So, finally, I'm putting away all the layers of cozy winter laziness and making myself put into writing the Pakistan experience. God, the idea of writing about it is so intimidating that I can't bring myself to start. Okay, deep breath. One more. Alright. Here goes.
The first chapter is set in India, though.
Anyway, the day we were supposed to leave was the epitome of chaos. There was last minute packing to be done, there were printouts to be collected, drycleaning to be picked up, soap to be bought.....phew. Then there was the small issue of fellow travellers and self going hysterical at the thought that this was finally happening, and what if it didn't? We were all trying to not think about the possibility of something going wrong, which obviously implied that the thought was always on our minds. So after completing all the necessary painful work, we finally set off for the station an hour before the train was scheduled to leave. We were saddled with a driver who was slightly slow on the uptake, so A vented her frustration by making some unnecesarrily confrontational conversation with him, which he failed to understand as well. Then we were in the car, on our way, and the guy kept snidely guffawing at me just because I had happened to melodramatically utter the words 'heart attack' a couple of times. We reached the station and found a smiling coolie who proceeded to take all our luggage to the appropriate spot on the appropriate platform after hectic haggling. He deposited all our luggage, still smiling bashfully. I like to think that it was my penetrating gaze that made him blush so. We got onto the train into two different coaches, and R and I ended up together. We were sharing the compartment with a family from the USA. The lady of the party was rather suspicious of the standards of cleanliness in Indian railways.Her husband asked R, in an air of true bewilderment, "Why is everything so dirty?". She actually checked the blankets for lice. I realized that although I'm not much of a nationalist, some things are able to irritate me quite easily. To my relief, we were able to switch compartments and join A and T soon.
However, the fun quotient was not over yet. There were three gentlemen in this compartment, the most annoying one being Mintoo Paaji. This man spent the whole evening staring at A. He then proceeded to snore his head off so that we couldn't sleep, and then woke up at 5 am when we were finally asleep, and started conversing with his companion so loudly that we were all rudely awakened. Oh, and, not to be mean or anything, but short, squat balding men should steer clear of black suits with red pinstripes. Okay, I'm kidding about the not wanting to be mean part.
We reached Amritsar at about 6.30 am, and hired a coolie and a cabdriver, again, of the smiling variety. We went to the Golden Temple, and it was a curious experience. I haven't believed in God for a while now, so it wasn't easy. But I was so moved by the faith that these people there had. I mean, there were folks who were taking care of people's shoes, staying in a smelly room all day handling other people's footwear, all for the love of God! It was that faith that touched me, and made it easier for me to go through the motions of worship.
After this, we had a rather oily, and therefore, rather yummy breakfast at an establishment known as 'Bubby da Dhaba', and made our way to Jallianwala Bagh. It really shocked me, I just was not prepared. What made it worse was this group of boys laughing at the bullet holes in the wall, commenting on the stupidity of the people who died while trying to climb out of that death trap. It was a sad moment.
We finally went back to our waiting cabbie, who gave us a piece of his unkind mind, before starting off for Wagah. The sleepless night (courtesy Mintoo Paaji) finally caught up with all of us, and we napped a most enchanted nap. Lo and behold! We were at Wagah. There was a very loquacious dhaba man all the way from Bombay, who wanted us to get bangles for his sisters. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, which R cemented by promptly breaking one of the china plates there.
We crossed into the border area, to meet incredulous customs and immigration officials ("Four girls????!!!! Pakistan!!!"). After filling out forms, smiling (a lot) and visiting one of the dirtiest toilets in the world, we finally did it. We crossed over.
PS: - the American lady met us in the Golden Temple, and offered us some money in case we ran short. Sweet.
PPS: - This one's for you. So, I turned 23. Thought about you all day, both of you. Are you happy, now that you're together again? I hope you are, coz yesterday your memories made me smile. All day. I hope you're smiling too. I love you both with all my heart, always will.