brace yourself to compare all preconceived expectations, and then, nothing. an indian train station at 7am is much like any other train station at 7am. people stopping at the snack bar to get their chai. waiting with their bags to board the train. a really loud “ta-da” video game-esque sound effect playing after every announcement over the loud speaker, oh wait, what? jasprit warns me that this is not ALL indian train stations. just wait until mumbai (hopefully this means that there will be a bollywood dance scene like in slumdog).
now granted, we were in the business class section. our names were even on the list. s. schneider in hindi. the cheaper seats get a bit more crowded i hear.
but for us, the train ride from delhi to amritsar was a breeze. six hours for me to crank out some serious graphic design and jam out to the civil wars (yes brian, they have been on repeat for the past few months) while gazing out the window pretending i could actually see things through the dirty, foggy glass. bottled water, expired yet delicious mango juice box, meal, and tea service included. sounds great right? it was, until you have to pee. fast-moving, bumpy trains make squatting over a hole in the ground quite an interesting endeavor. good thing i have good balance and a dirtbag soul.
we arrive in amritsar around 2pm. jasprit scouts out sunny, our driver for the next two days, and we pile into his old white land rover. onto our hotel, hong kong hotel. we settle in and ask for a good restaurant to grab lunch. restaurant! phissh. they will cook for us and bring it to the room. what do we want? jasprit has been the best personal food-selecter ever. basically, i cannot tell you anything i have eaten but i can tell you it has been delicious. simple yet spiced to perfection. usually involving some form of bread, potatoes, and dal (porridge-like dish). and for me, the best part is that i get to eat with my hands. when in rome!
or i suppose when in india…go to see one of the most entertaining traditions, the opening of the gates every evening at the pakistan-india border. hundreds of people come and fill the stands. pakistanis on their side and indians on their side. everyone cheering and dancing and chanting and waving flags. guards dressed up to the nines and putting on quite the show. each country’s guards have a march off complete with over 6’ men high-kicking to their noses, not even kidding. a true celebration of the calm that is currently forming between the two bordering countries.
the highlight? of course it was the school children. indian boys are the best dancers in the world. scientifically proven. you heard it here. put on a bhangra beat and watch the freestyle explode. if only i had as much rhythm as they do. don’t worry, there is video.
the runner up? sybille and i getting to run in front of the crowd with a huge indian flag. what makes this moment even better was that teresa grabbed my camera, with a zoom lens, and captured this amazingly close up shot of my extreme joy. flag? what flag?
walk back to the car with the masses snapping photos of every indian child i could along the way.
enjoy a quick chai and head back to amritsar (30 minute drive) for the main attraction, harimandar sahib, better known as the golden temple. amritsar is in the state of punjab, a predominantly sikh population.
the domes shined in the darkness, and as we removed our shoes and covered our heads, i did what i always do, asked my guru jasprit to translate the message of the day to me: remember how valuable you are and don’t let things distract you from that. keep universal oneness as your focus.
have you ever caught yourself holding your breath? visit the golden temple. you just might.
a large pond surrounding a building completely covered in gold. its reflection sending orange rays over the ripples. punjabi words singing throughout the air. a sense of serenity. the darkness engulfing my mind, the gold enlivening my soul. i barely feel the cold marble under my feet. i completely forget my bladder is ready to burst.
close your eyes. the language is foreign yet you know what they are saying.