Golden Temple & border fun

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
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31
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of India  , Punjab,
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I spent the last two days in Amritsar, a city of a little over a
million, but the traffic of three million.  The oppressive pollution
and constant traffic noise started to get to me.  But the Golden
Temple, the Sikhs holiest site, is well worth it.  People of every
faith (though, of course, no mention is given to non-believers) are
welcome, and there's a huge kitchen that serves free food 24 hours a
day, free of charge.  About 40,000 pilgrims come through every day. 
Inside the temple, four gurus chant around the clock.  There's also an
old guy with a ridiculous beard seated in front of a comically large
book, apparently studying their scriptures, and suffering from
low-grade narcolepsy.  Unfortunately, no pictures inside the temple
itself.

In the evening, I made the 30 km trek out to the border
with Pakistan.  Each night, just before sunset, the border guards go
through about a twenty minute closing ceremony.  Each country has
plenty of seats on their respective sides, and I'd estimate that India
had about 5000-6000 people there, Pakistan maybe a third of that. 
Before the guards get going, kids and adults run up to the border gate
with the Indian flag while the crowd cheers and chants.  Then there was
some contemporary Indian music with a few hundred people dancing in the
street.

But the real entertainment began when the guards start
marching.  Basically, it's all choreographed, and the soldiers on each
side take turns going to the gate, in an incredibly funny massive
power-walk, and glare at each other.  They have these high kicks in
their repertoire that would embarrass the Cowboys cheerleaders. 
Eventually, the commanding officers go to the gate, briefly shake
hands, close the border, and lower their respective flags at the same
time.  Then the crowds head home.  They even sell popcorn.  And they do
this every night.  It was very entertaining, and had me laughing out
loud.

I've had several more, ever stranger, conversations on the train.  But
these will have to wait until I get home, as they are strictly adults
only (though an exception must be made for the storyteller).
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