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Showing posts with label Amritsar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amritsar. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An eve at Wagah Border - Beating Retreat Ceremony

When words fail you and you feel the adrenaline gush while watching the army parade, that's when you are at Wagah Border, Amritsar, facing our rival neighbor Pakistan.
This visit was the first for husband after he fretted and frowned over not being at Wagah even once. YouTube has endless videos of the ceremony, yet it is a different feeling to witness the same in person. 

The event, named beating retreat ceremony, takes place every day in the evening, when the gates of two counties India and Pakistan are opened and the flags are lowered. Prior to lowering the flags, security personnel from both sides march to the gate, thumping their feet, showing their aggression and pride for the country. Higher the foot in the air, louder are the cheers. This military practice takes place between Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistani Rangers, amidst huge cheering crowd at both sides. 

For the records, I had visited Wagah Border twice and each time I witnessed something new. This time (on the third visit) I witnessed new constructions, more seating capacity and of course longer queues.  
Reaching the venue is a huge task in itself. In case you do not have a pass, you are advised to reach  the venue as early as 2 pm. If you have a pass issued by any Army "connection" of yours, you have to patiently wait for your pass number to be called out. Our pass number was called out around 3:15 and by the time we reached Attari Border, traffic turned out nightmare. You also have to pay toll in between before reaching border parking. 

It was quarter to four and we had not been able to park our car. Seemed an entire country was here to watch the beating retreat ceremony. Husband parked the car at a crammed up spot roadside,  like thousand others had. We jumped into action and fled through the numerous VIP check points displaying our id cards and confirming our names on the list. The security personnel at Wagah work round the clock and managing crowds of thousands is not an easy job for sure. The least we can do is cooperate with them and not argue when they ask us to maintain discipline.

The VIP pass is no guarantee of a fixed seat or closer view. That’s exactly what happened with us. By the time we entered the “amphitheatre”, the front seats were full. We got a place somewhere in the last few rows. The visibility of Indian parade was difficult and taking pictures was next to impossible from there. But the vantage point gave a good view of the Pakistan side. This is how we find positive things among negative.  

The show started with lady officers marching towards the gate followed by cultural programs, canine unit march and BSF soldiers’ parade. The show emcee, clad in white, encourages crowd to cheer up and give a tough competition to Pakistan. The decibel level reaches a new high with every hand signal of his. As the crowd goes berserk competing with hoots from Pakistan, you can feel the contagious energy gripping you. 

The soldiers march ahead, in perfect sync, saluting the national flag and standing tall with pride at the border gate. In come the BSF officers to face Pakistani Rangers raising their feet high in the air and thumping with full might. The thump is followed by caressing their mustache or adjusting their cap, with an air of smugness. The officers are supposed to show their aggressive side, also meant to warn the rival country what we are capable of. The “mess not with me” message shows in their eyes and body language.

Meanwhile crowd from both sides cheer up with slogans praising their country. At sundown the flags are lowered, representing peace and harmony in spite of the conflict both the countries have.

As the ceremony closed and the crowd prepared to leave, all my enthusiasm died seeing so much garbage left behind. Is all the patriotism only shown with slogans and cheering up for BSF? What happened to the basic civic sense? It is extremely sad and disturbing when the fellow country people behave so. All plastic and garbage littered by the crowd would be cleaned by the BSF admin staff. What’s patriotic about it?

Keeping the security in mind, BSF security personnel ask people to leave ASAP. They did not let us contribute by cleaning up the staircase. It was against the protocol.

It took us more time to leave than it had taken to arrive, as cars were stuck in over crowded streets.

P.S- We visited Wagah Border on 31 Dec 2017. 

