[We saw all kinds of people at the temple, all with a different hope and faith. Our next stop was Wagah border.]
As I have mentioned earlier, the city of Amritsar is very small. The distances are very less; in my language walkable. You hardly see a taxi there. Shared autorickshaws are available for Rs 5/- only for a distance of upto 2 Kms. From the Golden temple, we took an autorickshaw for Bus depot. No, not the sharing one.
The bus to Wagah border via Attari was at every half an hour. Earlier, we were suggested by our hotel people to hire a private taxi which would have costed us around INR 2500/- . It being a budget travel, the suggestion was ignored very conveniently.
It was 4:30 when our bus started moving. It went through fairly well maintained roads, surpassing the small towns and fields, stopped at midway stops taking locals on board. In no time the bus was fully packed. The distance of 28 kms looked much more.
We wanted to reach there before sunset to see the ever inspiring flag ceremony. We were told the bus goes right upto the Wagah border gate. When the engine stopped finally; I, the optimist, was still hopeful that it’d go further as I couldn’t see any gate or army men there.
No. that was not the case.
We had to get down and since we were the last to do so, all the shared autos had already left for the border. We asked a rickshaw puller about the distance. “Paas hee main hai” (It is very near). Since there was no other mode available and we were running short of time, we engaged him for Rs 20/- . It was another thing that his definition of ‘near’ was 2 kilometers.
As luck would have it, chain of his rickshaw was also ‘derailed’ mid way. Wow ! We are being tested for our nerves.
With high anxiety level, eyes fixed on the setting sun, holding Rs 20 in hand to save some precious moments and I was ready to jump off the rickshaw. Probably I was in half standing position. Later PP said, it would have been nice to capture me in video.
Anyway, we were dropped at a place which looked like a large picnic spot with tens of tourist buses and private cars parked on either side of the road. A scene similar to outside a stadium where Indian cricket team is going to play a Twenty-20 match. Crowded, disciplined but in a hurry as if they’d miss the start of that match.
We realized we were still more than half a kilometer away from the entrance gate. With all kinds of hawkers on the way, we reached the entrance. Hundreds of people were walking in.
No, not so soon we were going to enter. Stopped at the entrance. Ok, so except for our cameras we can not carry anything, not even our cell phones or mineral water bottle !! Armymen, I love you for being strict on this.
But places like this also encourage and flourish illegal business. There were illegal keepers of our valuables, of course with support from the system.
There were two guys each with two sacks. They took our belongings which contained all important docs, credit cards, passport, cash, cell phones etc and gave a two inch receipt. In goes my handbag in that sack and I move towards the queue for security check.
Once done, we could hear the announcements and the cheering.
It had started !