katrinasadventures' Travel Journals


  • From Massachusetts, United States
  • Currently in Jakarta, Indonesia

Fall 2009: Northwest India

Join Katrina as she shares her adventures, stories and feelings throughout her journey across India's spiritual land. Traveling with a consortium of New York Schools (Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Hobart and William Smith, and Colgate), Katrina will spend time in various locations, such as Musoorie, Delhi, Jaipur, and Varanasi.

Amritsar and Delhi

India New Delhi, India  |  Oct 05, 2009
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Oct. 1st (cont…)

Finally, we got to the Amritsar train station and waited for the pilgrim bus to arrive.  We weren’t the only ones waiting… the bus was so jam packed that we couldn’t even get a foot in there.  So, we got some rickshaws and scurried across the small alleyways to the city center.  When we got to the Golden temple we discovered that the place was jam packed with pilgrims on holiday (it was Gandhi’s birthday on October 2nd, a national holiday).  We waited around to get some headway in gaining a room, but with no avail we settled with just a room to put our bags in for the evening.  Cynthia, who is our Hindu speaking guide, had difficulty working her magic because most people spoke Punjabi here. 

When our bags were securely stored in a room, we felt at ease to go wander around the Golden Temple.  The first place we hit up was the langar, where we were provided with some free grub.  Even though the meal was simple, it was delicious.  The Sikhs know how to cook well for mass amounts of people.  After our rice and dhal, we circumvented the premise and admired the detail of the marble-ornamented walls, glass chandeliers, colorful blankets that the sacred texts rested upon, and sharp looking attire that the Sikh guards wore (usually bright blue or yellow with a nice belt and spear to tip the outfit off).  Many other visitors to the temple were fascinated by our attractive looks and so constantly desired pictures with us.  Kids were also very interested in having their pictures taken so that they could see what they looked like on our digital screens.

 Around 7-830pm we waited for the hotel owners to scramble to find a place for us to sleep. We got one room with two double beds, as well as access to around twelve cots.  I slept comfortably on a broken cot right next to someone’s room.  Little did that person know that just outside their door was a room of slumbering white Americans.  I think that most Indians would probably be amazed rather than be creeped out by that notion.  There were a bunch of teenage boys hanging around the room, playing loud music from their phones when we tried to sleep.  But with my iPod in and the fan whizzing above my head I was perfectly content.  I woke up a few times during the night and around 4ish I saw that the iPod and watch that were resting next to my body were gone….  Oops.


Fri-Sat, Oct 2-3: Amritsar

            It turns out that someone who volunteered at the hotel had taken my watch and iPod, so that no one would steal it.   So, he stole my stuff in order to protect it…  Milly, Martha, and I woke up around 530ish and went outside to hear the morning prayers.  The golden temple was crowded!  There was a line out the wa-zoo for access into the temple.  When I first got down to the precinct I thought that I was in a movie set because it was completely black outside and there were hundreds of people milling around.  We also weren’t the only ones who had to desperately search for a place to sleep for the night.  There were hundreds of people lying on the cool floors on some light mattresses. 

            After morning prayers a few of us felt it necessary to donate our time to preparing the food at the langur.  Rebecca and I helped peel red onions.  That was probably one of the most painful experiences of my life.  My eyes were bright red and filled with tears from the pain of the onion spray.  Many of the women that were also peeling onions were friendly laughing at the pain I was going through.  Overall, we were a presence to look at and many people felt it necessary to watch us work.  I then enjoyed another free meal, or sweet rice, dhal, and roti, at the langur. That place sure knows how to fill you up. 

Next, we went to Jallianwala Bagh, a memorial for the victims of Cournel Dyer’s shootings. This small park commemorated 2,000 Indians killed or wounded by the British authorities in 1919.  While we were there Sheila decided to have a mini history lecture of what was going on during the independence movement and what role this massacre played in that history.  While we standing in a group being lectured, we attracted a large crowd who also wanted to hear what Sheila was saying.  I doubt that they were really interested in specifically what she was talking about, but they sure loved receiving darsan from us.  At one point, someone tapped me on the shoulder to get a picture of me with their mother and brother.  We were a very popular attraction.  Back to the memorial… some of the bullet marks are still visible, as is the well into which hundreds leapt to avoid the bullets. 

At 4pm (which originally had been scheduled for 2pm, but the bus got stuck behind a parade for Gandhi’s birthday) we left for the Wagah border.  People come to the border, 30 km west of Amritsar for two reasons: to enjoy the late afternoon border-closing ceremony or to use the only crossing between India and Pakistan.  Guess which one we were there for?  (Things to consider: visas, money exchange, transportation)  The closing of borders was an old British practice.  Even though the relationship between Pakistan and India is very complex and tense, the closing of the border was very light and comical.  The Indian crowd was crazy.  They were laughing, dancing, and shouting “Mata ji Bhutan”.  Not only were there good-looking Indians, but there were some pretty looking tourists watching the performance as well.  


Pakistan Relations: We had an ambassador of Pakistan talk to us briefly on India-Pakistan relations, which ultimately stripped down to U.S. interaction, military, and radicalization of Islam.  Pakistan is one of the most weaponized society in world… it is not uncommon to see A.K.47 riffles at weddings.  Ambassador Parthasarathi believed that the U.S. takes large blame for radicalization of Islam in the 1980s.  The equation of the radicalization of Pakistan was brought by the invasion of Soviet Union, reaction of U.S. and the outcome perspective of the triumph military Islam politics.  Today, everyone in the region is paying price for the previous events and Pakistan’s military, linear politics.  

