One fine morning, on March 21, 2015, precisely, I received a call from Narendra Sharma, one of my friends. He just had bought a Swift car and wanted me to accompany to his travel adventure by his new machine, along with his two other friends. The itinerary, among other included was Attari Border, Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi in Katra, J & K.
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I felt like my dream come true since two places in the itinerary– maa Vaishno Devi temple and Attari Border were on my wish list for a long period.
Beating the Retreat at Attari-Wagah Border
Lets know more about my journey to the Indo-Pak border.
Since they were coming from Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh, it was decided that they will pick me at Noida. Accordingly, they arrived Noida at about 7.30 PM. I reached Noida from Meerut at City Center Metro Station intersection. We met there. It was a nice Steel Grey coloured Maruti Swift. I put by small bag in the luggage compartment of the car. Though they already had stucked their luggage into the boot space, even there was considerable space left in it. We drove via Noida expressway towards ITO bridge and then to the ISBT route which was destined to take us on Grand Trunk road. (Incidentally, the Attari border is the zero point of GT Road, and AH-1, the stretch of world’s longest Highway, which passes through India from Japan to Afghanistan and beyond. Powered by diesel fuel, the version of the car had company fitted music system, with good quality speakers and tweeters. It bore a temporary registration number and the fresh odour inside could testify the freshness associated with the new thing.
When we crossed ISBT, Kashmere Gate, Delhi towards NH to Karnal, Ambala, and Ludhiana to Amritsar, the odometer could register 000328. The stereophonic sound of FM broadcast and the RJ’s fairytales were matching the environs of the travelling freaks.
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The Driving and En route Experience
We drove overnight. When passing through the Karnal Highway, pangs of hunger overtook us. We decided to take a break for late night dinner somewhere. Choosing a suitable dhaba amongst the lots of roadside dhabas is not an easy job, as it seems in the first stance. Some dhabas are so modernized and huge, with imposing exterior that they match a three-star hotel-cum-restaturant. The other wore quite deserted look, yet the other were some non-vegetarian serving places. The city of Karnal passed by, all through over and above the flyovers, but we could not locate a suitable eating place. Ultimately, we slowed down a car to peep into a dhaba which was matching our aspirations. The aromas of fresh cooking and cuisines with visitors patronage to the dhaba confirmed our thinking. The Gulshan Dhaba, about 18 kms away from Karnal, in Haryana was a typical Punjabi dhaba. We ordered paneer curry, with curd and lachha parantha. The dishes were perfect and satisfied our taste buds. It was already 1.30 PM when we left Gulshan Dhaba after sipping a cup of tea.
We drove towards Amritsar. There were milestones, nice metalled roads, six lanes of roads which were being extended to eight lanes in between and there were some diversions. The best part was that there were no roadblocks or jams. We were banking on our Google Maps for directions and fortunately, it never ditched us. We passed through Ludhiana and some non-descript places in between to ultimately reach Amritsar in the wee hours.
First thing we did after entering in the city, we located a place for a brief stay. The city was still in sleep mode because it was about 5.00 AM or so. We found a suitable, a somewhat cosy place for a brief stopover in the outskirt of the city of Amritsar. The owner agreed for a sum of Rs. 650 only; with tea included. Not a bad deal. We sipped tea, got freshens up and just went to sleep, since we all were feeling exhausted.
When we found like preparing for our onward journey, it was already 1.00 PM. We had some Dal-Chaawal and Aloo-Gobhi sabzi in the hotel itself and left for Jallianwala Bagh and Golden Temple. Though Google navigation was performing well, we solicited the support of policemen manning the traffic at roundabouts and crossings to double sure the route.
We reached the Jallianwala Bagh at about 1.40 PM. Incidentally, the PM of India Shri Narendra Modi was scheduled to visit there on 23rd of March, i.e. the very next day, the security personnel had taken over the place for sanitization exercises. We could not get through into the premises of the historic place, like thousands of others who had thronged the place from different parts of the country.