To reach Wagah- Take your own vehicle or hop in a public transport from Railway Station Road.
Keep in mind- 
-Handbags are not allowed to the venue. Keep them in your hotel or car. Phones and DSLR are allowed though. 
-Phone networks are jammed at Wagah for obvious reasons. Large groups should keep together. In case you get lost, it will be difficult to call anyone. 
-In case kids or family members get separated, you can make request for free announcements at dedicated booths.
-Carry your own water bottles because bottles sold inside are expensive and unhygienic. Please trash them in dustbins. Littered place is a common sight there. Please refrain. 
-Let the traffic clear before you make your way back. The noise, pollution and warm weather can create lot of confusion, stress and temper. The return way is more confusing and not the same that you took while arriving. All you need is patience and keep calm. 
-Unbearable heat during summers can make your visit difficult here. Carry caps, hats, eye glasses, sufficient water and wear comfy cottons. 

By the way this post made it to the most popular list on Indiblogger home page. 

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Gurgaon-Amritsar Weekend Trip

When husband was fretting over how to spend time over the long new year weekend (30 Dec’17 to 1 Jan’18), we made an impromptu trip for Amritsar. Since Gurgaon to Amritsar is more than 480 km and keeping the dense fog in mind, I was apprehensive about a road trip. But who argues with husband when he is so adamant to drive!

We left from Gurgaon at 5am and took our first break at Pehalwan DhabaMurthal for breakfast. Needless to mention the wow-someness of paranthas served with white butter. Two glasses of tea worked like desserts. (Diabetics please avoid tea here).

We filled ourselves to heart’s content (rather tummy’s content) and resumed with the road trip. It started getting foggy and we slowed down for quite a long stretch, which made our journey unnecessarily longer. (In winters avoid driving. Hop in a Volvo instead). 

The route we took was Gurgaon- Dhaula Kuan- Azadpur- Murthal-Ludhiana Bypass- Amritsar
We crossed 5 tolls and spent Rs 638 in all for both sides. (So much for a road trip. Phew!) Highway is smooth but road construction in few places made the ride bumpy and slow. You can expect such erections and diverted traffic at any time of the year. Apart from few places and diversions, rest of our ride was even. 

Amritsar Gate

A non-stop drive by enthusiastic husband brought us to Amritsar by 2:30pm and we checked into Hotel Pegaam by 3 pm. Without wasting much time, we rushed to Makhan Singh Restaurant on Majitha road for lunch, which was nearly 4 km from hotel.

It was sheer foolishness to pick a hotel by reviews on Zomato. Makhan Singh was not only disappointing by taste but by pocket as well. It was too expensive! An order of fried fish, palak chana and 5 tandoori rotis got us a bill of Rs.700 plus. Husband (being a non-vegetarian) said fried fish was ordinary and not worth the price. Palak Chana looked good but tasted bland. The only thing that I could taste was chilly. Our huger died and we left the place unsatisfied. The place is over-hyped for sure. (Found later my stomach was upset after eating here)

A late lunch and long dive had left us tired. We returned to Pegaam, unpacked and crashed at 7 pm to wake up next day at 6am. Pegaam’s restaurant service starts at 8 am, so we walked down to the main junction, 500 meters away, and had tea at the tiny road side tea stall. A steamy cup on a cold winter morning felt heavenly. Rickshaw wallas, auto drivers, early risers and us, all had tea outside the same shop. Clearly, tea can create good bond without the boundaries of caste, religion, money or culture.

Soon post freshening up at Pegaam, we left at 8am for an action packed day. (Husband’s priority was Wagah Border). We preferred hiring a rickshaw instead of an auto, as that helps you explore the city well. Rickshaw ride costed us Rs. 50 from Hotel Pegaam to Jallianwala Bagh premises. 
 The moment we stepped out of the ricky, hunger bells rang. We choose Bharawan ka dhaba for breakfast.

Bharawan da dhaba

The board read “SINCE 1912” and I knew the food would be authentic. Well, they exceeded my expectations.

The first bite of aloo parantha was beyond expression. True bliss I must say. Next on our plate was paneer stuffed special Amritsari kulcha with choley (chickpea) curry. It turned out the BEST breakfast ever! Fresh, hot, loaded with white butter, and balanced spices, we could not ask for anything more heavenly.

