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On 4th of January 2009, I realized what it feels like to be an Indian: standing on the edge of this country amongst 5000 odd of my country men and 7 other great friends. The feeling was priceless as I promised myself to savour every moment of it. Guess I will take you through a more elaborate account of my trip to Amritsar.
It was sometime in 2004, my first year in Delhi as a resident for an MBA program with Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management that I developed this urge to visit the Wagah border and the Golden Temple. But this was more than a mere wish as I promised myself to see it only on a winter evening with a slight haze that is typical to Northern India during winters. It took only 5 more Delhi winters to make me realize my dream.
Last year I decided to leave Delhi for good and I knew for sure that this was perhaps my last chance (last winters) in Delhi before I move on. So, it was all the more important for me to make my dreams come true. End of 2008 was quite hectic in terms of decisions and weekend trips, so I persuaded my friends – Kapil, Devesh, Aditya, Deepak, Sonica, Jazryk & Rupali to make this happen. I can tell with my hand on heart that these are amongst my friends who will stand by you through thick and thin.
All agreed and it was magical as we decided and Jaz got the tickets done through her agent in a day and Rupali did the hotel bookings and we were just 2 days from departure. The train was to leave Delhi at 6.30 AM on Saturday and Deepak had strange doubts that we were informing him the timings as per DST (Deepak standard time) 1 or 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure, but it was quite different Saturday morning as Deepak was the one who called me frantically and said – “leave now or else you guys will miss the train”. For the first time I felt I was getting late. Kapil was getting the cab and coming to pick Adi, Devesh (who had come over the previous night) and me. The cab reached late due to fog and finally Kapil reached at 6 AM and there was no way we could make it to the station on time.
As luck would favor, the train was also pushed to 8.30 AM on account of Delhi fog, so we reached in time and for once Deepak was on time. We left for Amritsar and we reached at 7.30 PM in the night. The arches in the railway station gave a feeling that it was a place of historic importance. As we moved beneath the arches we were welcomed by a flurry of coloured turbans reassuring that we were in the right place.
We went to Surjith’s for dinner and the Tandoori delicacies were truly amazing. The dinner at Surjit's was something I will never forget for the rest of my life and now I had a new benchmark for what I will call as Good when it comes to Tandoori platter. Next day was going to be action packed as we had everything left to witness.
Morning we went to Harbajans for breakfast and stuffed ourselves with Amritsari Kulchas, Chole Bhature and Lassi: we had loads of it that was good enough to sustain us if we starved the next few days. We then moved to the Golden Temple. I would say it’s one impeccable place on earth and each one should pay a visit to understand what dedication is when it comes to keeping a place spic and span. The sparkling water around the temple just adds to the beauty of the place.
We then moved to Jallian Wala Bagh which is just across the street. For the first time I felt what it would have been to be part of the independence struggle and the pain our countrymen went through. What those 2000 odd souls would have felt when the 1650 odd rounds of bullets were fired randomly at them. Juxtapose it to modern India where politicians spread the message of freedom: ridiculous, as the word freedom has lost its complete meaning in today’s context. All I can say is that those 2000 people were true brave citizens of this country.
We then went back to our rooms, checked out and started moving to the Wagah border. My “5 winter” wish was close to coming true. As we drove towards the border, I just realized how close I was getting to my country’s edge. We made it just in time and took a vantage point to witness the retreat ceremony. As our soldiers pounded the ground with their feet and did the ritual, I felt a peculiar feeling of patriotism which I had never felt before.
An unparalleled sense of vigor – perhaps when you close your fist and tense your muscles and watch with your eyes intensely, you know the enemy is just a few meters away and you are ready to take him man to man, eye to eye. I knew I had it in me if it was required.
We went back to the city with a special sense of contentment and satisfaction. Ate, ate and ate and made it to the train which had a very odd timing – just 5 minutes shy of midnight. Thankfully there was not much fog as we steamed into Delhi, just reaching an hour late. As future events would shape up, 5th of January 2009 would remain an iconic date on my calendar.
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A Grandson, Husband and Father of Two, S Jaganathan, is one of the Director's of The Verandah Club. He is an avid traveller, interested in trendspotting and a firm believer in the philosophy - Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah.
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