After a delayed flight, arrived late at Mrs Bhandwari’s Guest house. It was everything that the LP Guide had described it as. Homely and cosy. Our guide Ricky, had agreed to take us on as he heard we were from Melbourne. When he discovered we were from Melbourne, he couldn’t wait to share stories of his love for our city, its people and our culture that he experienced in his 3 and a half year stay in Oz. Again we were so fortunate to have a brilliant guide who explained the Sikh religion’s creation, its tenets and traditions. He took us through the ‘World’s Largest Kitchen’ that through volunteers, serves tens of thousands of meals each day…………to all comers…..non Sikh alike. Scores of people making and cooking chapattis, huge cauldrons of Dahl weighing more than half a tonne, scores of dishwashers, and army of people peeling garlic! We walked the perimeter of the Golden Temple as Ricky explained the importance of a sacred tree in their religion.
We were taken to a memorial site which commemorates the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre, where British troops opened fired on innocent Indians who had gathered for a meeting. Off on a walkabout of the local streets, Marcus was asked to make a tandoori kulcha. Amid the gathering throng of onlookers, the dough was prepared, before slapping it to the inside of the inferno that is a tandoor. Minutes later we were sampling the delights of my handiwork. At the Border crossing……….a sardine’s perspective! While the normal arrival time for this most bizarre of events is around 5:30, the presence of 1200 students from the University of Delhi meant having to arrive at 4pm. Despite our early arrival at the entrance gate and the promise we would have a special line for ‘foreigners’, 30 buses were ushered through the gates before us………seats would be at a premium. Once inside, the crush began. The ladies were escorted to the side while the men were firstly compressed into a pack half the width of the road, before being squeezed into single file to be frisked.
Luckily we were seated on a ‘walkway’ so had an obstructed view of the border gates and the Pakistani side. While the Pakistan side of the border had several hundred supporters, by contrast there were 1200 students from Delhi University along with several thousand others who packed the stands. An enormous karaoke session ensued as Indipop songs blasted from the speakers.
The ‘Dancing Guru’ (see the slideshow) set the crowd alight………very quickly the street below was packed with a throng of dancing, singing Indians and foreigners alike. As the sun set, the ceremony was announced by an elongated ululation from a soldier before he pranced toward the border gates, high stepping and kicking his brightly decorated head dress!!! This continued for the next hour, with individuals, pairs and groups of soldiers surging to the gates before abruptly stopping and posturing to the opposition Pakistani soldiers, who are performing similarly on their side of the border. Each time the soldiers approached the gates the crowd crescendo built to a roar when they reached the border. IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE HOOT!! All aboard our final train trip and we are bound for our final destination, Delhi. We were delightfully surprised…….huge seats so plenty of leg room……and the food just kept on coming….better than airline food and being crammed into a small seat, having to be there 3 hours before you fly and don’t have to wait for baggage to arrive. Pity we can’t catch a train to Oz!