Visit to the Holy city by a muddled mind – one more time

I was in two minds whether I should write this Post about our second visit to the Holy City-Amritsar- or not. Because Ghumakkar had already published quite a few stories about Golden Temple, and the journey from Delhi to Amritsar, with Ludhiana thrown in as a short stop!. Moreover we also, like many others had, few years back, already visited the place and shouted full- throttled- “Hindustan-Zindabad”etc at Wagah. to drown Pakistani shouts. Anyway, decided to put it down to add to the Ghumakkar clutter, and leave the decision to-publish-or-not to the Editor.

Motivation to visit
We had been planning another visit to Golden Temple, but weren’t able to finalize it .The reasons to visit Holy City were there—my grand-daughter had just finished her 12th Board exam, and wanted a break. Plus invoke the help from HIGHER AUTHORITY for admission into good college. .And, we wanted to go on a long cross country drive. But we kept postponing the decision to go, waiting for the right sign and weather.

The final push to visit came in the shape of an invitation to my son to attend an evening function, in Ludhiana, on Saturday the April 10TH, which couldn’t be rejected. So we decided to drive down to Amritsar, after the Ludhiana function. Since the decision was taken, hotel at Amritsar booked, I looked at Ghumakkar for refreshing our memory about the city and the rout.. I went through the post of Rajan Arora and Aman, and their three hour dash from Ludhiana to Delhi on their way back from Amritsar! Wow!( As Captain Haddock would say -they were not driving very fast, but were perhaps flying too low.)Anyway the Ghumakkar post was very useful for rout mapping..(I did make a comment on their post of last year.)

Since there already is a lot of information about the route and roads to Amritsar, I am not going to repeat the same. (Some picture shots on the way, however, are there.) In-fact mine is more of a confession of a man who visits the places of worship without having an implicit or blind faith like the other devout visitors..But, yet, is not a non-believer. Like lakhs of other devotees, I also fall down on my knees and kiss the ground (see pictures) on entering Harminder Sahib, but my mind keeps wandering.

Confused and muddled. Half rational and the other half irrational, yet want to be part of the devotee crowd. I think of Allama Iqbal and his couplet

“Jo mein sir-baysachda hua kabhi
toe zamin say aane lagi yeh sada
tera dil toe hai sanam-ashna—
tujhe keya milega namaz mein.”

How true of a half-believer –half non-believer man. .

The kind of faith and belief I am talking about is, can be seen inside the Golden Temple or any other holy place..(I am sure that everyone visiting Golden Temple has not only seen it but also, perhaps, has been a part of it). The old fruit tree of BAIRS near the Pond, on which the sparrows keep plucking the fruit and throw it down—where people sitting or standing try to catch the fruit as a gift of God. Cure all .

That’s deep faith. which I lack, though I also joined the crowd for this Prasad. I rationalize the reason for it. Is it because of the kind of work I had been involved for years—doing SWOT analysis and weighing PROS &CONS before taking any decisions? Yet I like to go through all rituals. .Visit places like Harminder Sahib, mingle with Faithful devotees, hoping a rub-off of goodness. No-doubt, one feels some kind of inner peace as long as you are there. You feel purified.
That was my reason to visit Amritsar.:-

April 10.2010==Saturday. –left at 05:16 am— NH8 highway to Dhaula Kuan, Narayana, and reached Mukabra Chowk at 6.15. 53 km from our home.(We have never been able to either get out or come in Delhi without loosing our way. Ghumakkar should try to make a map of EXIT and ENTRY roads from various points like Gugaon, Noida etc.this will be a good service.)

I must say that we found the roads, Sonepat flyover, L&Ts Panipat-Jallander Elevated Corridor to Ludhiana and right up to Amritsar in very good conditions. Yes, at few places the work of either widening the roads or repair is going on, but that doesn’t hamper your driving speed. Even the Toll Booths are pretty fast, and the charges range from Rs.20 at Panipat flyover to Rs.78at Karnal Toll Plaza. Which we logged at133km from our home..Ladomal Toll Plaza, NH1 (Km272 TO km387) was Rs82.

