It was in the middle of cold January night last year around 12:30 am, a layer of terrifying genuine fear swept over me but maintaining outer calmness I inquired the manager at the Jalandhar bus stop, “But, how is this possible? I booked my ticket till Amritsar!”
I am a solo traveler and this is my story of one of those trips that enriches you in so many ways that you leave filled with gratitude, peace, an amazing life experience and not to forget hypnotized by the scent of the green shaded patches of fields and unforgettable Punjabi tradition .
During the long weekend of the January third week, I finally decided to give wings to my wish to see Golden temple and after making haphazard itenary a day before, I was now on the road.
I started Saturday afternoon from Delhi around 1:00 pm, hoping to reach Amritsar by 11:00 pm in the night but it was already half past twelve and I was at the connecting stop Jalandhar where excluding me everybody who boarded on bus with me left.
The bus manager informed me that the bus normal route remains till Jalandhar and as for some guest who would travel to Amritsar they arrange a cab, the guest in this scenario was only me, and that the next cab will be available in an hour.
So there I was, at an unknown bus stop, in a city I have never been, among buses ,drivers and some passengers for other routes .I questioned me many times “Is it safe? “But in those moments instead of freaking out, something caught my attention.
Under the foggy dark sky blanket in the shivering cold, I saw something that was so beautiful, the bus drivers were having hot cup of tea and chit chatting as they finished their day routes and finally finding some window to spent time together, it was like winning a cup when a driver will make a safe journey to the stop and the fellow drivers will cheer him. They would greet each other’s, share anecdotes and no cold breeze has the power to break their laughter or the joy in their eyes.
After an hour of waiting, my cab finally arrived, a driver in his early 50`s very calm, conserved and spiritual, as he bowed before the God memento in front part of car, came and we took off. I can see from his body language, he was a bit surprised about me travelling alone. He told me,” It’s a less smoky than usual days otherwise it becomes very hard to drive during these hours, thus we may be able to reach Amritsar in an hour or two”. My heart was still racing very fast as we drive through the night. I could hardly see the fields both side of the road or any sign of life sometimes. By 3:00 am in the morning we made to the hotel, and I slept till afternoon next day like a baby.
When I woke up I saw a mustard and wheat fields from hotel window and could even hear the holy song, made me realize I was at the heart of Punjab.
I started late in the afternoon, took a tour cab and hopped around “Jalia Wala Bagh” , the heart breaking story of a women written on the wall of the museum of losing her husband during the great massacre made my eyes wet” .
I watched small kids flying kites, the rickety shops nearby were so full of colors and life. Everywhere there was an aroma and essence of Punjab, the one you typically watch in movies.
I couldn’t resist trying the delicious street food and keep my eyes off the sparkle of the traditional Pulkari women were dressed in.
My next stop was “Wagah Border” where I saw the parade and Pakistan from a distance, the soldiers, the songs dedicated to India, makes you feel so much patriotic, and just before the “lowering of the flag ceremony”, they invited all girls present to dance, it was so much amazing to forget everything and be in that moment and cheer for your country.
As the ceremony ended, sun was setting and walking away from the border ,shine on the soldiers face, their smile reminded me these are the only fun moments they cherish most of the time in the line of duty and I couldn’t help saluting a few.
It was finally time for the Golden temple visit, my cab host for the day, has lived his entire life in Amritsar and provided me with a typical handkerchief to cover my head for the entry rules at the Golden Temple.
The temple is surrounded by walls and lake, so as I entered inside, my eyes wandered in all direction to see Golden temple and there it was ,as I always dreamt off, in the middle of lake shimmering under the night sky in the moon light ,and my inner voice said ”At last I see you!”.
I instantly felt so much peace which cannot be expressed in words, with pilgrims from all over the world, queuing to enter inside; I too chanted the sacred prayer.
And as I saw “Darbar Sahib” it was one of those divine moments where you can feel presence of god .I found myself a place at one of the corner of the veranda of Golden temple and sat there.
As I sat, I saw an old man on the other side of the temple, he was wearing the traditional turban which depicted he was Punjabi, suddenly he started to weep and joined his hands in the act of praying for forgiveness.
Watching him, where he already lived so many seasons of life filled with so much wisdom, it was there in that moment made me filled with gratitude. After spending sometime there, I saw something happening at the back of the temple, there was a hot water outlet from which everyone was sipping few drops of water, the temple caretaker standing beside said, “It was meant to purify your spirit and was the “Amrit” of Amritsar”, and none the less it felt the same.
Finally making a few rounds around the temple, I was ready to end my journey, and going back again a fateful incident happened, there was no bus but again a cab to take me to Jalandhar at the bus stop and it caught me by surprise the same person who drove me the first night was there of the so many drivers possible, and he smiled and I smiled back. This time we shared a lot more, he inquired about me travelling alone and said most people come to Golden temple to find if it’s made of gold, but we both knew it’s the divine peace that makes the moment golden.