A Day In India – Leaving the Himayalas

Guest Post By: Netza Ramos, a Senior studying Accounting and Information Systems. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient, and he studied abroad through a Foster Exploration Seminar for Early Fall Start in India, during 2022.

Mcleodganj, oh Mcleodganj, leaving you is such a bittersweet moment. Waking up to a mixture of homesickness and the sight of rolling Himalaya mountains really did a number on me. Let me take you on my adventure on this specific Thursday, September 15th, 2022 through India.

8:20 AM – Elevator

Surfing through canvas I already knew this was going to be one of those long travel days, or was it the “We leave at 8:30 am tomorrow.. we will be driving ~5 hours to Amritsar” WhatsApp message sent out yesterday? Probably both, either way I am prepped ready and heading down at 8:20 am sharp. Any minute later then I would get an aggressive memory nudge by my Marine drill instructor screaming to “HURRY UP”. Definitely wouldn’t want to be late then, or even now – Amritsar is waiting for me.

12:20 PM – Rest Stop

Whipping and winding down through the Himalayas in a car undoubtedly had my stomach at my throat getting out of the car. Even so, passing the towns and villages made my mind run on a few things – like all the Swastikas! “Who and what in the world?”, I thought to myself. The first thing I did was turn my head and ask Sanjay (our amazing tour consultant for this trip) about it. I come to find out, other then my minimal knowledge on the usage of Swastikas by the Nazi Party and Hitler, it was actually an ancient symbol used by Hinduism. The more you know right? Now that the group has 10 minutes before loading back up for the 2-hour ride to Amritsar, it’s time to stock up on chili lemon Lays, water, and hit the road. I am praying the second half is a straight shot.

3:00 PM – Lemon Tree

FINALLY, I made it. It being the 7th hotel on this trip I got my rhythm down packed on getting settled in. Which consisted of coordinating the one key we get per room, checking my sheets, the bathroom, and turning on/off every single light in the room. Oh yeah, can’t forget to make sure the WiFi works(Dial 2002 for Front Desk assistance). T-minus 1 hour 30 minutes until the Golden Temple – “please dress conservatively/modestly… everyone will also have to wear a scarf”.

5:25 PM – Jallianwala Bagh

Rich, just so rich in history. Jallianwala Bagh or shall I say the Jallianwala Bagh massacre? Also known as the Amritsar massacre, April 13th, 1919, when a large peaceful crowd had gathered here to protest against the Rowland Act and arrest of pro- independence activists Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal. British and Gurkha troops massacre at least 379 unarmed protesters. Aiming low for 16 minutes straight ensuring the maximum casualty with no escape. If that wasn’t enough, in a nearby water well they recovered 120 human bodies also in connection to the massacre. Gruesome, violent, and just absolutely jaw-dropping. Standing there and taking it in was a little overwhelming at first. I was expecting to travel the busy streets into a Golden Temple. But I am grateful to have made a pit-stop to be educated on the holy cities’ tragedies. Could you imagine a time where peacefully disagreeing with someone or something resulted in massacres? Madness, just madness. However the madness I felt wasn’t in just the massacre, but the individual stories that came from the families of the massacred. Our guide through Amritsar shared this beautiful, but heart-felt tragedy that outlines the spirit of the people who experienced this particular moment in time. This story is from the eyes of a wife. A loving and prideful women who heard about a protest against the the Rowlatt Act, which authorized the British Government to arrest anybody suspected of terrorist activities. The Act empowered the police to search any place without a warrant, try political cases without juries, and allowed the internment of suspects without trial all together. Simply put, it gave power to bad people to do even worse things. Such as arresting pro-independence activists Saifuddin Kitchlew and Satyapal – symbols of the people of Amritsar. The wife hearing about this protest then encouraged her to motivate her husband to go attend and represent their household in this protest. So he went, and so she waited. She waited. Waited until it was just too late. She then walked into the vicious result of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in search of her late husband. Carrying a stick in one hand to fend the dogs circling around hundreds of dead bodies to find her love. Finding and laying by his side until help came. It’s a shame really, a shame that the British offered her $25,000 for the blood of her husband. She refused, his blood wasn’t for money but for the people. The British offered $50,000 for the blood of her husband. She refused, his blood wasn’t for money but for the people. She then lived long and died in poverty. Life long suffering, and prideful of what she and her husband represented in Amritsar. Representing independence. Representing the sacrifice. This story had me at a loss for words. Finally understanding what the monument purely stood for. It’s so fierce in story, and in history. I am truly honored to have been exposed to and shared a moment to honor those who have given their life to serve a bigger purpose. Thank you.

5:50 PM – Golden Temple Area

Wow, just wow. It almost looks fake. This looks like it’s supposed to be a screensaver. Starstruck by what’s out in the holy water. I see a floating shining Sikh temple covered in gold. Having to stand still because I am at awe with it all. Not for too long though – especially with a camera in hand. Guards walk the walk spear in hand to ensure everyone’s head remains covered and limited pictures are being taken with full respect to their Sikh culture. Every picture must be taken with both hands glued together, praying. I must say, I respect the lengths these guards are willing to go through in order to preserve their religious practices. I remember overhearing how the President of the United States couldn’t visit because the Sikh temple refused to hold the entry of the people just so the protocols of the President can be met. They will not hesitate to turn away even a United States President if it’s going to be at the cost of the people. Even so, what’s absolutely beautiful is what the temple actually serves as for the religion of the Sikh. Listening to the tour guide teach a quick study class on it, there is a requirement that every Sikh culture believer must do. First put forth by the Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th guru) – must be baptized and once baptized must follow the 5 symbols:

  1. Kesh (uncut hair)
  2. Kara (a steel bracelet)
  3. Kanga (a wooden comb)
  4. Kaccha (cotton underwear)
  5. Kirpan (steel sword)

Including visiting the Golden Sikh Temple and do 3 things:

  1. Taking a dip and pray in the water as thanks for bringing them to the temple.
  2. Eating at the temple as thanks for feeding them.
  3. Making it inside the temple to let their ego go.

*The Sikh’s believe ego is a sign of emptiness. As a reminder of what you don’t have. It is self-respect you want, not ego. Every single day you get to see hundreds of Sikhs come and hold true to their promise. A dip in the holy waters, eating, and visiting the temple. It’s amazing.

10:30 PM – Conclusion

Looking back on my day entirely, it has been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. Starting with canvas thoughts on the elevator to shining Sikh Temples. From the winding roads to massacre monuments. I feel like the 2 things that stood out most to me were the Jallianwala Bagh wife story and the 3 requirements every Sikh must have to visit the temple. I just feel these 2 things really outline how much history has been through the city of Amritsar, and religion. Giving it the title of a Holy City. As for growth for me personally, hearing about the values, trials, and tribulations really forced me to step back and into my own history. Remembering where I am from, and what I went through. What those before me went through in order to produce a new and improved life for us all. I can confidently say that this experience changed my life for the absolute better.