For some reason, forget why now, we decided we had enough train journeys in India, so we booked round-trip flights between Delhi and Amritsar. The cost was $71.50 round trip for each of us, the train would have taken us six-hours, the plane less that an hour. Getting to the airport was easy, only a 20-minute taxi but getting from the airport, amongst other problems, to our Airbnb cost us 700 rupees ($10.70 USD – cheap for trips into NYC from JFK but here expensive for here). Air India was a good flight, Delhi airport was grand, there are multiple signs declaring it is the number one airport in the world. My only complaint was that there was only 45-minutes of free internet – come on Delhi, we are supposed to be at the airport three hours early then have 45-minutes of internet usage. What am I supposed to do, talk to my wife for three-hours? We had a good meal at an Irish Pub, I gave my low-carb diet a break, having the mac and cheese with fries special. Narda had something that did not look like the vegetarian-only food we had agreed on for our time in India. Nevertheless, we seemed happy and found our waiting area – twenty-minute walk from where we had eaten. Still looking for my free internet time we sat down only to be called over a loudspeaker to report to some uniformed dude who informed us we needed to go with him right away to the baggage area. By now we had 55-minutes before the flight left and 25-minutes before boarding. Fortunately, after much insistence, more on ‘her’ part, we got a cart to drive us to the baggage area. There was one of our suitcases sitting lonely as could be and we were demanded to open it. Something about a cigarette lighter was in the checked luggage; a big no no apparently. Narda found the offending device, which we used to light incense, nothing more, making us ideal Indian tourists, one would think. After a sort of scolding we were told the suitcase easily would make our flight. We found and demanded a cart to go back; Narda was sitting in the driver’s seat ready to drive it herself which made folks nervous and compliant to our request. We got on the plane as the last ones to get on and we were assured our luggage would happily accompany us to Amritsar.
We got to Amritsar and our suitcase with the once offending article was nowhere in sight. We rounded up several airport employees (we had about five) with each having a few sentences of English at their disposal and began our flight plight. Well won’t you know it? There was a state-wide strike. No internet was one of the casualties.
“Hundreds of protesters on Monday blocked a main bridge in the center of Amritsar, in the northwest Indian state of Punjab, as thousands more joined a nationwide strike called by several organisations representing the low-caste Dalits, or "untouchables"… The state of Punjab reportedly blocked mobile internet services and suspended bus routes during the strike…. Dalit activists say the Supreme Court's Mar. 20 ruling, which removed certain provisions protecting members of India's lowest castes from harassment, will lead to an increase in violence against the Dalits.” https://www.efe.com/efe/english/portada/protesters-block-amritsar-road-as-part-of-nationwide-dalit-strike/50000260-3570599
We soon realized our largest error. All my medication (heart, diabetes, etc. Hey, I am 70, give me a break) were in the suitcase. Usually it is in carryon but as we would be in Amritsar before six pm we thought in check-in would be fine. I did one of my Leo-generated panic moves, showed my defibrillator-pacemaker implant, proclaimed my heart pills were in the bag and that we had been told for sure our suitcase was on the flight. I said I may have to see a doctor or go to hospital to get pills to keep my heart going and on and on. They were able to string enough sentences together, and a few looked quite worried. They rang the baggage department back in Delhi and we were told our suitcase would be on the first flight at six AM tomorrow and they would deliver it to us at our new digs.
Actually, Terrell’s performance was impressive. A monumental hissy-fit which completely changed everything. We no longer had to fill in many forms and email them hither and thither. Phone calls were immediately made on our behalf. I was a proud wife.
The next upsetting thing was there was only one person outside the airport when we finally got out, who claimed he was a taxi driver. We had been told about 300 rupees were enough, but this dude wanted 800. Narda explained to him that he was a dishonest man, and after much to and fro and head bobbing (on his part) he dropped his stupid price to 700. Looking around and seeing no other transport, knowing there was a strike, realising our phone could not ring our host, we got in and scurried off into the night.
Unpacking my bag, I found my pills for the evening; OK so my performance was not needed, I don’t see anyone signing me up for a Bollywood role, so I am left to my own devices for entertainment.
Our flat looks fine, two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms, small kitchen, a large alter with a colourful strobe light and statues and pictures of dead people with long white hair and long flowing white beards and a tv that we could plug our HDMI cable in to continue with our various series that we have been relaxing in the evening with: ‘The Last Ship’ and the Netflix doco about the Rajneesh, also known as Osho, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Acharya Rajneesh, or simply Bhagwan trip – spoken of in our Pune blog.