Breakfast was followed by visit to Jallianwala Wala Bagh.

This is public garden (in)famous for brutal massacre by British Army’s Gen. Dyer on 19 April 1919. He had ordered mass shooting where people had gathered for Baisakhi celebration and peaceful protest against arrest of two national leaders.

Thousands of innocent people lost their lives and the gruesome bloodbath had sent a shock-wave across the nation. Dyer’s act was condemned and he was removed from the British Army command. The bullet marks remain on the walls of the garden and a memorial dedicated to the deceased has been constructed. In-fact lot of artefacts have been constructed with the Bagh off-late.


Amar Jyoti- A contibution made by Indian Oil Association in Jallianwala Bagh 

The memorial in the center of the garden

The premises of Golden Temple has got a nice face-lift recently. With newly constructed roads and organized shops, it is a pleasant experience to roam around. E-rickshaw facility has also started, to curb pollution. You know you are in the Amritsar when modern blends with tradition. The well managed crowd, neat lanes and colorful shops add to your belief. It feels homely and warm.

Impulsive hogging and lots of window shopping occupied most of our time during the day and we headed for Wagah Border ceremony at 12.30 pm as our pass was waiting at the check post.

What followed was a thrilling adventure and adrenaline rush at Wagah Border. Read the post on Wagah Border Beating Retreat Ceremony here. . 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My top 5 travel destinations

Travelling thrills me and I admit being bitten by the ‘traveler bug’. I have travelled to quite a few places and dream to travel to many more, because I just don’t get enough of the “bug”. Sharing few top destinations of my choice-
Dalhousie- Visiting Dalhousie was on my wish list since a long time till the dream came true in April of 2014. An all-girls trip to this pretty hill station was fun and mesmerizing. Known for its beautiful landscapes, serene splendor of nature and amazing weather, Dalhousie charts as one of the most romantic places in hill stations. At a distance of 558km from Delhi, there is no direct connectivity of the places. We boarded an overnight bus from Delhi to Pathankot covering around 480 km and hired a taxi from Pathankot covering around 83km. The tiresome journey and patience finally paid us when we entered Dalhousie. The place is breathtaking. Before checking into our hotel, we detoured for Chamera Lake, a major boating point and hydroelectricity project for the district. The entire alley was scented with beautiful pink roses. The foggy hills, the lavish greenery, the sparkling waters, the cloudy sky, made us speechless. As the taxi ferried us to our hotel, I was absolutely stunned by the location of the hotel Silverton estate.Post a refreshing welcome drink and tour of the marvelous property built during British time, we headed for sightseeing. We covered Subhash Chowk, the little Gandhi market and Panchpula waterfalls on day 1. Every place is a must see for all.


Day 2 was trip to Khajjiar,DiankundandKalatop. Mind you, it was the 3rd week of April and was surprising chilly. Against our expectations, we experienced snowfall in Diankund. Ah it was a place to die for. Khajjiar, called the mini Switzerland of India was the cherry on the cake. A huge pastureland surrounded by coniferous trees and a little pond in middle, sheep grazing by, cold winds from the hills and an array of colorful flowers were remarkably astounding. One would be awed by the natural beauty of Dalhousie. A must see destination for nature lovers and a superb place for honeymoon

Agra- Every Indian must visit Agra, because it is has one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was declared UNESCO world heritage site. One does feel proud to see the great Taj Mahal that was built in 22 years (1631-
Taj Mahal
1653) with the orders of Shah Jahan, dedicated to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The white marble structure stands as the symbol of love and clever architecture of an era without technology. Easily approachable from Delhi via Noida expressway, Agra is at a distance of 232 km only, which can be covered via bus, own vehicle, train or flight. As you spend around 3 hours in Taj Mahal appreciating the beauty and the grandeur of the bygone time, you would also feel sad for the depreciating structure and the physical harm done to the Taj. If only the authorities were not looking after the monument, it would have been in ruins today. Besides Taj Mahal, one must see Old Fort just 2.5 km apart. I was speechless the moment I entered it. The huge monument still stands tall with pride and sets a remarkable example of perfect ancient architecture. Be it the Deewan-e-khaas , Deewan-e- Aam , Jahangiri Mahal,Sheesh Mahal or the entry gates for the Army, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the fort comprising a blend of white marbles & red sand stones. The ancient engineering has no equals and nobody can reproduce the magic with the same grace and perfection. Some portions of the fort are not accessible to the public, of course for security reasons .The portions which are open for all, are masterpiece of creations.  Once you are in Agra, don’t miss trying various sorts of petha (angoori, pan, saada) and moth-kachori, a staple snack.It is out of the world! Avoid Agra during April to June due to peak summers.

