“Should I come to pick you up?”

“No there’s no need, I’m coming by taxi with my friends. Just come near the highway. I’ll call when I’m close.”

“Okay.” And thus I waited for my mom to come back home from her three-day trip to Amritsar.
Before her trip, I remember asking her, “How did this sudden plan come up?”

“Well, one of my colleagues at work took a leave and started working from her home in Amritsar. The other girls in the team were making plans to visit her in Amritsar, and on a Diwali day she called and asked me whether I’d like to join them,” was her answer.

I got the call and left the house to go pick her up, knowing all too well that she is going to be bursting to tell me about all the little things she did over there. And sure enough, as soon as we got home, the torrent started.

“Soham, the place is so beautiful and cold and the food is amazing and this and that. I had to stop her before she would start squeaking at me.”

“Okay, calm down, tell me what all did you do?

“The first day went in travelling to Amritsar. My friend had invited all of us to stay in her family home with her mother. Now knowing her as well as I do, I knew this was not a fake offer. She had asked her friend to lend her a two-wheeler, so along with hers, we had 2 Activas to roam around Amritsar.

And Sona, the entire time that we were there na, we were being offered food every hour or so. And when we weren’t being offered food, tea and biscuits were being handed out left, right and centre. Despite her not feeling well, my friend’s mother’s inner hostess was going over the top. She even made us saag which takes over 3 hours to cook! Sarso ka saag and Makke ki roti. Everyone is just so hospitable and friendly. Amritsari food is much beyond butter chicken and parathas.”

Ma Travels - Amritsar

“You’re making me hungry now, stop it. Did you see the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh?”

“Of course, I did. When we first went there, my friend said that the water surrounding the temple is said to have healing powers. A leper once took a dip in this water and was cured of his disease. I have to admit that when I splashed my face with it, I felt revitalized and rejuvenated.

There was a long queue to get in and we had to wear our dupattas over our heads to make sure no strand of hair is visible. I took out my phone to pass the time, but someone behind me poked me and asked me to put that thing inside and to concentrate on the atmosphere inside the temple. Inside was the Guru Granth Sahib, covered under a cloth. People were meditating and Sikh songs were being played. Even though I couldn’t understand the lyrics, I felt at peace and comfortable.

We clicked a lot of pictures and selfies around the Golden temple and had a jolly good time. But at walking distance from the temple, is the Jallianwala Bagh. Subconsciously, all of us made up our minds, when we go in, we are not going to pull out our phones to take needless pictures. Walking in the Bagh was a sobering moment. To see the bullet hole ridden walls where people gathered after the Baisakhi festival peaceful were fired upon by General Dyer. The well, infamous for people jumping into it to escape. One thing that I would like to point out is that the government has made a ginormous effort to maintain the sanctity of the place. To leave the place undisturbed is the best tribute that one could pay.”

Ma Travels - Amritsar

“And obviously you visited the border, right?”

Wagah border, yes! It really gives you this sense of national pride and a sudden hit of patriotism. You can see a board saying Lahore 24kms, my office here is closer than that. This is where it actually hits you, that these two rival nations were once part of something bigger. At the parade ground, you can see the people on the other side, cheering on for their country, same as on our side. If not for the fence, we would’ve been cheering or the same side.

Recently they’ve opened a museum, documenting the history of Punjab. From its prosperous past to Sikhs, Mughals, British and finally the partition and how they’ve sprung back up. People fleeing Amritsar or Lahore were under the impression that this is a temporary measure and took only the bare essentials for survival. The museum exhibits the trunks and articles left behind by the families. Diaries everyday clothes and items. Normal objects, which got a bloody history forced on them.”

“Yeah, that’s true. It’s amazing how far we’ve come since 1947, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

“But its so uplifting to see the people carry on with places like these in the backdrop. The hospitality of the locals, the food of the place the climate. We roamed all day long, yet didn’t feel tired when we got home. It was just amazing Sona.”

“I can only imagine. Also, how’s your visa application coming along? You’re going to Seattle in January, aren’t you?”

Ma Travels - Amritsar