. Quite unlike what I had seen anywhere. And the roads, Oh my God... it would have been like driving through traffic in a sandstorm. I really felt sorry for the people living there.
We reached a sort of (dusty) parking space for the (dusty) tourist buses and bought some (dusty) kerchiefs to cover our (dusty!)heads before we were to be allowed into the Golden temple. We then
Hood sinking, wheels slipping...the entire contraption always about to collapse, disintegrate; but never quite doing so
We reached the Golden temple in a few minutes and spent a lot of time inside the grand structure, a fine piece of architecture. Even the floor-work is excellent - clean, simple designs on marble.
The next stop was Jallianwala Bagh. The (now)restored garden is coldly reminiscent of the cool hands that so unhumanely pressed the trigger to open fire upon hundreds of innocent people. At around noon we proceeded back to the hotel for lunch and then took off to the Wagah border.
At that border between India and Pakistan, the usual exercise of taking down the flags at sunset has been modified for the enjoyment of the public. We arrived amidst a very thick crowd (and a whole load of flying dust) and fought our way to the seats. I pushed around and finally managed to find myself a seat overlooking the road which passes between the countries' borders.
A lot of patriotic songs were blared over the speakers on the Indian side and the energetic part of the crowd (viz., ladies and children ;) got down to the road and danced to the music. Nothing like that happened on the Pak side. Since the crowd was thick on our side, anyone who stood up and (unknowingly) obstructed the view of the people behind was immediately shouted at. People who continued standing inspite of protests from behind were showered with liberal doses of water from the water-bottles of those behind. Inspite of all these squabbles the patriotic feeling there was awesome... something one should experience to understand. At sunset, the flags of both the countried were broght down gracefully and taken away by the respective border-forces (BSF in our case and Pakistan Rangers in their case), amidst loud cheering for each country from the respective sides.
After negotiating the flying dust, we boarded our buses which took us to ASR railway station after dinner. Since we were late, we just had time to board the Golden Temple mail to NDLS. From the pickup and performance, I guessed it was a WAP4 at the helm. But next morning I would discover to my surprise that it was a TKD based WDM3A that put up the superb performance! Anyway after the tiring day it was time for a good sleep and I retired to the cramped two-berth, end-cubicle of HA1.
******** DAY 3: Leaving the motherland ********
Morning found our train ambling slowly through the outskirts of Delhi. It had rained heavily the previous night and all the tracks and rolling stock were wet and shining. I went to the door and enjoyed the cool breeze. A few of our youngster group were up and about and I spent some time talking with some of them - T, J and M, often drifting off midway to ogle at some WAG9 or a WAP7 ;) hehe. Later I went off to have some tea and was drinking it by the doorway of the coach (we were just cruising at some 40-45 kmph) when I spotted A - the girl who reminded me of someone-whom-I-could-not-remember, combing her hair or so by the wash basin mirror. I then remembered - Amy Lee! lead singer of Evanescence... there was something in her face that reminded me of Amy Lee.
Our whole group then got down at NDLS station and made our way to a guest house for freshing up before we proceeded to the airport for the flight to Kuala Lumpur. We had a kinda sick lunch at the guest house before we made our way to Sarojini nagar market for some quick shopping with superb bargaining. I got myself a black GnR tshirt and was satisfied :)
It was already evening as we entered Indira Gandhi international airport. Since our tour operator had some connection/agreement with Srilankan airlines, we were to take the SriLankan Airlines flight to Colombo, spend the night there and then take the SriLankan(again) flight to Kuala Lumpur(KL, as it is known for obvious simplicity). Since we had plenty of time before boarding, we (ie, youngsters) sat together under the freezing air-con vent in one corner of the lounge and played dumb-charades, acting out extrememly difficult movie-names like "Collateral Damage", "Double Jeopardy", etc :) When it was time, we boarded the flight.
Disclaimer: Personal opinion below: if you might be offended in any way, I don't give a damn
Srilankan airlines is the most repulsive airline I have ever traveled in. Right from the cabin crew - yucky airhostesses in some weird outfit to hulking stewards with shaven heads... and the food, oh my God! Dry rice, dry curry(yeah, DRY) to some weird looking things in trays formed part of the VEGETARIAN meal! Maybe they put disembodied insects in the non-veg meal. The only thing that seemed good onboard was the wine and the beer, (I refrained from drinking the beer... didnt want to go alcoholic at seventeen :) but the wine did some good to my stomach and prevented any urge to puke :) The ride was bumpy thanks to the low cloud cover and I slept till we bumped down at Colombo somewhere around 2230 hrs.
After the tideous process of filling in the immigration slips (the airline provided accomodation till the next morning flight) we plonked ourselves into a really comfortable volvo bus that took us to our resting place for the night.
... Continue to Part three...