Both me and my husband are total Bollywood Movie buffs, and when we saw Manmarziyaan, we could literally visualise our trip to Amritsar. Infact, Lucknow and Amritsar were our two main points of this trip and Nainital and Delhi just filled in the gaps. (Though am glad they filled in!). Both Abhijit and me were equally excited about Amritsar, more so because I would be spending my 31st Birthday in Amritsar, also known colloquially as Ambarsar.
Our train reached Amritsar at around 2 o’çlock in the afternoon. We were famished and thoroughly tired, because we were up since 04:30 in the morning. Abhijit slept throughout the journey, but I could not! We hired an OLA and checked into our hotel, which was barely at a half minute distance away from the Golden Temple. We stayed at Hotel Mercury Inn by Sonachi at Amritsar, which was a very basic, but clean hotel. Now cars aren’t allowed within a certain radius of the Golden Temple, so we took a Toto Rickshaw ride from where our OLA driver left us.
Once we reached the hotel, we quickly freshened up and set out on our Food Trail (Remember, we were famished?
We reached the “Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba” near Town Hall and tried their amazing Thaalis, followed by Firni. It took us very little time to realise we were full, mainly due to the stuffed paranthas and all the generous amount of butter topped over it! Punjabis take their ghee and butter very seriously, and they leave no stone unturned to serve the same amount to their guests, even if it is a pet-patla rugi Bengali! Thankfully, our digestive system co-operated with us, and we next accidentally strolled into the Partition Museum, which is right diagonally opposite to the Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba.
A trip to the Museum always reminds me of Saif Ali Khan’s dialogue in Hum-Tum (Blame it on my movie genes again!)….
“Museum toh bacche, buddhe aur teachers ke liye hotey hain!” (Museums are for the children, aged and teachers!)
However, when I entered The Partition Museum, little did I know that I would be coming out of it with a grieving heart!
The Partition Museum opened its doors for the people in 2016. It has a collection of galleries, refugee artefacts and oral histories from people and their families who have survived the partition. The Partition of India was one of the most defining events in the nation’s history. It was perhaps the largest migration in Indian history, with some 18 million affected. It is true that each artefact and oral history tells the history of Partition more poignantly than any textbook ever could. I was immersed in the grieving tales of how India attained independence and the ordeal that people faced before, during and after the partition. The personal stories of the people affected by the partition, their migration and the loss that they sustained really moved me. I was so moved that at a certain point, I refused to be happy about my birthday.
If you’re interested in the history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh this place is a must-visit. The Museum is closed on Mondays and charges a nominal fee of Rs.10/- only.
Next we rushed back to our room and I quickly changed into a saree. We visited The Harmandir Sahib of Amritsar, popularly known as The Golden Temple. I had never experienced such a serene and peaceful temple before. I had my birthday dinner at their Langar, sat near the pond that overlooks the temple for hours, and even tasted their delicious prasad – the suji halwa. One of my most memorable birthdays ever!
Next day, we started our day with a visit to The Golden Temple again, followed by a Brunch at Kesar da Dhaba. It took us a while to figure out the dhaba among the narrow gullies of Town Hall. It is one of the oldest dhabas in Amritsar that started in 1916, and we feasted on Gobhi Paranthas, Daal Fry and their famous Lassi which was served in a tall steel glass. All this for barely Rs.315/-. We could barely move around with our tummies filled to the brim! However, by now, it was time to leave for the Wagah Border visit.
Wagah is situated 600 metres west of the border and lies on the historic Grand Trunk Road between Lahore and Amritsar in India. The border is located 24 kilometres from Lahore and 32 kilometres from Amritsar. It is also 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the bordering village of Attari. I am not much of a self proclaimed patriotic person, and I carry mutual respect for all countries and their religion. However, the moment I entered the area surrounding the Wagah Border, and saw the Tricolour fluttering in the air up high, sense of patriotism swept by.
On our way back to Amritsar, we ended up spending another two hours or so at a model Punjabi village set up, known as “Sadda Pind”. They had a cover charge of Rs.650/- per head, where you would be entitled to their buffet dinner and trying out all the amusement activities that they had, such a camel ride, horse cart ride, free head massage, mehandi, sarso ka saag, makai ki roti, learning the art of Phulkaris, etc. to name a few. We did not have time for the rides, so we had our dinner there, and spent some time goofing around in the village like structure, before heading to our Hotel. The next day was our last day at Amritsar! (sob sob)
We started the day early by visiting The Golden Temple for one last time! We collected blessings that would be enough to last us till we visit Amritsar again! We then strolled around the narrow lanes of the Town Hall, and went around exploring the local markets, buying souvenirs for our friends and family.
We next visited the Jallianwala Bagh, which again crept into my mind like a horrific dream! “The Martyrs’ Well” at Jallianwala Bagh was not a pleasing sight, nor were the bullet marks. I shuddered to think how people posed with their cameras, despite being aware of the history of the garden. Very reluctantly, I captured a few photographs for my blog, few of which I am sharing.
The house which borders the Jallianwala Bagh still exist, people still dwell there, and I gaped with astonishment as to how did they deal with the massacre! Life goes on, but the wounds remain!
Honestly, Amritsar took a piece of my heart, and my heart longed to stay back here. (Despite me being a rigid Kolkattan who would never settle elsewhere in the world!). The simple lifestyle, huge hospitality, hard working Sikh community, gave me positive vibes. We had our brunch at the “Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba” (Since we did not have time to explore the other popular eateries) and bid Amritsar goodbye with a heavy heart!
Liked my Travel Story Diaries?
Read on the first three chapters of the series “On a Food Trail”