Jaipur- Named as the pink city, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is a seamless blend of History and modern lifestyle. Formed by Raja Man Singh, Jaipur offers some of the finest forts and palaces that attracts tourists from the globe. One of them is the Jaigarh Fort. Located at 400 meters above the Amer Fort,  the fort offered a bird’s view of the city to the army of Jai Singh. The main attraction of this fort is the giant canon, referred as Jai Vaana in Hindi.
Hawa Mahal

Its 20 feet long barrel that weights about 50, and has a diameter of 11 inches. With a range of 22 miles, the cannon is said was fired only once. The specialty of this cannon was its free rotation in any direction. Imagine mounting such a heavy piece on wheels and rolling up the hills during those that time! Beautifully carved at the mouth scroll and body, the cannon stands protected as a masterpiece made by the skilled craftsmen then.  Indulge in the royal Rajput architecture of the massive Amer Fort that takes more than 3 hours to stroll around. The fort houses artifacts of Rani Jodha’s paalki, the king’s lifestyle, handcrafted trunks, beds, entertainment rooms and many more. One can enjoy live puppet shows, an art that is slowly fading. Among the other must see things in Jaipur are Hawa Mahal, Rani Padmawati Mahal, Nahargarh Quila, Rajmandir (a movie theater built in British style) and Choki Dhani ( A modern reconstruction of old Rajasthan with culture, food and games on display). In 400 INR entry fees, Choki Dani offers you a lot more than what meets the eye. Because of connectivity to adjoining cities like Ajmer, Pushkar, Neemrana and Alwar, Jaipur contributes a lot to Indian tourism. Avoid visiting Jaipur during April to July when temperature soars higher than 50 degrees.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia- Apart from serious sports, Australia has great places too. The Great Barrier Reef is an absolute must visit for every human on this Earth. This water body on the planet is the largest structure visible from outer space! Need any more reason to be there?  This 2,300 km-long ecosystem encompasses countless reefs and islands made of over 600 types of hard and soft coral. The reef structure was built by tiny organisms coral polyps thousands of years ago. Sedimentation of rocky deposits, volcanic eruptions and other geological shifts formed the barrier reef which eventually became a popular tourist destination.

The barrier reef is home to a wide diversity of life. Among the seven natural wonders of the world, Barrier reef’s crystal blue offers breathtaking view of islands and marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and large Green Sea Turtle. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981. With activities like scuba diving, sky diving, sailing and many more, the natural wonders are experienced. Personally I feel awed by how much the creator has blessed us with so much to see and appreciate! This place has been on my travel list since childhood!

Amritsar- My workplace demanded me to travel a lot during the initial stage of my career. One of the destinations was Amritsar, Punjab.
Golden Temple
I have been lucky to visit the place twice and soaked in all that I could. Connected via Volvo and train, Amritsar sees a mahor footfall each day towards the majestic Golden Temple and Wagah Border. At a distance of about 450 km from Delhi, Amritsar boasts of a closely knitted culture along with hospitality and warmth in people. A memorial in Jallianwala Bagh speaks of the tragedy meted out to thousands of people by General Dyer which holds a very important place in History. These three places in Amritsar are major crowd pullers. As you start your day with a dip in holy water in Harmandir Sahab’s pond, the serenity of the Gurudwara instantly fills you with devotion. A long queue at the Gurudwara entrance is managed by the management very efficiently. It is believed that an ardaas (prayer) is always answered by the almighty if done with pure heart. The Gurudwara is home to several homeless and poor and thousands volunteer to participate in Gurudwara maintenance, as it is believed that sevaa to mankind is sevaa to God. Half a day at the Gurudwara spending peaceful moments followed by langar, again managed so efficiently, makes you come back here each time.

