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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

November 9th: Amritsar

On November 9th 1972 I was in Amritsar in the Indian Punjab, after driving across the border from Pakistan.

When we left the UK, we didn't even know whether the Indian border had reopened after the recent war with Pakistan.  We met someone in Athens who had driven from India, so after then we knew that the border was open but only on Thursdays.  We had also seen groups of refugees who we believed to be Bengalis.  We knew that it would take a long time to get across, and therefore the only thing was to allow a whole day for crossing and not be anxious.  We were off from Lahore at 6.30 and to the border at Wagah around opening time at 8.  It took three hours to clear the Pakistan side and four hours later we had finished on the Indian side.  The queues were not long: it was more that there was no urgency to get things moving, something we were fairly used to by then. 

Baba Atal:  Picture by Jasleen Kaur, CC
We took two Australian hitch-hikers to the Tourist Bungalow where we were able to camp, and later went for a meal with them.  The next day we took a rickshaw to the Golden Temple where we sat and observed the music and food ceremony from the balcony.  Two Sikhs kindly showed us around the rest of the building and courtyard and then took us up the adjoining tower of Baba Atal.   Afterwards we wandered, gingerly, through the lanes of the old town and found rice and chickpeas with salted lemon juice for lunch.  In the evening we went out again on foot and ran into a wedding procession with a band and a horse.  We met the groom and stopped to drink tea with his relatives at his insistence, but they were a bit dull.

This was my first full day in India and was as good as I had hoped.  The weather all that autumn was perfect, sunny and hot in the day and fresher at night but not cool.  India fascinated as much for the richness of its scents as for its sights.  I felt like there was nowhere at the time I would rather be.  As we drove out of town next morning a boy entirely painted in blue ran from the road into a house and this gave a feeling of mystery - I had no idea what this vision was about.

I was back in Amritsar the following April, and again in 1978.

Patrimonium Mundi:  Panoramas of The Golden Temple.

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