Friday, March 28, 2014
We left Rishikesh before we were ready.
After an hour bus ride with our heads spending more time glued to the ceiling and James claiming to have received the most dramatic chiropractic adjustment of his life, we arrived at the train station.
We were sharing a six-bunk compartment with 10 other people, so if your addition is as good as mine then you can imagine how the night went. James and I scored the top bunks where we could at least ensure we wouldn’t be sat on for the duration of the 430km trip. We sandwiched both of our two backpacks on either ends of our bunk and settled in for the night.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Despite being called 3AC, there was no AC or fan. But luckily someone in our car shat their pants sometime around midnight. That little smell marinated all night long and when the train came to a rolling stop, we were both so excited to jump out and say hello to Amritsar.
Temple View Hotel accepted our passports in exchange for a key and we dropped our things and went quickly out the door to find coffee.
Without another caffeine option in town, we settled into the loft of Cafe Coffee Day. We sat and watched the whirlwind beneath us and finally felt like we could catch our breath and thoughts on all that we have seen in India.
After coffee we walked around the streets of Amritsar (looking mostly at Punjab shoes) for several hours before heading into the Golden Temple.
The Sri Harmandir Sahib (the Temple of God) is the inspirational and historical center of Sikhism. The Golden Temple is open to all casts, gender and religion. Over 100,000 people go there daily to worship. It was quite the experience.
If you have no idea about Sikhism like I did prior to arriving, I think its good to know that they believe that there is only one God, and that this God is the same for all religions. Sikhism also condemns rituals, and believes that everyone is equal (yes women and men and yes regardless of caste). The religion is new, founded by Guru Nanak in 1469.
It was very interesting to see tons of people walking about and we were fascinated by seeing the five articles of faith adorning everyone: long hair, a turban, comb, dagger, (ceremonial sword), a steel bracelet and certain special undies.
Outside of the Golden Temple the streets looked like a mob scene so we decided not to venture far to get some grub. We found a place with nobody in it, which is always a reassuring sign, but decided to risk it and have a seat.
Within 15 minutes the place was packed. So much so that the obese family that came barging through the door way past their dinner time decided to come up to our table while we were still eating and announce, “this meal is over.” The lady stacked our plates and I think James and I just raised an eyebrow at each other, not at all surprised by this behavior.
India. Sometimes you love it. Sometimes you hate it. Sometimes you just don’t get it at all.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
We retreated for the majority of the day inside the Grand Hotel. It’s not exactly grand, except that it has food, wifi, it’s quiet and there’s plenty of plants to help you forget where you really are.
You know, I take that back. That makes it very grand.
We went to the Golden Temple in the dark, and it was absolutely stunning. The evening was perfect.
Well – almost.
Both James and I weren’t feeling too hot and spent most of the night not being able to sleep.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Our Rishikesh friends Kelly and Erik arrived from the overnight train and we were pumped to hang with familiar faces.
We met up with them and guided them to Cafe Coffee Day before heading back into the Golden Temple. We decided that since it was much less crowded than during the weekend, we would stand in line to go into the temple.
I really wasn’t feeling well and standing in line with 100,000 pilgrims in the baking heat was probably one of our worst ideas.
The line moved about one foot every 10 minutes, the bridge was about 202ft long, so I estimated I would make it to the temple by sundown. I think I made it for 20 minutes until I lost my mind. The lady behind me was smooshing me so badly that my own feet were not even on the ground. There was pushing, shoving, yelling, screaming, stepping on people and fighting.
I didn’t understand it at all. Why are we all beating the crap out of one another to be first into a holy temple, where we are supposed to worship love, compassion and selflessness? Seems fairly hypocritical to me. Thankfully for all the pushers, shovers, yellers and screamers, once they step in and out of the temple they are cleansed, and their conscience is good to go for life. I guess that’s why they can get away with being an asshole in line and for the rest of the day/week/year.
Is that how it works?
Anyway, while in line there was sweat dripping down the backs of my legs and it definitely didn’t belong to me. I’m not sure if you’ve been to India, but you may know that deodorant doesn’t exist in this country. Also that a majority of the people are constantly showing off their farting and belching skills at all hours of the day so if you’re planning a trip prepare yourself to be IMPRESSED.
Most of the smells and sounds I’ve heard here I did not previously know where humanly possible.
Ah India – thank you so much for introducing me to the wonders of the human body.
Since lines with women take universally longer than those for men, James waited patiently, amused at the female Rocky Balboas that India breeds while I explored the inside of the temple.
Fortunately, it is pretty stunning.
No – pictures inside were not allowed and wow was that reinforced with enthusiasm .