The retreat ceremony at Wagah Border every evening is something to watch for. Wagah border between India and Pakistan where high tension prevails, is guarded by Border Security Force (BSF). The borders are barred by gates where the flags of both the countries are retreated in the evening and thousands gather to watch the cultural ceremony that takes place with great enthusiasm. Mind you, one needs special permission or pass to sit in the VIP block and watch the function from a short distance. I have witnessed the entire saga that comprised an opening march by lady officers, dance on patriotic numbers, BSF soldiers’ aggressive salute, face off with Pakistan Rangers and roar of slogans from both the countries. The ceremony is a treat to eyes and certainly gives you goosebumps! The energy, the colorful life, great food and beauty of Amritsar keeps seeing me visit frequently.
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Monday, November 30, 2009

My travel diary

My current job ,demands traveling out of Delhi often. Though I have frequented many places a number of times, there are two places which I long to visit again.

Recently I was on an official tour to Agra. Amid the busy schedule I found some time to enjoy and laze around .It became a nice holiday rather. Since I had seen Taj Mahal before, I asked my colleague to visit the massive Agra Fort. I had no idea how was it going to be, but I swear I was speechless the moment I entered it. The huge monument still stands tall with pride and sets a remarkable example of perfect ancient architecture. Be it the Deewan-e-khaas , Deewan-e- Aam , Jahangiri Mahal,Sheesh Mahal or the entry gates for the Army, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the fort comprising a blend of white marbles & red sand stones. My colleague agreed with me that ancient engineering has no equals and nobody can reproduce the magic with the same grace and perfection. Some portions of the fort are not accessible to the public, of course for security reasons .The portions which are open for all, are masterpiece of creations.

I am too fond of sweets. So I hogged Agra’s pethas. I was surprised to see a huge variety like Angoori petha, Chocolate petha, colorful petha and so on…..I had a feast with pethas and hot kachoris with finger licking “aaloo ki subzi ” 

My official tour to Amritsar happened to be my first visit to Punjab. Visiting Amritsar was a wonderful experience, even better than what I had heard and read. I wonder why is the Golden Temple not one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Left spellbound again by the lovely construction of the Gurudwara, I appreciate the efficient management which controls the crowd so well and keeps it running 24×7. The Gurudwara also called Sri Harmandir Sahib is home to the shelter less and treats all castes-religions with equal love and request. I was touched to see physically challenged people working and helping the temple management since they believe that seva to mankind is seva to God.

From Golden Temple we headed towards Wagah Border the same evening. The place was overcrowded much more than what I had expected. The sunset ceremony which takes place daily is a spectacular event which I witnessed that day. The tall BSF rangers from India proudly walked at the gate while the audience hooted and cheered enthusiastically. The black uniformed Pakistani Rangers were seen walking with the same pride and attitude. Post the 1947 partition, Wagah village, controversially lies half in Pakistan and half in India. Both the countries host colourful functions on their sides. The flags are lowered at sunset and the rangers confront each other after the gate opens. It was a wonderful sight to watch. With the loud thump of the rangers, my heart was pounding loudly. I was full of pride for the nation and for the Armed forces who have left no stone unturned to keep the country’s honour.

Not to forget the people in Punjab- cheerful, helpful and open hearted. I couldn’t digest the amount of butter I was served with each meal yet I loved the local food.(Can never forget Phirni, lassi, sweets and parantha). I felt so safe in the new place which I never felt in Delhi despite having spent 6 years here. Such was the lovely connection I made with Amritsar in mere 1 day and the memories will be cherished forever.