We now proceeded to the Golden Temple premise which is just adjoining the Bagh. Though the security arrangements were beefed up there too but the premises was not taken over by the security personnel yet. We entered the premises, covered our heads with scarves and the journey to the most revered place of the Sikhs began. We washed our feet in the holy water, bowed to the Sikh gurus and were astonished to see the amazing structure, fully manned by devoted volunteers. Whether it was cleaning, or guarding or preparing and serving prasad or food—everything was being manned by them efficiently and in a disciplined manner.
There were queues to go to the main part of the temple. The serpentine queues look so unending that after waiting at about 40 minutes, it could move hardly three or four feet. The journey to the main place might be about 200 meters and it seemed impossible to go to the place in short time. The Attari Border ceremony was scheduled to close at 6.00 PM sharp. So we decided to call it a day and retracted our steps. We had full view of the Golden Temple again and again, its magnificent lake with beautiful fishes swimming in it, Layers of gold, wrapped all around the main part of the Golden Temple, its imposing architecture and left for our next sojourn.
We each had a glass of lassi, just outside the Golden Temple, and Amritsari Chhole Kulche. Since we were getting late, we drove towards Attari Border straight. There was some diversion but we could manage it, and reached the border just in time. It was 5.15 PM already and we found out that we were already late.
The Attari Experience
There were queues of vehicles, and vehicles, people racing towards the entry gate of the ceremony. It was about a half kilometer away. We had to rush to the place on foot only. We marched toward the place, as quickly as possible. Checking and frisking of visitors was being done at their own pace. When we crossed the barrier of frisking, it was only 15 minutes left. We could hear the cheering and hooting sounds, playing of patriotic songs on the loudspeakers.
There is no entry fee to the ceremony. The timings of the ceremony are from 2.00 PM to 6.00 PM but the actual event starts after 4 PM, it is said. There were huge displays screens which were installed by the BSF for those who could not get entry into the main premises. The screens offer live view of the beating the retreat ceremony from beginning to the end.
There are certain guidelines for visitors to the event. One should not be able to use mobile phones while visiting Wagah border. There are jammers installed so no mobile phone service is available there. No covered bags are allowed, including ladies handbags or purses. There are stalls nearby, which offers snacks and bottled water. Some vendors selling souvenirs could be found there.
The mere name of Wagah Border, is sufficient to create a scene of daily ceremony of beating the retreat– Indian and Pakistan armies’ marching steps ahead and retract with tunes of valor, heroism and patriotism. It was really a hair raising moment to feel the shooting up of one’s adrenaline level by seeing the event.
Wagah, a bordering village of India-Pakistan incidentally falls in the territories of Pakistan. The nearest Indian check post which is equally and exactly opposite the Pakistani checkpost is known as Attari checkpost. Attari is a village of Amritsar district in the State of Punjab.
The Beating the Retreat or ‘lowering of the flags’ ceremony, a daily military practice that the security forces of India and Pakistan have jointly followed since the year 1959 is undertaken. The colourful drill is characterized by elaborate and rapid cultural events. It has alternatively grown into a symbol of the two countries’ friendly rivalry, as well as brotherhood and cooperation between them.
The bizarre ceremony is performed everyday at about two hours prior to the sunset at the identified place which has attained the status of a pilgrimage for the Indian residents who takes this exercise as an opportunity to boost the morale of their forces as well as jeering and hooting of the opponent, i.e. Pakistani armed forces. The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both the sides, and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags. The original capacity of the event which could be seen by the visitors is capped at 5000 but almost matching number of more people visit the event.
Since we were late, we could see the concluding part of the event but that was sufficient enough to inculcate a wonderful sense of patriotism, reverence for our security forces and a respect for those who laid their life while defending the nation’s pride. Thanks God, I got the opportunity to visit the place.
And we proceeded for our next lag of journey……!
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