Amritsar Day 2

Trip Start Dec 08, 2008
Trip End Dec 24, 2008

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Flag of India  , Punjab,
Sunday, December 21, 2008

I knew we didn't have that much time today before our flight leaves back to Delhi. So I kinda wanted to get an early start, but Rebecca is still dealing with all sorts of uncomfortableness. She was downright miserable last night when we were walking around the Golden Temple, but she stuck it out because she knew I wanted to be there.

I originally set the alarm for pretty early, thinking I could run over to Jallianwala Bagh when it first opened, before it became overloaded with tourists. But around 4am, the city started to wake and there were all the horns and people yelling, and pidgeons making a racket outside our window, so I decided to just let Rebecca get her rest (I knew I'd wake her up if I got up). So we woke up around 9am instead... took a little while to get moving, then called room service and asked them to deliver some toast, corn flakes, and an extra serving of milk so Rebecca could eat the muesli she's fallen in love with here.

Room service eventually shows up, and there is a huge pile of toast, like 4 slices per person. And a gigantic bowl that looks like it's got half a box of corn flakes in it. Then Rebecca notices that the milk is warm. Not just warm, but so hot you can barely pick up the glass it's in. Oh great, hot milk and corn flakes... not my idea of a tasty breakfast. I ask Rebecca to mix in some of her muesli and that makes it all a little more palatable, but I'm already looking forward to a real lunch later. I'm not exactly sure why the milk is so frequently warmed here for breakfast. It's like the default... if you are having any kind of cereal, the milk has got to be hot. Oh well, it works out for people like Rebecca who find warm cereals yummy.

After breakfast, we walk the 3 blocks to Jallianwala Bagh. For those that don't know, Jallianwala Bagh is a place where a british general by the name of Dyer, marched in on a peachful, non-violent gathering and ordered his troups to open fire without warning. There were more than a thousand people gathered in the courtyard, but one of the most brutal parts of the story is that the courtyard only had one entrance and exit. And the british troops had taken up position blocking the exit. There is a pretty large well in the area, so lots of people jumped into the well in order to avoid the bullets. They pulled out about 250 dead bodies out of the well after it was all over. There are also several walls around the area that are riddled with bullet holes, and aside from putting little whtie boxes around each hole, they have left the walls as they were when it happened. For the rest of the grounds, they have created a garden with green grass and flowers, and they have build a large eliptical monument in the center of the courtyard. They've done a very good job with the place.

On our way out, Rebecca and I got approached by a group of young Indian men that wanted to take a picture with us. We consented and they started snapping pictures. One then another then another. It kept going on and on and a crowd actually started growing, including what looked like a large group of girls from a school, as they were all in a uniform of some sort. Rebecca finally started getting uncomfortable with the whole thing because it looked like it wasn't gonig to stop, and she didn't want to become a spectacle is this place that should have a certain amount of reverence to it. In this whole trip to Amritsar we haven't actually seen that many westerners. A handful in and around the golden temple (which is only like 2 blocks away), but aside from that and our hotel, hardly any. So I'm not sure if we were a sudden interest because we were white-skinned, or because we were white-skinned inside Jalianwala Bagh. Because we were defenitely the only westerners we saw inside. In fact, as soon as we walked inside, we got approached by three Sikh men that seemed very stern and serious and they started asking us questions. Unfortunately non of them spoke english, and we didn't hear any of the limited Hindi that we understand, so there was a total communication failure. They did mange to get out the world "country" and we said "US... America" and they also got out "engrishh?" and we said "Yes". But I don't know if they were asking about our language or our nationality. It was slightly unfomfortable because we didn't want to offend anybody, but I also really wanted to walk around this place and see it with my own eyes.

After that, we headed back to the golden temple, because we realized we didn't get any pictures with us in them when we were there last night. So I at least wanted to get a picture with me in front of the golden temple before we left. So we went back, and turned in our shoes and washed our hands and feet and I bought a little black kerchief to cover my head. And we went inside and took some photos. This whole morning has been drizzling and rainy... so seeing Jalianwala Bagh in the rain with an overcast depressing sky kind of added to it a little. And seeing the golden temple with rain falling on the pool was also somewhat neat. I'd like to see it in bright sunlight someday, but that wasn't today. We got our photos and walked around the outside. I'd read that there was a museum of Sikh history in there somewhere, but I didn't write down where it was, and we couldn't find it, so we just finshed up, got our shoes and left.

We were starting to get hungry, and Rebecca suggested that we do something inside so we can stay dry and warm. So the lonely planet said the fanciest restaurant in Amritsar is this place called the Crystal, and we found out there was a theater just down the street from it, so we decided we'd see a Bollywood movie while in India!

