Amritsar and Rishikesh
19.07.2011 - 29.07.2011
As I step outside the stagnant heat and moisture hits me like a sauna. My brain starts to melt and I can’t think or walk straight. Men on cyclo-rickshaws come up to ask us if we want a lift somewhere; we decline-gotta save money. Instead we take a walk to find a chain and a book to read. It’s difficult to walk on the streets as cars, motorbikes and rickshaws zoom past us, almost crashing into us- I wonder when I am going to be hit….
Amritsar is the biggest city in Punjab and is loud, chaotic and so busy! The city itself doesn’t offer much in terms of tourism, besides the Sikh Golden Temple and a garden (Jallianwalla Bagh) dedicated to the terrible 1919 massacre (the British open fire on a group of peaceful and unarmed protestors, killing hundreds).
We did go and see a rather funny and interesting event: the bringing down of the flags ceremony at the Pakistan-India border.
We took a squashed minivan to the border, 30km away, and waited until the guards allowed us in. Foreigners have their own section in the stadium and it was surprisingly full. The Indian sections are filled to capacity (with more people standing outside the stadium area), with a power-tripping guard who kept on blowing his whistle at “misbehaving” people (i.e. standing). They wear the most ridiculous hats- like a chicken head, so it’s kinda hard to take them seriously.
Women were allowed to run and up down carrying the Indian flag, as the crowds shouted pro-Indian “war cries”. On the Pakistan side similar things happened too. It’s so nice to see both countries being so civil and pleasant with each other! After some time the guards (men and female) line up and do a little march, including synchronized super-high kicks and a fast walk.
Then the flags start to come down, to the background of cheering and shouting crowds.
The whole affair lasted for about one hour, before we braved the crowds to find our way back to our van.
The next day we visited the Sikh’s Golden Temple which is a really fantastic temple to see! So beautiful! A giant wall surrounds it, with a lake (small) in the middle. A temple lies in the middle of the water, where the holy book is kept. We got shouted at by a cocky-idiot who told us we shouldn’t have our photos taken here since it’s a holy place. Idiotic as he was, he failed to see that it’s not us that wanted to have our photos taken with strange men! When I told him to shout at the local men for asking to take our photo, he seemed adamant that it was our fault! I was very close to whipping out all my frustrations I have with the way Indian men treat women! (Blaming us for tempting them etc…)
He couldn’t see that we did not want to talk to him, yet he followed us around and continued to irritate us. He then told me off for showing too much of my hair (I was wearing a scarf with just my fringe sticking out). I pointed out several Indian women who had the same amount of hair showing and told him why he doesn’t tell them too?! He seemed to think that he had a right to shout at tourists, but not the locals. Dumbass!!
We had a quick look at the Sikh museum, and wow were people back then brutal! There were paintings of Sikh’s (who wouldn’t convert to Islam) being beheaded, boiled or flogged. One picture was a guy with his baby being cut up in front of him, and then the body parts were draped over him!
Later back at the hotel there was a huge misunderstanding about our laundry. We had asked the day before how much it cost and they guy at the desk said 25 rupees per kilo. This is cheap so we gave a lot of clothes to be washed. When we got the bill it seemed way too much. I went downstairs to enquire. This resulted in a little fight ;-), which I won! Hahaha!!! I got him to decrease the bill because of the misunderstanding (it was actually 25 rupees per piece of clothing). I think he eventually gave in to my demands, due to the crowd around him, and that he was being shouted at by a woman. I don’t know what has gotten into me, but being in India has given me so much confidence to stand up to the men and fight with them for what I deserve :-). So give me a call if you need a problem to be sorted out ;-P
We watched some movies on T.V. and they always seemed to cut out the sex scenes (even when the scene only suggests a hint of sex or some form or physical contact) and some violent scenes. They also have English subtitles, and they always replaced “sexy” with “hot” in the subtitles…. ?????
We checked out, and waited out the hours before our night train at a coffee shop. Again we had sleeping class tickets and it wasn’t too bad except for the heat and stickiness that engulfed every part of my body. A nice old Sikh took it upon himself to look after us. He said to Angie “you are my daughter and I am your father”. Throughout the journey he would come and check up on us, bring us chips. We got off at Haridwar (Hindu holy city) and had to wait and wait for a bus to Rishikesh. We came here at possibly the worst time of the year- pilgrim time.
Amanda, Kishan and Mayank met us here-like a mini zoo reunion ;-P. It was so great to see Amanda again :-). For those of you who don’t know- I met Amanda in Ostrava; she then came to Korea last year, where she currently lives.
Every year Hindu pilgrims come here (by bus), take a bath in the Ganges and then take some of the water back to their hometown- by walking. Some walk over 500km carrying the holy water which they then pour over their shrines (dedicated to the god Shiva). They all wear orange shirts or shorts and scarves, so are called “the orange shirts”. Everyday hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims come to Rishikesh to fulfill the traditions. Along their way back there are camps set up which offer them free food and place to sleep. All the men are from lower castes- so the water sellers, rickshaw pullers, fruit sellers of India etc. It’s actually pretty amazing what they do for their religion and their amount of devotion is startling (although many just come for the fun and free food). The unpleasant thing about this is that the majority of them are uneducated, so have no idea how to treat women, especially western women! Amanda was pinched in the ass by a guy on a motorbike as he rode past and I was pinched when we were walking in the crowds. They constantly cat call us and just hungrily stare. Being in Rishikesh was probably my worst overall experience of uneducated Indian men. We left after a few days as it became almost unbearable: every morning we would be woken up with their shouting as they bathed in the river, then we had to deal with them anywhere we went- so no peace and quiet. It’s a pity, since Rishikesh is normally a quiet place where you come for meditation and yoga retreats.
A fun fact: The Beatles lived here in the 1968 when they were in India, at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram.
We had to walk amongst the awful crowd, with our backpacks, to catch a bus to get Dehra Dun. From Dehra Dun we took an old fashioned British-like taxi up the mountain (to 2000m) to a small hill station called Mussoorie (where we are now). It’s so beautiful and cool here- lush, green rolling hills and no rude orange shirt men! It’s only us three girls now, since Kishan and Mayank left today,
I reckon we will chill here for a bit, then go back down to face the heat and the next adventure that awaits us….