We got in touch with our host with a list of complaints: air-conditioner was spitting water all over the bedroom, the beds were too hard, no frying pan, internet was not working and a few other things. We were a bit grouchy from our air-India experience and were ready to move out then and there. The next morning a dude showed up, got everything fixed, even got soft mattress toppings and a frying pan (he brought all this on his motor scooter). The internet was fixed (though slow for our liking but we don’t like to complain) and we appeared happy. In fact, we were.
As we come toward the end of our India three-month visit we wished we had taken a train one more time instead of flying.
Our suitcase arrived the next afternoon. The driver wanted a tip, so we gave him a hundred rupees after explaining to him Air-India should be giving him a tip, but it merged with foreign-thoughts, dissipating into the air, as he did not understand me. I didn’t turn around to see if he was as happy with his tip as I was.
See our video of a walk-about of our colony – and the other end of the bus line…
Walking around our area we found a street dental clinic –
A dude who sharpened knives and did lots of other things all through bicycle power
A happy family of pigs And a good bus. The bus story is that a previous government began building a bus thoroughfare along G.T. Road that currently goes from the railway station to India Gate. We were surprised at how few people took that bus – we did a few random bus rides and only once of four rides did we see anyone else on it. Asking several people, we were informed that the previous government started a very expensive bus project, apparently from three different people, it was all quite corrupt. The next government in their bid to stop corruption stopped the bus project, leaving more than one-hundred buses parked for the past few years to get rusty. Currently these yellow buses go back and forth every fifteen minutes. Each bus had a driver, conductor and usually two or three other ‘official’ looking people on board for the few passengers. At each bus stop there are a couple of workers, one who wants to look on the computer and print out a ticket for us to hand to the conductor on the bus and another person, seemingly, just hanging about. Often the buses are empty going each way.
At this bus stop a couple of hardworking employees asked to have a selfie with Narda.
Along the bus route is Khalsa College, (the premier-most institute of higher learning, was established by the leaders of the Singh Sabha Movement in 1892. They were inspired by the lofty ideals of the great Gurus… http://khalsacollege.edu.in/) We found a few good eateries across the street at Gate 3 of the College. It is only a ten-minute walk from our home and we set out almost everyday to visit the college but usually ended up taking a random bus ride and never made it to this beautiful place.
At the opposite end to the Delhi Gate end, is full-on Amritsar, near the train station. I got a groovy pair of high-end shorts for 100 rupees (a buck fifty in USD) there and Narda did a ‘WhatsApp’ interview with Brendan’s third-grade class in Phnom Penh standing on this corner…The Golden Temple
I was asked so many times to pose with the locals for a selfie. It is the weirdest thing. Sometimes (mainly men) won’t even ask, they will just come up next to me and shove that phone in front of me for selfie with the 2 of us. My white hair maybe? But this has been all through our trip. Often folks will go up to Terrell and admire his beard or ask to shake his hand. Not many tourists around I guess; in fact we have not seen many for quite some time. The Golden Temple is the go-to default for all folks to Amritsar and who live in Amritsar. All one-million plus tourists; so, it seemed
It is quite the site sight. Lines were long, chanting was loud; no doubt we were all blessed. It was not because we wanted a free-feed; the idea that everyone was in a line with clanging plates going toward an area that we have read can feed 50,000 hungry souls was too much to resist. After too much pushing and shoving and general waiting in line we turned in our empty plates and hit the road. We had to leave our shoes behind at the start of our inward journey of discovery (how metaphysical it all sounds) and I had to cover my head with something different than a silly hat (with a camel – reading ‘desert’, on it, left over from Jaisalmer) and fortunately Narda had just bought a scarf for 30 rupees (about 50-cents USD) for herself that I could use to cover my head and the entrance guard accepted my spiritually significantly successful sexy attire. Shoes are put into a free storage area and we are given a thing with a number on it to collect our foot ware when we had had a gutful of chanting and crowds; a very workable system. I did like this dude’s hat and thought perhaps I should write my poems http://neuage.org/2018/ on my hat too…
The Wagah Border
This was a highlight in our trip. We bought a tour to the border where there is a guard changing ceremony we can watch. What we arrived at was amazing. There were about 50,000 people. It had the atmosphere of a grand final at the MCG (I think; never actually been). We were there about 2 hours before it started but the whole thing was a carnival, with flag waving, chanting for the team, dancing the conga, bright colours. On the other side of the gate was a smaller crowd of Pakistanis, trying to match us. The loud speakers on each side were playing at full volume; completely different stuff, each side trying to “out-volume” the other. I had a nice chat with one of the guards, who tried to order me back to my seat, away from the Paki side. I said to him that really, folks should go through that bloody gate and shake hands. I shook his hand and said they are your brothers. Surprisingly he agreed. Then the real show began. On each side high-stepping, macho chest thumping, marching back and forth to the roar of the crowds. Quite an experience, and we recommend it if you head that way. On weekends the crowd swells to 100,000, we were told by our driver.
