It is my last day in India before flying to Nepal and I'm feeling a little nervous about going there as I have actually really grown to feel comfortable in India (in spite of how crazy a place it is!)
Since my last entry in Dharamsala, I caught a bus to Amritsar in the Punjab region of northwest India.Â Amritsar is the home of the Golden Temple, which is the Sikhs main temple.Â You are actually allowed to stay in pilgrim guesthouses in the Temple grounds and only have to give a small donation for it.Â I stayed there and had a fantastic view of the Temple from the rooftop and was awoken by the sounds of singing every morning.
The Temple is absolutely stunning and is made of Gold and white marble (but mostly gold) and it is in a white marble courtyard with a lake surrounding it.Â Â It is a really peaceful place despite the large numbers of people visiting and has a real community feel as part of the way they practise their religion is to eat together in the courtyard.Â It is also great to go in there at different times of the day to see the sunrise, sunset, see it all lit up and see various processions/cermonies taking place.
I also went to the border with Pakistan to watch the hilarious evening border ceremony that takes place when they close the gates for the night.Â I have not laughed so much in ages.Â Hundreds of Indians and a few tourists go there every night of the year for a huge street party.Â It starts with lots of flag waving and various members of the public taking it in turns to run up and down the street next to the border and enthusiastically wave huge flags.Â This prompts a bit of a scrum as young Indian women in sari's wrestle with old fat Punjabi men in tubans or young Indian men in westernÂ clothes for the privilege of waving the flag at the Pakistani's.Â Meanwhile, exactly the same thing is going on the other side of the gate with the Pakistani flag wavers.
Then music starts and a song called 'Hindustani' blares out of the loud speakers and everyone starts clapping and singing.Â The young Punjabi men dance around the main street with their finger pointing shoulder shrugs and some even have specially prepared dance routines to go along with it.
Then the wonderfully dressed border guards all appear.Â They have an impressive array of handlebar moustaches and beards and wear high waisted khaki trousers, spats and hats that look like red folded napkins in the shape of a fan.Â The captain then bellows into a microphone and tries to hold a note longer than his Pakistani counterpart who you can hear a few metres away.Â
The various soldiers then proceed to do something that looks like Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks with high leg spins, waddles, stamps and extremely earnest expressions on their faces.Â The Indian crowd goes wild as their soldiers march up to the gate in this hilarious fashion and have what looks like a dance competition with the Pakistani guards who have similarly funny walks, but with a side shuffle and baggy pants that MC Hammer must have based his style on.Â This goes on for ages, with the two countries crowds cheering their men and singing and chanting 'Hindustani'.Â Eventually the flags are lowered, the dancing stops and everyone goes home happily waving their flags.
I really think that all border disputes should be resolved in this way and perhaps there would be less strife in the world!
I left Amritsar after a couple of days and returned to Delhi.Â It was funny coming back as I overheard many tourists shouting at people for ripping them off/staring at them/ lying to them about where to go.. etc.Â I think that this was exactly how I was five months ago, but is nice to know that I managed to survive and eventually really learn to appreciate India and what it has to offer.Â I'm also far less stressed by dealing with such things than I was before and hope I can continue in this manner.
I'm really looking forward toÂ Nepal and cannot wait to get into lots of outdoorsy things.