Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Our Final Day In Amritsar.

We arrived in the hotel lobby after breakfast at 8.30 am as arranged with Shivam last night and he was already waiting for us. Our driver was summoned as we left the coolness of the hotel to the already warm sunshine, and he appeared almost immediately from our right. In more normal circumstances this would be of no concern except our hotel here is located on a busy one way city street with the traffic flowing from left to right. This of course is quite normal in India, and we have driven on unfinished motorways, through red lights and on the wrong side of dual carriageways in the past. There appear to be no enforced rules of the road, it's every man for himself. Tomorrow should be interesting as we have a five hour road trip through rural India and mountain regions once again when said driver will collect us at 9.00 am to take us to our next destination, Dharamshala in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Our first call today was to Jallianwala Bagh, an enclosed square within the old town which was the scene of a massacre at the hands of the British Army officer in charge, General Reginald Dyer in 1919. A curfew had recently been applied under new legislation, and this was ignored by the local population who chose to undertake a peaceful meeting within the square on the day of a public holiday. Without any warning to disperse Dyer ordered his troops to open fire on the crowd, firing in excess of 1600 rounds into the crowd until no one was left standing. Many tried to take cover in a well, but none survived due to crushing at the bottom. There were thousands of innocent people killed and injured on that day, and although Dyer was removed from his post and returned to England, the case was the subject of an official cover up, (nothing new there then). Dyer was eventually killed in London in the 1940's by a survivor of the massacre, a young child at the time, who had vowed vengeance. He was himself executed for the murder, under British law of the time, but is now seen here as a martyr. Luckily the Indian people are forgiving and we walked around freely today, although just as popular as we were last night. The square is now a park with a monument to those killed. Bullet holes in the surrounding walls have been highlighted.

From there it was to the Temple again, where Shivam's presence allowed us an access all areas pass to witness the areas where an average of 50,000 people a day are fed free of charge during weekdays, rising to 100,000 a day over weekends. This has been run by volunteers for the last 200 years, every day, 24/7. We too were offered food but if we did not want to partake we were advised to simply place our hands together and smile, the polite way to say "no thanks".

We returned to our hotel at 10.30 am for a welcome rest, before Shivam collected us again at 3.00 pm to be taken to witness the nightly ritual border closing between India and Pakistan at Wagha. Passports are required here, which allow us as foreigners the privalige of VIP seats. No bags are allowed either, so travel light to this event which attracts daily crowds akin to a Premier League football match at home.

See you on the other side of our road trip tomorrow. That was another very special day.

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