It is my dream to teach a choir of children, 50 Indian and 50 Pakistani, who can perform at this border ceremony with the gates open, showing that music is the way to unification.
Our video – a real treat (did I really say that?) is at
When we got to the parking area – about 45-minutes from home to the border; I got hustled into purchasing a cap with India on it and having my hand painted in India flag colours. OK, it was all for less than two-bucks USD, but still, once again I got hustled. Narda declined, she is not taking sides. With India beating Australia in cricket once again (did I get that correct?) I should cheer on Australia, even though I don’t follow cricket and after twenty-two years living in Australia, I have no idea what the rules are except that after three or four days sometimes it is a tie. What a stupid game. Watch our video for a real-closeup of this event – the ‘changing of the guard’. What a lot of whooping and hollering. We sat at the top of the stadium, mainly to get out of the sun as it was covered there. I used my zoom lens for most of the video and photos but still would have liked to have been closer.
The Museum of Partition and the War Memorial Museum (over at the end of the yellow bus run; more about that later) both informed us why Pakistan and India have issues. Of course, it was all from India’s side and sounded like propaganda. It is always “who to believe” in these situations. I think the main beef now is that Pakistan wants Kashmir and India basically says, ‘go get stuffed’. It is quite terrible what happened with the partition, how both countries suffered so much and still do. The War Memorial Museum took us back to the Sikhism start and all that befell them along the way. I have lots of pamphlets to be informed of what they are up to: ‘Notes towards Definition of Sikhism’, ‘A Brief Introduction to The Sikh Faith’, ‘The Golden Temple’, and ‘Guru Granth Sahib “The Scripture of Sikhism”’. All this stuff to read while we wait for our plane back to Delhi at the Amritsar Airport; and our plane is already delayed by an hour so if I ever stop writing I will have more time to read. Bottom line from all I have read and museums and speaking to folks is that the Sikhs believe all religions are under the same god – which is cool and groovy, but why then is there so much division in this part of the world? Apparently, the Sikhs stronghold is in Lahore, Pakistan, and their second place of coolness is here in Amritsar. I have lots to learn. And they never cut their hair. I haven’t for more than two-years, so I am on the way, except, I am not going to cover it under one of those turbans. I have been asking Indians about partition and whether they would want to reunite with Pakistan. I think back in the day (1947) Kashmir should have gone to Pakistan with its Muslim majority. But now, according to some locals, Kashmiris want to stay on the Indian side because of the hardline extremism on the other side. One guy in the museum explained that Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan fought for independence from West Pakistan because they were much more moderate in their views. Clearly, I need to read more on this. It’s a sad but fascinating history.
In our last night in Amritsar we experienced some “weather”. Loud noises (things falling off the roof?) woke us about midnight and Terrell was sure there was someone trying to get in. It turned out to be quite a storm. Strong winds and continuous lightening flashes, with no audible thunder meant that the storm’s centre was a good distance away. We lost power until about 8am the next morning when a kindly neighbour cranked up a big ole generator; noisy as can be, but it powered us up nicely. So we watched the Al Jazeera news with breakfast. Presently power was restored and we finished our packing and headed out for the airport. We paid the taxi driver 550Rs despite our host warning us “ not to go over 350Rs.” The guy even asked for a tip on top of it. What do you do. I said, “sorry mate you’ve already got your tip” and he smiled and shook my hand??? The difference is $3. We must remind ourselves to keep things in perspective.
The Punjab State War Heroes‘ Memorial and Museum
Part history, part propaganda, part tourist show… what is it? We enjoyed this place and found it by mistake – at the end of one of our random bus rides, at India Gate. A lot of sections tracing the poor plight of the Sikhs to a few wars between Pakistan and India, with India always being in the right to the today’s glorious, proud, just and powerful India military. As there were ‘no photography’ signs everywhere, and army clad folks wandering around I was unable to focus the camera long enough to get good photos; but here is an example – excuse the poor quality but I was trying to do the right thing and not take photos but I was unable to completely refrain… Most of the displays were pretty gory and one would easily feel sorry for what befell these ‘brave’ folks as they trudged through history with so many out to get them. Of course, at the end of the day was the important signing of stuff between Pakistan and India with Narda negotiating the terms; We went to the film place – a large cinema like room with 72seats; moving seats. There was a movie in some foreign language, but we could tell there was a lot involved with war like situations and bombings and planes, tanks, guns and general confusion. Every time a gun or missile fired the seats would rock forward then backward; sometimes something would hit our legs or poke us in the back. They called it 7D, not sure what that meant but we loved it. After the war antics there was a longish movie of a roller-coaster. That was quite cool. Every time we went down the slope, the chair would roll forward (we really did put our seat-belts on) and up the bloody hill our seats would tilt back; then as went around corners the seat would shake. It was like being in a computer game. The only suggestion to make us old people really go nuts is to make it three-D and give us 3d glasses, so we could really trip out.
