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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Amritsar,Kashmir, Goa

After Mcleodganj we drove down to Amritsar, city of the Golden Temple. For all the crush and chaos of Amritsar and other towns in the Punjab, the Harmandir (God's house) was an island of beauty...many of our group were overwhelmed by the experience inspite of standing in the heat and que.
The free kitchen besides th Golden Temple was another special experience.In Amritsar we stayed at Mrs Bhandari's Guest House.  Set in the quiet of the cantonement, visitors did not want to leave the quiet surrounds and lawns. Mrs Bhandari is actually a Parsee, that rare Indian community and served the most delicious and wholesome food of the entire trip. A spinster who spend some of her time in Germany each year, she speaks fluent German putting our guests at ease. The 1940's architechture and fittings are still maintained. I loved it.

From Amritsar we drove up to the hills of Jammu. I was returning after 25 years! I had done this journey 27 years ago as well, by Vespa scooter! all of 900 kms.. In Jammu I was able to peel off to meet a friend of old from Kashmir days..Lali Broca..he and his family had to flee the Vale of Kashmir after the militants ousted minorities the Hindus and Sikhs. It is an injustice that the Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus), the older community of Kashmir (before it was converted to Islam) were still refugees and could not come back to Kashmir valley.
But then every other community in India has faced the same sort of injustice! Christian refugees in Orissa, Muslims targetted in Gujrat and Sikhs lynched in northern India. For every example of how communal harmony should be displayed, India has a corollary on how to negate it.Whoever thought 1947 was the last such..was sorely and surely mistaken.

Kashmir: flying from fortress Jammu to Fortress Srinagar was another experience. It was nevertheless great to come back to the Vale of Kashmir..Kashmir is good in small doses ..But barely a foreign tourist in sight apart from our Germans. Indian and local tourists abounded.  What was noticeable was the courtesy of Indian defence personell. Somethings hadnt changed however and the local CID staff a Kashmiri wanted his ounce of blood money for processing our exit forms from the airport!

I connected with Omar Nedou..again an old friend..he now runs the Nedou hotel in Gulmarg..a vintage piece of old..his Srinagar property is now a garrison for the Police. Omar was playing golf until past sundown everyday...

And then GOA. in a single day we flew from north to the south in a 17 hour journey. Goa was lush, wet, monsoonal..but not before allowing us to walk the length of the long quiet beach, and enjoy wading into the waves....and washed by a cool sea breeze as well...

the quiet villages, magnificent churches and old houses. and the laid back folk, had now.made Goa my national will see TigerPaws operating here dynamically now..!

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