I had to meet the Station Superintendent to arrange my visit to the Wagah Border and get a testimonial from him of my visit to Amritsar. I was told yesterday evening that he would be available only after 10 am. I gave it another hour for him to finish the morning meetings in the office. When I met him at 11 he wanted me to get both done through the Assistant Traffic Manager – a classic case of red tape. When you have a level functioning above you the tendency is to ‘glove the ball to him’. Rather than be annoyed with such guys I feel sorry that they under perform. When I told him to check if the ATM is in office another worthy seated with the SS vehemently asserted that he was. I reached the office of the ATM and was told that ‘Saab’ has not yet come to the office and could be busy making arrangements for the visit of the CRB. While waiting outside the ATM’s office I met Jai Singh, the Office Superintendent of the ATM. He made me comfortable in the ATM’s room and sought to know the purpose of my visit. I told him why I was there and that I did not want a reservation. He immediately contacted someone in the Border Post and arranged my entry to the VIP enclosure. He suggested I wait and meet the ATM for the testimonial as it would be more ‘valuable’. I acquiesced and waited for the ‘Saab’ over a cup of tea graciously offered by the OS. Even by 1230 there was no sight or news of the ‘Saab’. Hence, I requested Jai Singh to give me the testimonial, failing which I would be wasting all my time in the office. He agreed and I left after thanking the OS. A simple job, but the attitude matters; rejected by the SS I was assisted by the OS.
I walked outside the exit arch of the railway station and took refuge in a small eatery for a breakfast of Parathas and dal. After a cup of tea I took off for the Ram Thirath Temple and the Wagah Border. The former is 13 kms from the station. The legend of Valmiki, Sita, Luv & Kush and Sita’s sacrifice is the theme of this location. There is a ‘Prachin’ (Old) temple, which is supposed to be the house of Sita and the birth place of the twin sons. Next to it is the Ashram of Valmiki. Another enclosure is supposed to be the place here the children were imparted training. There is a huge tank in front of the ‘complex’ which, according to a Sadhu in the Valmiki Ashram, was created when Ram ordered his soldiers to dig and reclaim Sita. There is a well near the Ashram with steps leading to it, known as Sita Kund, which is where Sita used to bathe. I found this confusing since Sitamarhi in UP claims the same legend and locations of it. The Sadhu rebutted the claim of UP. I wanted to know why this ‘complex’ is run down and not ‘dressed up’ to attract tourists. He said that the residents in the locality have taken an injunction from the Court preventing the development of the ‘complex’ since they have vested interests in promoting the other temples around the tank. A very complex ‘complex’ indeed!
I took the highway to the Wagah Border and reached well in time and waited for the scheduled time of 1545 hours when they let the ‘spectators’ in. The arrangement made by Jai Singh worked perfectly. My car was registered to go into the parking lot. I went past the Customs gate, entered the BSF location and parked in the designated area. All along BSF personnel check your credentials. The place where the ‘spectators’ sit is called ‘Stadium’. The Indian side was full, with people decked out in colorful winter clothes and scarves. Before the start of the ‘Beating the Retreat’ patriotic songs are played loudly and people on either side of the border run up and down with the National Flags. Photography sessions with the decked out BSF jawans are another attraction. An official photographer snaps 3 copies for Rs.100 and mails it to your address. Just prior to the start of the Parade the PTDC bus moves through the gate to Pakistan. The Parade itself is a magnificent affair and an event to be savored. The emotions that spill over are so patriotic; if ever a symbol is required to reinforce patriotism it is the Parade and the atmosphere. The shouts of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Matharam’ that rings and reverberates in the air make the hair stand on its end. It was a great experience, which is rounded off with buying of mementoes from the BSF souvenir shop. As I was driving out of the Border Post I could appreciate the elaborate ‘art’ works on the Pakistan trucks. They have a slanted projection over the driver’s cabin and it is ornately carved and/or painted along with the sides of the truck.
On the way back I went to Lawrence Road, an upmarket location of Amritsar. While walking about I came across a vendor selling ‘Aam Papad’ and many preparations of mango. He sells his delectable preparations from beneath a Pipal Tree and that is the address given in his card too. He made me sample many new mango based preparations and I bought a huge bundle from his display. He told me that he could send me any preparation by Post, whenever I choose to have them. The ‘Mattris’ and Laddus of Amritsar are popular and sought after too.
Back in the ORH I settled the charges and loaded most of the luggage into the car. The stay in Amritsar also has come to an end. I am now well and truly homeward bound.