First of its kind in India, the Punjab State War Heroes' Memorial and Museum at Amritsar is now fully operational and draws large number of visitors daily. Built at the cost of Rs 130 crore (20 million USD), the memorial-museum was inaugurated in October 2016. The memorial-museum showcases the splendid gallantry deeds of the brave hearts of Punjab. It immortalizes the deeds of brave soldiers and to inspire and infuse the spirit of patriotism in the youth. The hallmark of the magnificent campus is a 45-metre high stainless steel sword on the central edifice. It represents strength and courage of the people of Punjab while defending the nation in the hour of need. This iconic structure stands atop a circular platform surrounded by water body. Names of nearly 3500 martyrs are inscribed on the memorial built at an elevation of 4 metres.
We were there on a Saturday, at 10:30 am; the only ones there. By mid-day there were a couple of dozen others in the whole place. Not sure about the large number of visitors daily.
A side-note; one of the more difficult parts of ‘doing India’ is that cars rarely have seatbelts in the backseat. With the dangerous driving; weaving, quick stops, speeding up, passing on the wrong side of the road, darting in front of a truck… having seatbelts on would make us a tad bit less nervous. Today we see on the news that a bus went off a cliff near where we were living in Shimla for a week killing thirty or so, 27 being children between 4 and 10 years old on the school bus. Shocking.
We enjoyed our week in Amritsar and would suggest it as a great place to stay. The train station is near the Golden Temple and Old Town. The airport is a little further out, but we needed a break from trains and it was a good choice.
Many people along the way ask us to take their photo – this is typical Many did not ask for their photos to be taken but I still would point and try to get an agreement – this is one is of a chap going past our home in Model Colony.
This is our fourth stay in Delhi. This time at an Airbnb. 8A/24G, WEA, Karol Bagh, New Delhi-110005 to be exact if you want to stay at this place. A good stay; two-bathrooms, nicely laid out; it reminds us a bit of a NYC apartment, perhaps in Brooklyn.
We are just chilling, buying last minute stuff for our home and some little gifts for the kids.
Four days in Delhi then after three-months back to Australia in preparation for our next excursion; September, Berlin for a month home-exchange (they already stayed at our house while we were laying about in India), a month in Spain as a house-exchange, and a month we will make up as we go, somewhere in Europe. We have four-plus months in Adelaide to get all healthy and strong for our next trip.
Some last photos of our trip – Delhi April 10 – 13th. They really sum up all four trips to Delhi: Narda having selfies with locals, amazing traffic, wonderful and modern metro, and rickshaws. India for three-months: a retrospective look, and some ideas for others
- Take lots of video/photo cards – I filled three 64 gig cards for my Nikon; take lenses – I have an 18 – 55 MM, 55 – 300 mm, and a wide-angle lens. If I could have taken more I would have, but my carry-on with my laptop was already past the eight-kilo weight limit. I would have liked to have brought a tripod but again no room for it. I only used an external mic once, so I could have left that behind.
- Be organized – Narda put together this trip many months before we left. Most of the train trips had to be booked three-months in advance. I just went along for the ride. However, I did organize my web-content (http://neuage.org/india) well before we left, and our blogs so that we wrote when we were taking a breather from exploring, riding trains, waiting at airports, flying… and I used Adobe Premiere for video-editing and Photoshop for photo-editing, and Dreamweaver for webpage content. All three programs I have been using since the 1990s, and have taught them, so knowing these programs made editing quicker. It still takes a long time; like an hour per minute of video editing.
- Know where everything is, always, or at least the daily-carry stuff. For me that was camera and lenses, phone, wallet, and prescription sunglasses that are worth close to $400. Narda and I kept track of each other’s stuff at all times too, which helps in these fast moving crowded situations. Usually we lock up our computer(s) where we are staying but this time we didn’t. We even bought a lockable mesh thing to put over a suitcase with computer and passports, important crap in it, but we only used it once on one train. We used our hanging over the bed mosquito net only once too. The air mattresses and pump as a guard against hard Indian beds we gave away to our tuk tuk driver in Agra. We had three changes of clothes for hot weather and two for cold weather (Shimla) and that was plenty.
