Worthwhile at Wagah

Rare are those moments when you experience something so great and so euphoric that you wish to write down about it.

Around six months ago, we had a trip to Amritsar. It wasn’t a very well planned trip, rather, I should mention that it was just a weekend getaway. But on our way back from there, we took with us an experience that we could talk about time and again.

While there are a few must visits in Amritsar viz. Jallianwala  Bagh and Golden Temple, what caught our eyes the most was this magnificent visit to Wagah border. It is a frontier of India and Pakistan and lies between Amritsar (Punjab, India) and Lahore (Punjab, Pakistan).

Every evening, a beating retreat ceremony takes place here, wherein the military forces from both the countries participate in the drill on their respective sides and lower down their flags.

So, as we reached there by around 5 pm, we could see a hundreds of people (not only Indians but a lot of foreigners too) seated on both sides of the road.  At one end of the road was an arc like pillar symbolizing Bharat (India) with the picture of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi while the other end with that of Pakistan. The two are separated by iron gates.

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Before the drill was started, we could listen all kinds of Bollywood patriotic songs that cheered every Indian seated there. Also, we could hear a speech in the glory of our nation in the voice of Amitabh Bachchan. Afterwards, a man in white uniform in a high pitched voice asked the crowd to cheer the slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Hindustan Zindabad” and “Vande Mataram” to wake up the patriot in us. The crowd grew more and more exuberant with hearts filled with pride, each one wanting to be louder than those of the neighboring nation.

And finally the splendid drill started. The finesse of the stalwart army men was something which is hard to explain in words. They performed dance-like maneuvers in perfect coordination and marched proficiently towards the iron gate one after the other with Pakistani soldiers on the other side doing the same. The proud and gallant look on their faces was evident of their valor and their loyalty for mother nation.We could feel how dynamic and honorable were those men, our real heroes!

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As the sun set and drill was complete, the iron gates were open and soldiers of both countries shook hands and lowered their respective flags. They folded it and carried it so exquisitely that every individual stood up to pay their respect to the tricolor.

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Later on, the people were asked to leave the premises. Since we stayed there for a little long so we got to go near the iron gate and also clicked a few pictures with the soldiers. Since we had a VIP pass with us so we also managed to go inside where we could see the border stone symbolizing the Pakistani and Indian land around that region.

Around one-fourth region was Pakistani territory and the rest was Indian.

The evening could not have been more worthwhile. On our way back, we had dinner at a famous restaurant known as ‘Sarhad’ (an Urdu word meaning border) just about half an hour km from Wagah Border. Based on the concept of peace, this restaurant provides cuisine and culture of two countries. Apart from authentic Indian and Pakistani meals, the infrastructure and designs are also symbolic of both Amritsar and Lahore. This again was some place to add to your list of good experiences.

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Kerala tour (must visit place)

In this blog, I will be discussing an astounding visit I had to a cardamom factory when I, along with my family traveled to Kerala, early this year. 

Kerala, as of most Indians would know, is referred as ‘GOD’s own country’ and is situated in the south of India. So we traveled many places including Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady and Valayar exploring several beautiful places, lavish tea gardens, breathtaking waterfalls and flirtatious mountains. At every 5 km, there were stalls selling keri(raw mango) and pineapples with splash of salt and red chilly. And of course, there was nariyal pani (coconut water), the very own specialty of South India.

In each city/town, we had already booked our hotels/resorts. We were going accordingly as planned and first traveled to Cochin, then Munnar. But a last day change of dates in our plan for travelling Thekkady landed us in a resort called ‘Carmelia Havens’, as the resort we had planned to stay in, had no rooms for the same day. The man who suggested us this beautiful resort told us that it is situated amidst the tea gardens and is about half an hour drive from the town Thekkady. Also, they provide a visit to their cardamom factory which he said, is an experience of a lifetime.

So, the next day, we headed to this cardamom factory which was another 1 hour drive from the resort. On arriving there, we were greeted by a very humble operational manager of the factory. He asked us if we needed to use the washrooms as it was a long journey from here. Firstly, he showed us the area where the elaichi (cardamom) is washed manually by workers and then, took us to the room where it is processed and dried at very high temperature. Inside, we could feel a very strong and pure aroma of cardamom. We took 2-3 pods with us while it was still drying.

Next, he called somebody who arrived with a jeep. So the 5 of us jumped in the jeep and started the real visit to the whole plantation with the manager and driver.The first 5 minutes were like a normal drive on rocky road but what we experienced then, was something which left us amazed. The path was as such that there were big bushes all over and no ground was visible. The bushes were as big as the jeep, and some even higher. It was as if our driver was literally driving in nowhere and the jeep was ripping apart the thick cluster of cardamom bushes. It was swaying from left to right while constantly leaping over the ground. After about 10 minutes, the path became even more steep. The manager asked us to mind our heads as the plants could hurt us. For them, he said, its a daily routine thing that they are so used to. 

After sometime, he told us that the driver is going to give us all a surprise in 5 seconds. So, the bushy path was now over, but the rocky steep way was still on. He kept our mind on the surprise and counted….5….we saw a really steep way ahead….4….and we were going at a high speed upwards….3….higher and upwards….2….I felt as if we are in the air and going to jump off the cliff….1….and we all screamed badly, especially me, my mother and my sister and in that split of a second, the jeep was turned, breaks were applied, and it landed with a thud (Thankfully, no jumping off was done). Well, my brother and father were equally stupefied. So, that adrenaline rush was something worth the journey.

So, we came out of the jeep and found out that we reached a really great height. We were stunned by the beauty there, which was equally worth of watching. 

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And then the path leaded us to another higher mountain peak on which an ancient church stands and there, we clicked many pictures. That place was certainly some place to be, I guarantee that! It surely is even better than what you can see in the pictures.

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And finally, we were on our way back where we again stopped by among the plantations. There, he showed us the cardamom, coffee and pepper plants. Cardamom grows as a small green pod at the bottom most part of the plant while pepper and coffee on top.

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Coffee bean is covered in a red peel and pops out if you press it. The pepper is green in color and if it is dried at this stage it becomes what we know as black pepper. On the other hand if it is allowed to ripe further, then the shell comes off and what remains is white pepper.

We finally headed back and bid our goodbyes. We truly loved this visit, probably the best part of Kerala. It turned out, that this was surely an experience of a lifetime.

So the next time you plan a trip to Kerala, definitely add this to your itinerary. 🙂