Monday, 19 January 2009


Friday night, eight o’clock, stuck in Delhi traffic, with a train to catch in a few minutes. No way to make it in time, whereas the detours of the rickshaw driver did not help much. Fortunately the train was delayed (quite rare and therefore not anticipated upon by us) and we could still make it to our destination: Amritsar!

Capital of Punjab, centre of the Sikh religion, Amritsar is home to the famous Golden Temple. In addition to other Sikh temples, where visitors get food offered 24/7, the Golden temple also offers ‘peoples of all classes’ a place to spend the night. All involved in the temple are volunteers; the men working in the cloakroom where you have to leave your shoes behind (even cleaning them from time to time!), the men preparing and serving the food, the guards.. And being told that rich people come to the temple to help clean dishes because the respect gained is so enormous.. It is all really admirable and impressive.

After having visited the temple in the morning we rented a cab that brought us to the Indian – Pakistani border where we witnessed the change of guard. Basically it comes down to the ‘border guard’ doing some ceremony which is witnessed by thousands of people. Spectator seats are set up all around the road so that all who want to are able to view the happening. A mirror image is drawn up at the Pakistani side of the border, and all moves by the soldiers are similar at the other side of the gate.

To be honest I found the whole thing rather pathetic. The soldiers were supposed to be marching synchronized, which they didn’t, as some tripped over the feet of the soldier leading the session or slipped over the ninety degrees turns in the march. Lifting their feet as high as their faces, rigid and apparently practiced infinitely, with the crowds going totally wild on it.. A lot of cheering and screaming and yelling, as in some kind of football match, with rage and pride on their faces.. The whole thing took a whole afternoon and I had the feeling to be the only one (perhaps with some other ‘outsiders’) who regarded the whole situation as rather excessive. Especially when you realize that the same thing happens every day ;)

But that may just be an outsider’s view?

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