Post details: Amritsar

2006-04-23

//Permalink 01:23:18 pm, Categories: India, 899 words  

Amritsar

I had some days to spend in Amritsar. Amritsar is the holy city of the Sikhs - containing their beatiful Golden Temple. Amritsar was also the location of one an important historical event in Indian history, a gathering and subsequent slaughter of hundreds of Indians, fueling their fight for Independance from England.

"I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing but they would have come back again and laughed, and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself." — Dyer's response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry.
(The troops were commanded by British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer).

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Now, the real reason that I was spending DAYS in Amritsar was (surprise! surprise!) ..of course related to my motorbike. The thing started smoking again. A mechanic would be sent up from Delhi to take care of the problem (I had my doubts - not about him actually coming up from Delhi, more about him actually fixing it). Anyway, I had time to look around.

First of all, I must say that although Indians are very friendly - the further north from Delhi I get - the friendlier they have become.. The Sikhs handed me out their telephone numbers like people throwing rice in a wedding - call me if you need ANYTHING! I felt like a president, wherever I was walking - someone would come up to me to shake my hand and take photos. I am now the proud member of quite a few Indian photoalbums that will be seen by generations to come: "..but Daddy, who's that white guy??". "I don't know son, but he insisted to be in our family picture".

"He was, by the way, not married"

You also feel those guys hanging around your shadow (a creepy feeling i Europe), but here they were just waiting for enough courage, or the opportunity to step into the light, greet me and practise the little english they knew. It was nice to (not be going anywhere) have the time to finally accept the invitations for tea, and I soon found myself spending hours in conversations with strangers over sweet cups of Indian chai (milk tea).

One of them were two distingushed old Sikh gentlemen, that I met at Jallianwala Bagh, the park and site of the 1919 massacre. The questions are usually the same; who are you, where do you come from and most important of all - Are you married? Indians are generally mildly shocked by the fact that I am 31 years old and still not married. Sooner or later as the conversation progresses they will (politely) return to the question to figure out WHY ON EARTH IS HE NOT MARRIED?!?? Turns out the two gentlemen were both widowed, and had met each other just one year ago in this very park. Now they were friends and spent the days in each others company. They finished off the conversation and asked me if I would take their picture. When I left, the silent one said: "Picture! Marriage!" - meaning "Don't forget to send us the picture" and "Find yourself a WIFE and GET MARRIED! NOW!".

Another conversation I had was with Mr. Coca Cola and Mr. Pepsi - two big hairy guys drinking tea outside my Hotel. Mr.CC worked of course for CC and Mr. P worked for P. In work they were fierce competitors, and at my arrival was arguing about who had the best girls promoting their product. CC has former Miss Universe Aishwarya Rai, a woman who could probably easily fool already married men into new marriages. Pepsi has aquired the help of two famous indian bollywood stars, very pretty girls also.

Mr. Pepsi grinned and offered me a sticky brown substance (opium) out of a plastic container - the type you buy camera film in. I politely declined but accepted a cup of tea. They assured me that they were good friends on a private basis, and again I was handed telephone numbers and urged to call them if I needed anything. These guys were not so interresten in the fact that I was not married - more on the details of how many girlfriends I've had and how they were. Not so gentleman like :)

I went to see the Golden Temple in the afternoon when the sum lights up the goldplated domes and the shadows bring out the beauty of the white marble tiles. Upon entering you have to cover you hair (there are people outside selling you a small bandana you can use) and take of your shoes, Again I was approached by so many people for handshakes, pictures and chats that I was causing a commotion. Whenever you are about to take a picture, in just a few seconds the objective is crowded by many happy people pushing and shoving each other to be part of your memories.

The mechanic eventually arrived from Delhi a day late, but it's a long ride (on the bus) so I don't blame him. He looked over the bike and agreed that I had a problem but could reassure me that it was not the same one as I'd had i Delhi (the one that required a new piston and a new cylinder). So, he popped open the engine, took out the piston - fitted it with new piston rings and some extra fitting and reassembled the machine. No smoking, problem fixed!

I could not help wondering: For how long?

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