Liberty Shoe Factory at 7.30 am.
The only place we found where the traffic a bit slow—but not worth complaining- was near New Grain Market (!59 km at7.45am). We stopped at 7.55(170km) at Zillmil Dhabas..—there are three Zillmils—Vaishnavi,Punjabi and Share Punjab Zillmil.. Had Pranthas (Paneer, Onions, and Dal) plus glasses of teas at the Vaishnavis..For 5 people, the cost was Rs.330.(see pictures)

After a break of 50 minutes, we left at 8.45am.Here My daughter-in-law took over the driving right up to Ludhiana.. We had by 10 am covered 240km and were about113km away from Ludhiana..Next Toll Booth (Rs47) had a special lane for VIPs! Where we had to wait for 10 minutes. At 11 am (after304km) we were at Mandi Gobind Garh,but didn’t find any traffic hold up (unlike Arora and Aman),though there were large number of trucks parked on both sides of the road. Passed Noor Tourist Dhaba, ( where the road widening work was in progress. Finally we entered Ludhiana at12.27, just past noon, and reached our hotel—ITC Welcome Groups Fortune Klassik after covering 367 km.About 8 hour run, with one hour break on the way. Not bad. Comfortable drive without going over 110km speed.

LUDHIANA- Welcom Group – Fortune(Park Klassik)1,Link Road
We didn’t have much to do in this town, but visited couple of Malls. Took some pictures from the hotel room (attached) But the most interesting thing was that I came across a wonderful article on Ludhiana while surfing on the NET.I didn’t think there was much to Ludhiana till I read this article and realized that this is the city of SAHIR LUDHANVI.

The Article originally was printed in the latest issue of CARAVAN and posted on my pet Punjabi site article titled”LOVE,LONGINGS & LUDHIANA—Jottings from Sahirs City” Ghumakkar should post it on its site with the permission(easily available)from CARAVAN. The article is by Nirupama Dutt about Surjit Pattar ,local Punjabi poet who won this years Saraswati Samman Award.

SUNDAY April 11 2010.
Nice bright day. Left the Hotel at 11:45 am. Missed the flyover, so, had to go through the main inside bazaar.. we stopped over for few minutes to see the new township,MANSIONZ by ELDCO before hitting the highway.(See picture).We had done 383 km till Ludhiana, we hit the Toll Plaza(Rs.82)(399km)at12:45.Part of this toll road was being widened, and one had to be careful of sudden bends(not visible).

TYE ROCK-Phagwara.(Must Visit-Don’t Miss)

While passing through Phagwara, on way to Jallander,, we came across the JCT Mills new shop TYROCK.Its on the left side of the road, and just outside the JCT Mills. It’s a new Brand of Casual and Sports Wear launched by them. We stopped to have a look. Excellent stuff, and I bought a white T shirt for Rs440.

They are planning to open shops in Delhi and other places. We took some pictures (attached), as we liked the Brand and the showroom. Good name for the Casual brand for young dudes.(It is 22km before Jallander.(spent an hour in the shop)You miss the world around if you drive fast. The idea of travel is not just to reach the destination, but also see the world around.
On way to Amritsar, we stopped to have a cold-drink on the road-side stall. .Left at 2.10pm/

We entered the holy city at3.15pm, and filled up Diesel (28.3lit) from the Indian Oil pump, just opposite the old Chidya Ghar (Zoo),.We started with full tank from Gurgaon. We found the way to Ranjit Chowk and our hotel ALSTONIA.(Last time we had stayed at MKHOTEL, just behind this place.)After a quick bath, we drove down to Darbar Sahib. Found a Parking lot near by .The place stunk like anything. Inside the usual rituals performed, photos taken and just enjoyed the inner peace by the holy tank.(Like everybody else ,we also took quite a few pictures. Quite good,.

Taken by my granddaughter
Outside the Golden Temple, we visited all the local stalls, selling all kind of goods. Interesting place.(see pictures)

200 hundred year old mosque.

I don’t think any body visiting Golden Temple, would have cared to notice, a unique example of old, forgotten, communal harmony!. There is a 200 hundred years old mosque just adjoining the Golden Temple.. There is an old sign board, at the parking lot, directing you to the place (See the picture) . (No problem of Mandir, Masjid).Had dinner at Ranjits Food Plaza, Its supposed to be very popular place. The moment you enter, the owner shows you a photo album of all the film stars who have eaten there” Only yesterday Arjun Rampal was here.” He said and to prove he showed the photograph. Reasonably good food.Cost, 5 of us, Rs.1100.

The day to depart for Gurgaon.At 9.20, we went for a very heavy and good breakfast.(Part of the Tariff deal). Good spread, At 11.55 am we left the hotel for back home.( Total mileage till here was 548km.).I fact quite a before getting out of city, we stopped to buy Strawberies., which are now grown in Punjab also.

At 2pm, we were at Phagwara (TYROCK)(Delhi from here is about355km.)At 3.20, we stopped for 40 minutes at the New Zamindar Dhaba—nice cool place with large parking place. Makes good Gobi Pranthas and sweet Lassi.No stoppage after this break. Crossed all the Toll Plazas and reached Panipat at 7pm.It had become quite dark by now, and all of us were quite subdued—not chatty anymore.

