My weekly Slice of Life are my letters to my Doddamma. She is my father’s elder brother’s wife. Doddamma literally means ‘elder mother’. She is 88 years old. She cannot hear properly if I telephone to talk to her. So, I have been writing letters to her since October 2017. I enjoy writing letters and she is happy to read them. They are only about the everyday moments in my life. I post my letters to her every week.
My letters to my doddamma are about our trip to Amritsar and Dharamsala between 1st and 9th of this month. So I am sharing the same in my Slice of Life post.
The first two days of our vacation were wonderful. On the 3rd day, we had planned to go to Dera Baba Nanak (DBN). It is a very important place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs. We wanted to see the country side and a friend suggested DBN. This friend lives in Muktsar. We came to know him through Aravind’s teacher. We have exchanged WhatsApp messages, and talked to each other. It was he who suggested the hotel we were staying at.
I am not very sure how big the city is. But one thing which was very apparent was the absence of tall buildings, specially apartments. They may be present in the newer parts of Amritsar. The houses we saw looked pale and dusty. We hardly saw bright, colourful buildings.
We hired a taxi for the day and set out at 9.15. We saw miles and miles of wheat fields stretching on either side of the road. Dakshina Kannada is a hilly region. Level land is scarce. But in Punjab it was different. There were not many trees but the fields seemed to stretch forever. Vegetables too were being grown. There were mustard fields in full bloom.
My husband’s student is in the army. He had asked his friend, also in the army, to arrange for a guide to show us around. DBN is on the banks of the river Ravi. The Jawan joined us at a check point. I forget his name. We first went to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib. We sat inside for some time. It was bitterly cold for us. In front of the Gurudwar a new Gurudwara building was being constructed.
We were told the more money had flowed into this place due to the Kartarpur corridor. We then went to the Langar hall. Our taxi driver had told us we could breakfast there. We were served Chapati, Chole, Dal and seasoned rice. We walked around for a while. Here too there was small sarovar which was being renovated. We saw a man selling books about Sikhism. Most of the books were in Hindi. But we got one in English. When we asked the book-seller the price, he said that we could pay the amount we wished. The money from the sale of books would be used to support the homeless. He also gave a few Hindi books and told us to read and pass them on. My mother is reading them now.
We next went to Gurudwara Chola Sahib. Two people were reading the Adi Granth. This Gurudwara is connected with a chola or cloak believed to have been presented to Guru Nanak by a Muslim devotee at Bhagdad. The cloak was brought to DBN on 1st march 1828. Later we learnt that there are certain streets and houses in DBN which have been preserved since the time of Guru Nanak. We missed seeing them.
DBN is situated about 1km from Indo Pakistan border. From the gurudwara we went to the border near ‘Kartarpur corridor’. Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan is one of the holiest places for the Sikhs. It is about 4 ½ kms from India and it seems that on a clear day people can see it through the binoculars. But on this day it was misty. We stood on high ground and below were rich fields with a barbed wire fence running lengthwise across them. A sad testimony to human stupidity. In the Partition museum we had learnt that Cyril Radcliffe, the lawyer who was tasked to carry out the partition, simply drew a line on a map without considering the realities of Indian life.
From DBN we came to a cultural village just outside Amritsar called Sadda Pind . The place highlights the different aspects of pre-independence Punjabi village. It is tourist oriented but we liked the place. We have to buy tickets at the entrance. The ticket includes food in the restaurant I was surprised to see brass glasses exhibited on one shelves. My mother has similar glass which she said was with my father from before their marriage. We used to wonder about the glass. My father must have got it while on his tours. He worked in the Indian railways.
Just inside the entrance there were pots on a water pipe all along the path. They were adapted fountains. We walked on to see many people watching a magician. He was doing many tricks and had a good way of talking. We walked into a weaver’s house, then a carpenters and so on. There was a very large ‘charpoy’. We owned one long back when we were in Delhi. Charpoys are very comfortable to lie on. In one of the houses a few ladies were sitting in an open kitchen and cooking ‘makki ki roti’ on a chulah and were serving ‘sarson ka saag’. Both are very tasty. Sarson is mustard and a dish is prepared from the leaves.
We drank spicy lassi which was very tasty. Beautiful hand embroidered materials with the famous Punjabi work called Phulkari were available. But we did not buy anything because they were too expensive. As we were walking we heard drums and saw gymnasts doing a balancing act on a tight rope stretched between two poles. A man was on the tight rope. I had seen such acts long ago, they used to be shown in movies. I was just checking about this and saw they are still being performed in village fairs. We also watched a rustic puppet show. There was a giant wheel and a ride was included in the ticket. It had been a long time since we had enjoyed a ride on a wheel. The operator gave us some extra rounds I think 😊. We told him that we had enjoyed the ride. From the top we could see fields in every direction. The soil here is black in colour and very fertile. We then walked into the restaurant for lunch. There was a buffet with many Punjabi dishes. I enjoyed ‘dahi vada’. Curds and lassi here are very tasty. I also liked the taste of raw radish. We had spent many hours at Sadda Pind.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped to buy some fruits. Later in the evening my husband’s student came to see us in the hotel. We enjoyed his visit. My husband was seeing him after many years.
After he left, we went to GT again. I am glad our hotel was so near the temple. It was a pleasure to visit the place again and again. Our friend had told us about a very old book shop near GT, Singh Brothers. He said there was very good book about the travels of Guru Nanak. It was Walking with Nanak by Haroon Khalid. It seemed to be a very interesting book, Aravind purchased it.
We walked on to the square. Adjacent to GT is a huge square with a marble floor. There were benches and a fountain in the centre. It was very cold. There are four entrances to GT, one of them is from the square. Through that entrance we can see the golden walls of the shrine and it appears as if it is very near the gate. It looked beautiful. We walked a little away and from one of the shops bought ‘papad’ and ‘Amritsar wadi’. Even at that hour there were lots of people and in their midst we saw a very old temple, Temple of Shri Sheni. It was established in 1761. We wanted to see it during daytime but somehow we could not. A lot of poor people were sitting outside the temple. Maybe they were beggars, I am not sure.
Lunch had been very heavy and we decided to skip dinner. We ate some fruits and retired for the day. It had been a long one.