Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Night at the Golden Temple

11pm: arrive in Amritsar, exhausted from a day of travel.
12am: make it to the Golden Temple, put my shoes and bag away, get a mandatory head-covering, wash my feet, go inside. Everyone's just sleeping all over the place. So I do too. The floor is hard, but it's peaceful! Ah, no need to worry about some guesthouse; I can just get some sleep.

1:10am: "Your eyeglasses, you should be careful, someone might steal them. And watch your pockets too."

1:15am: "Wake up! We have to wash the floor. Here, take a bucket, you can join and enjoy the work. If you feel bad, don't do. Take and enjoy!" (two minutes pass, in which 50 other people and I wash the floor by throwing buckets of water everywhere) "There! You have taken two buckets. Did you enjoy? Where are you from? Ah, America. There, everyone is businessman, working for money." (I think to protest, but before I can get a word in:) "In America, you will not find like this." (True enough.) "Would you like a cup of tea?"

4:30am: "Wake up! (something in Punjabi)" I notice a sizable, but kind of sputtering and dumb, fireworks display. Why are there fireworks? "Oh, it is not fireworks. Sometimes when the wires get rubbed off and are too close together there are sparks." At this point there are prayers in full swing, but I find some other people sleeping and figure I can still join them.

5:30am: I am awakened once again. Now at least it's dawn. I figure that's as good as it's going to get. A nice fellow about my age named Lakhwend befriends me. He was thrown out of his house for wanting to marry a New Zealand girl. He has literally the clothes on his back. He makes a few bucks teaching English (he is Indian, but his English is fluent); last week, his wages were stolen by a pickpocket. Dang. I find out he was the one that warned me.

6:00am: we get tea and some kind of corn chip things; as free as the place to sleep.

8:00am: I get a meal of rice, dal, and chapatis; also free.

9:00am: I check out the inside of the temple. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest Sikh book is there! (I think.) I am given a sweet mashed snack at the end.

10:00am: I contact a couchsurfer named Narinderjit. He owns an awesome farm guesthouse that he lets couchsurfers stay at. There are two swimming pools. I nap, swim, wash clothes, and relax the rest of the day.


  1. How restful. Sounds like a night at Indian Guides.

  2. True! The main difference: nobody chasing me with burning sticks.

  3. haha.
    this is a very interesting post: i can visualize everything! wow that's crazy that they had people cleaning randomly in the middle of the night.. and also, where did you put your glasses? would be a bummer to have someone steal them off your face haha

  4. Hah! My glasses were right next to me on the floor. That would be rather desperate: to steal someone else's glasses that probably don't fit your prescription anyway. But I guess Lakhwend was rather on the careful side, given that his own money had been pickpocketed recently.

    I guess there are jobs happening all the time. The Golden Temple runs like clockwork, somehow, which is super impressive given that:
    - it's mostly run by volunteers
    - it serves some thousands of people every day
    - it's in India! Nothing (and I say this again with respect for India the country; it's not bad, just an aspect of the place) nothing runs like clockwork here!

  5. I stayed with Narinderjit while in Amritsar too! Crazy!

  6. Victoria: That is awesome! I am glad I can share with you this experience. Particularly:
    - why is that farmhouse there
    - why does he give it to couchsurfers for free, besides that he is the nicest dude
    - when Narinderjit is gone, I can't do anything reasonably there (see: trying to order food like 3 times and waiting for hours)
    - okay the swimming pools, why are there two
    - the bhangra show! I am confused!

    but I should write this up in a future post so that other people can understand this too.

  7. Dan- you know I tried to figure it our myself and I spent a good bit of time talking to him about it. Here is what I learned-

    That was his ancestral home, and in his generation everyone left. His children and wife live in London currently, but he prefers Punjab. I think he gives it to couchsurfers for free because (besides being incredibly awesome and kind) likes being around people.

    I didnt actually spend much time there when he wasn't there seeing as I only had around 36 hours in Amritsar, but most of Amritsar for me was total confusion. I arrived at the farmhouse at midnight, and I assure you that that was the last thing I was expecting to see. And then there was the border closing, and then there was the incredible Golden Temple. SO MUCH.

    But now that you are in McLeod Ganj, love it! It was my favorite place that I have been to. Also look up the CS host Harold W. I stayed with him and he was absolutely amazing, and even if you have a place to stay, see if you can catch him for a bite to eat or chai!

  8. p.s. i think i just wrote more on your blog then i do on my own...

  9. Ah right! I remember he told me much the same.

    Thank you for the recommendation; I will look up Harold W. So many people are so friendly here! I do like McLeod Ganj a lot. I think I will post about this.