Having been in India before (we were in Goa in 2009) I knew somewhat what to expect. I still felt overwhelmed at times by the number of people and by the poverty. It is impossible to help everyone out and it does affect us to have beggars, especially small children, say they are starving, to see crippled people asking for money, to hear every tuk tuk driver/taxi driver tell a story of how difficult their existence is. How to be caring and sympathise in each situation is a challenge. Train stations are probably the most difficult; people living in the station, some places with a hundred beggars. At the same time, we have a budget which of course is impossible to explain to a beggar. “Sorry mate, I have only sixty-dollars a day to spend on accommodation and food and souvenirs and museums and trains and airplanes, so I can’t give you fifty-cents for a meal today, sorry mate”. In fact, we had a thirty-five dollar a day budget for food and etc (not accommodation) and we managed to stay below our budget for three-months. Accommodation we managed to average $32/day for three-months and that is with mostly Airbnb and three-star hotels. Trains were cheap, and we only went first class or second class AC. If we could do the same on Amtrak in the States or in Europe that would be beaut. Even internal flights were inexpensive. The round-trip Delhi – Amritsar was $75 each. That would be equal to flying Adelaide to Melbourne, usually more than twice that.
Yesterday we decided to bite the bullet and buy some curtains for our lounge at home. It was a crazily busy day in the shopping area of Karol Bagh. I have not seen it so crowded. A virtual parking lot, with cars jammed up to each other; actually touching, and yet motor cycles and auto-rickshaws were weaving though. The pedestrians (not us) seemed completely oblivious of this chaos; and strolled on the road, looking relaxed and unhurried. We darted around cars in a panic, stepping in all sorts of soft squishy things that you don’t want to know about. It was quite exhausting, so we stopped at an ice-cream vendor and sat for a bit on the steps of a department store, eating our drumsticks.
We finally found a curtain shop. It was nice; a friendly vendor with lots to choose from; and his grumpy wife. I found something that I thought might do (won’t really know until we get home) and had it made up to fit. Total costs, for a very large window at home: $92USD. Would have cost at least 4 times that back home. We returned the next day to pay; the connection for credit card payments was down, so 3 ATMs later, we managed to extract some cash. All good. A helpful lad from the store, with no English, led us to the ATMs. He would keep looking back to see if we were still following, and smile at us as we dodged and wove amongst the cars. His technique: just ignore the cars. I have no idea what he told the shop owner on our return, but I feel that there was some laughter at our expense!
- The Pakistan – India Border show
- Catching up with our ex-students from China in Pune (Sidhee even had us feature in their university magazine with a title something about ‘the man as old as India’; I had said I was born in August 1947, soon before India became independent from the Brits.
- Our visit to Shambhu’s village in Agra
- The food – I think the Northern Indian foods with their gravies were tops
- Meeting locals and hearing their stories
- Meeting other travellers and hearing their stories
- Animals – cows in the streets – love it… summing it up with this meditative cow in Agra,
- Camal riding in Jaisalmer
- Random bus rides – every city
- Trains – I think the overnight one stands out – seventeen hours (Jodhpur to Mumbai)
- Everywhere we went people wanted selfies with Narda
- A day to the village, an hour from Kochi, of Narda’s dentist
- The Toy Train and the Single Car Toy Train to and from Shimla
- Boating on the backwaters of Alleppy
- The fort and Blue City of Jodhpur
- Taking thousands of photos and videos – I started with doing video in 4K, but it was eating through my memory cards, so I went down a notch.
- Inspiration everywhere – I continued writing daily as I have been for decades and I think I have a lot of material for my next eBook – http://neuage.org/e-books/
- Facebook – I know people are saying quit it because of all the privacy stuff (hey Russia, read my posts!) but I have enjoyed sharing our travels with family and friends on Facebook and receiving feedback and of course, ‘hearing’ where others are and what they are up to. I never feel far from family and friends because of Facebook. I only wish we had Facebook back in the 1960s and 1970s when I was exploring the States – on, oh so many levels.
And that is it…thanks for sharing this trip with us
Our next trip begins in September with a month in Berlin, a month in Spain and a month we are still planning. 2019 we will be in the States and in Pakistan. and maybe at your door.
In our time back in Australia we will do some caravan trips around Australia and may post some blogs along the way here.
I post my daily thoughts at http://neuage.org/2018/