Imagine you are a college student travelling from Delhi to Amritsar by the Shatabdi Express. You are there with a bunch of your friends and are looking forward to the journey. It’s going to be a fun time with songs and people chilling out. When, BAM! You realise that the others in the train are a bunch of religious people who are going to be singing kirtans the whole time! What a bummer!
Except that it wasn’t. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and no, it wasn’t because I had some sort of religious epiphany during the journey. It was because we were bribed with food so that we would pay attention to the kirtan. And it was good food. They folk performing the kirtan kept me well fed throughout the journey. Not only me, but they had brought goodies for the entire compartment.
Twenty minutes into the journey, we were served an energy drink. Not the over-expensive ones that are sold for hundreds of bucks but a home-made all-natural drink. An hour later, we got chhole bature (yes it really happened). It was oh-so awesome! After we got done with that, we were just about to relax when we got a fresh serving of gol-guppas! That’s what you Mumbai folk call paani-puri. Gol-guppas on a train to Amritsar. Who would have thunk it! Just when we thought it was all done, we got a bonus. A burger from McDonald’s.
However, this obviously came with a bunch of side-effects. For starters, we weren’t allowed to talk. We had to pay attention to the kirtan. We weren’t allowed to sleep because kirtan! I, being a college student am also not very religious. I was sitting and just playing with my phone and at one point, I dozed off when an elderly uncle came and woke me up and asked me not to sleep.
Now, I always take this trip once a year to visit Amritsar and The Golden Temple. I am not a very religious person but this is something I do every year without fail.
This trip has confused me. On one hand, I have never had so much fun on any of my previous trips. On the other, I was bribed with food and was forced to listen to kirtans by a group of elderly uncles and aunties. They were pretty strict toward us too! Yes, they are to be commended for their stamina and power at their age. The fact that their faith lets them do this at their age is something to be marvelled at.
I was still thinking on these lines when it was time to go back on the return leg. And the food was awesome this time as well! Kulcha and naan (which is very famous in Amritsar) , vegetarian chaap, cola in plastic glasses. Dinner was dal, roti chawal and sabzi, and for desserts we had gulab jamun and ice-cream with chatpta aam-papad. All this was accompanied by, what else but kirtans.