We take a tuk tuk to the Crystal, and hop out to be faced with 2 restraunts right next to each other, both of them are named the crystal. The tuk tuk driver motioned to the right one, and it had a sign in front that said something like "there is only one crystal and it's on the ground floor" so we went in there. So somebody obvioiusly read the lonely planet and decided there was an oppourtunity there to catch guillable tourists and they built a different restaurant named The Crystal right next to the first one. It's kinda sad, really. Anyway, we go inside the right one (literally) and order some pasta for lunch. Like a fettucini alfredo from Rebecca and something kinda similar but loaded with all sorts of green and red peppers. And with the pasta, we got a couple orders of garlic naan. It was all very yummy. The food took quite a while to get to us, so we thought we might actually miss the start of the movie. But when we finished up, it was only 1:30, so we decided to try to make it anyway. We took the tuk tuk (ha!) over to the theater and had a bit of confustion getting tickets.... I said "one ticket please" and he says "one hundred" so then I say "I mean two tickets" and he says "three hundred"... and I say "No, I only want 2 tickets" and he nods his head and says "three hundred". WTF?? I decide not to make and scene and just give him the money and he hands me three tickets. Ah... just as I suspected. But whatever... gotta roll with the flow when you haven't taken the time to get fluent in the local language. So after that we go inside, and it looks like only balcolny seats are left. So we walk into absolute pitch blackness, along with dozens of other people... and we figure out we're just supposed to find a seat, any seat. Ok, that's not so hard, just like a US theater. Accept there is no lighting whatsoever. People are using their cell phones to cast enough light to find a seat for themselves and their girlfriend or whatever. The movie has already started, and it is absolutely the worst picture quality I've seen in a theater probably in my entire life. Flickering light that seems barely enough to make it to the screen... all the whites are actually a kind of dirty beige color. All the bright colors are noticibly dimmer, and there are several points in the movie when the light of the projector flicks off entirely for a fraction of a second and then pops back on a little brighter than before. I'm really curious what kind of technology they are using for projection, because it seems like it's antique.

We finally pick a seat, and the seats are as comfortable of church pews circa 1940. That is to say straight-backed wood with worn off padding on the seat. And not enough leg room in front for my legs to exist in any position other than painfully rammed against the seat in front of me. I actually shove my fleece down between my knees and the sharp back of the seat in front to get a slight bit of comfort. People continually pile in through the doors, even though the movie started 10 mintues ago. And they are all talking in their outside voices and shouting at people on their cell phones and making a general ruckus. There were a couple of doormen trying to help peopple find seats, but it was mostly making sure that every possible seat had an ass sitting in it. At one point it gets hard to tell where the empty seats are, so this one doorman guy hits a switch and a old single light bulb crudely wired up to something in the wall. It looked totally sketch! Like a couple of stray somethngs could hit the wires, cause a spark and the whole place would burn to the ground. That's when I realized if there was anything of the sort in this place, we were totally screwed. I don't think there is any getting out of an Indian cinema once the movie has started. Rebecca noted the irony that they only turn on the light to make things easier 10 minutes into the movie.

Anyway, there were lots of shifting and stepping over seats and people chattering back and forth. About 15 minutes into the movie, people finally started calming down, and then the ticket collector showed up!! And he walks up and down every row getting a ticket from each person in a seat. There is a lot of chatting and yelling as he gets tickets from every seat. We actually got very lucky that he walked down the row right in front of us and would just lean over people to get tickets from our row, because there was no way a person could walk by me with my legs so forcefully wedged into place. After he was done, there was a dull murmor throughout our sectionas people were texting their friends, chirping ringtones all over, and oh my god... the krinkling of plastic wrappers! Imagine 5,000 crisp plastic wrappers all krinkling simultaneously and you'll get an idea of what the first half hour of this movie sounded like. It was pretty humorous in it's absurdity.

The movie we went to go see is called Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. No idea what that means except it's somthing about dancing. And I wont give away any of the plot, but it's pretty cute, and we'll most likely share it with everybody on one of the upcoming Bollywood nights. Remember there are no subtitles here, so we kinda had to figure out everything from context. It wasn't actually that hard. Every once and awhile Rebecca and I would turn to each other and suggest our intepretation... like "This is the part where the parent makes a dying wish" or something like that. We've seen enough of them to know some of the formula elements, which are defenitely there in this one, But there is also enough new stuff to make it fun.

After the movie, we went back to the hotel and asked about local shopping. We were going to go to botique shop of the hotel guy's sister... but she was at the cinema watching a movie. So we just walked around old town, didn't really find anything interesting, so we just hung out the last hour or so until it was time for our flight. We had a very nice ride to the airport and chatted a bunch with the hotel guy (I'm pretty sure his name was Bunty, just like Devika's dad). And we were told that Amritsar is actually one of the cheapest places to live in all of India. We'd have to think about it pretty hard before choosing to live here, but I could see it being a potential on the list if we were to move to India. There is something about it that is nice and homey.

Our flight back to Delhi was very smooth, we were even 30 min ahead of schedule. But once we got to the airport, we had to wait more than an hour for our taxi to find us. The driver didn't speak any english, so we asked a local security guy to talk to him and explain where we were. So that resulted in lots and LOTS of talking and shouting and whatever else, but no progress. Rebecca and kept laughing at the absurdity of it because it didn't seem like there was that much to say to get it right, but there were probably 20 calls over the course of an hour and I don't even know how much time was spent talking and the guy was still lost. In the end, we actually got the taxi driver talking to a security underling that was very different in the way he talked to the guy. And when they started the conversation, Rebecca and I both said "Domestic Terminal!" which the guy repeated. Then it was like 10 more seconds on the phone and we were told the taxi guy had been at the international terminal this whole time. And Rebecca and I was like WTF??? why wasn't that the first question that everybody asked when talking to this guy??

I've kinda got this theory that communication is just different here in India. There have been a couple of occasions when we ask a local to help us communicate something, and there are lots and LOTS of words being said, and the conversation goes on for a long time, and then they will turn to us and say 3 words, maybe 4, to communicate what was just said. I don't know what they are talking about. But from the outside, it seems pretty funny sometimes.

We eventually got our taxi and made it home, paid too much... but we decided that was ok, because both the taxi driver and us both got screwed because of this misunderstanding. We came inside, had a little bit to eat and went downstairs to bed.
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