Concentration was on driving. While entering Delhi, we again got lost near Azad Mandi Station., trying to find short-cut to Gurgaon! Any way, we finally made it to our home at10.30 at night. Ordered Pizza from the Hut, and it reached our place just after we entered the house. ALL IN ALL A GOOD TRIP.
Came to conclusion that one cannot change, at this late stage &age—to a total blind believer! Reminds me of a couplet of Moman Sahib:-“Umar Kati isqu-e-Butann maen Moman—Akhri waqt keya khak Musalman hoan gay!
Total Mileage did 1060- Gurgaon-Ludhiana-Amritsar- Gurgaon!
Drivers. My son and daughter-law
Photos. My grand daughter.


  • aurojit says:

    Hi Mr Sethi,

    A great post – very graphic, very affecting and very honest. Enjoyed every bit of Harminder Sahib once again, along with the couplets and snaps.

    I read in a book dedicated to traditional Indian culinary – the langar here is so pure and precise with its universal ethos ‘ Loh langar tapde rahen’ – its constitution has not altered since the days of the Guru; therefore eating at the langar is a sheer experience of being transported back across centuries.

    The snap of the parantha with dripping butter – it is glorious. Sitting in Delhi, awaiting sarkari canteen plate meal, I can’t help rending a description; the unattended spoon and napkin – like extraneous irritants, thrust by forces catering to their own interests; the illustrative fingers effortlessly conveying the palate’s inner feelings. Happy clicking to your grand-daughter, may she get admission in the best of the colleges….

    Keep describing.

    • JATINDER SETHI says:

      Auroji friend, thanks for your good wishes for the college admission.Yes.We had sat in last time, for the Langar,but not this time .Glad you like the pictures(in fact,few more pictures are being added in today).Your good wishes have been passed on to my Jatinder.grand-daughter.

  • The last time I saw Darbar Sahib was in June, 1984. I have since refused to return to India, but every time I see or read about Golden Temple, I admit I feel a longing to return to that one place.

    The beautiful koi there reminds me, though, of the stench of the dead fish and bodies rotting in the Punjab early summer.

    Anyway, thanks for the memories.


    Well Harinder,
    This depends how you see this country,but must say,its changed a lot since you last visited.I also know few other close friends who refuse to come ,even for a few day visit.Thats their misfortune!
    If this Post has not changed your negative mind ,then I have failed in my job.Thanks for peeping into Ghumakkar and this post.Keep watching from there–wherever you are!

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Jatinder ji,

    Wah Kyaa Baat Hai.

    As Chacha Ghalib said:

    “Dil Se Teri Nigaah Jigar Tak Uttar Gai,
    Donon Ko Ik Ada mein Razaamand Kar Gai”

    What else can one say about a post which is written straight from the heart.

    Harmandir Sahib ji Ke Darshan Ho Gaye, Aur Kya Chahiye.

    May God bless you and the family. My best wishes for your grand daughter’s admission.

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Greatly appreciate your blessings and good wishes ,.will pass on to the young lady.This post is the result of good offices of Nandan,who was pestered by my emails. I have sent the link to all my friends,
    Thanks,once again, Ram.Look forward you next literary piece.

  • Jatinder ji,

    Failure need not be claimed because one person is not convinced. There is much more than I told. Later that same year my husband and son and some other family members were murdered, along with other thousands of Sikhs. I do not think my mind is negative; I just have no wish to relive all this.

    I miss Darbar Sahib, where we went every summer when I was a child. Your pictures help me to remember it in happier times. I thank you for that.

  • Juginder says:

    Jatinder Ji,

    Thank you for sharing your visit to Amritsar. I completed MBBS from Medical College in 1966. My wife, Dolly, completed BDS from Dental College. She used to visit Harmandar Sahib every week and wore a Kadha even though she is from a Hindu Family.
    At the time of partition our family was on this side of India for summer vacation. Never went back. A Muslim friend was going to visit our home town, Khanewal. He asked Pitaji if there was anything Pitaji wanted from our home that we had abandoned. Pitaji asked him to bring only one thing—and that was Guru Granth Sahib which our Dadaji used to read daily and continued to do so in Panipat. We are one and that is how we were brought up.
    Thank you so much for taking us to Amritsar with your vivid description and beautiful pictures.
    I love your candid description about the duality of belief, which most of have but don’t have the courage to
    openly admit.
    Please convey our best wishes to your family.

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