Islamic groups are used for political objectives, which is ultimately hurting the Pakistan state.  Sections of the Taliban are turning against Pakistan as their influence has spread because the government began to crack down. This caused a large number of tribal women to be killed, which lead to the assassination and now to the problems they are facing now. 

Solution:  We must for push domestic developments of Pakistan. This region is the fastest growing region of the 21st century.   Therefore, the only foreseeable solution is economic integration.   The solution is to create an economic union in a way so both parties need each other so much that they must push aside differences.  As the economy grows here and as other areas of the world remain restricted, the world will need to see increased economic interaction in this region for global prosperity.  When business is comfortable then tensions will ease.

DIFFICULTIES:  The alliance with military and right wing Islam will make it difficult.  A section of the military is keeping radicals going.  We must move towards a closer engagement with Pakistan on how to deal with problems of terrorism.  U.S. cannot run or retreat because it will be seen as triumph of radical Muslims and let loose wrong type of forces in Islam states, as well as an emergence of groups in India.  U.S. has done many stupid things and has used excessive force through our military, but it has important role to play. The U.S. must allow Afghans to stabilize country.  Yes, there will be corruption and drugs and you cannot rewrite the Bill of Rights, but if Afghanistan is not stabilized than you can’t stabilize entire region. 

The Kashmir problem—this shared borders with India-Pakistan has a history of a Muslim majority with a Hindu ruler who wanted independence.  During division, Pakistanis got impatient and invaded.  Matter was taken to U.N in 1947 which passed a three part resolution: cease fire, withdrawal of Pakistan troops and rebuild from there.  We got stuck at stage two because Pakistan did not withdraw.  Over the last few years, solutions have emerged that involve line of control and traditional routes for travel and trade.  In 2004-5, there was a gradual easing of restrictions so that Kashmir did not divide, but unites India and Pakistan.  In a sense it was provided autonomy and borders that incorporate both nations instead of divide.  The whole state is becoming a region for free movement of goods, services, investments, and people.  Kashmir now has as international airport.  Two years ago Afghanistan joined this process and now in 2007 Pakistan and India almost reached settlement on the matter.  But, the military mind is very linear and cynical about the solutions.   

Book to read:  India’s goal, Shujana Vaj Cross Swords: the Pakistan army, David Sanger’s The Inheritance, Pakistan Army INC


As we were leaving, I got separated from the group and stood up on a middle barrier to try and find them.   A few girls ran up to me asking for my autograph and email, while a group of boys pressured me into taking photos with them.  The gang caught up to me while I was in my photo shoot and started calling me the next Bollywood star.  Apparently, some stranger behind them got caught of my name and started yelling “Katrina stays here”.  I think those few minutes were my 15 minutes of fame.  I can now die peacefully.

In the evening we discovered that our cots had been stolen, so we scrapped together a collection of cots on another floor.  The cots were very cozy to sleep on when you could block out the noisy socialites around the room. 

The next day was relaxing with an exploration of the largest Hindu temple I have ever been to.  It was a “cave” temple, which actually resembled an amusement park with the tacky statues, hall of mirrors, and cave hallways.  This temple is known for its ability to get women pregnant…. When I was walking back from the temple I encountered a group of young, mischievous boys.  I answered their questions and talked with them for a bit while we scurrying through the alleyways.  They kept slapping me on the butt and telling me to kiss them.  Every time they touched me I would stop and tell them that I would not keep walking with them if they touched me.  One of the boys agreed and told me that “abuse is bad”.  Eventually, I was forced to get two older boys to get rid of the younger ones because they were getting a little aggressive telling me that they had “big hands”. 

After getting some yummy dates and fruit juice, which is so tasty in this hot, humid environment (I was constantly dripping in sweat, losing salts), I tried to do a money transfer at a state bank.  I have been trying to transfer money to the WWOOFing organization for the last four weeks and thus far have been deterred by holidays, weekend hours, and banks that cannot transfer money.  On the way back from my unsuccessful errand, Kim and I were chased… yes chased… by a one legged man who was angrily yelling at us.  That man also pursued two other girls in the group as well. 

In the evening we took the shatabdi express train to Delhi.  We received Indian snacks, which consisted of a thermos of hot water to make tea, and then the typical rice, dhal, punnir dinner dish.  The cart was loud with lots of Sikh families traveling back.   Around midnight we got to Delhi and pushed through the crowds to get a good deal on a taxi.  While driving back to the YMCA our car got a flat tire and we had to watch from the side of the street as the driver fixed the tire and other rickshaw drivers gestured to get in their car.  At one point a man on a white stallion came galloping towards us and asked if we offered his horse as a solution.  We eventually arrived safely and passed out from the weekend trip.


Sun, Oct 4: Delhi

We toured two famous Delhi monuments with Beeba Sobti (author, historian, teacher who has toured Angelina and Brad Pitt, Will Smith, the president of France, the CEO of Sony, etc).  The first stop was Qutb Minar complex.  This complex was one of the oldest in Delhi, and therefore the world.  The Qutb Minar itself is a soaring tower that was built in 1193, immediately after the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom.   It is nearly 73 meters high and tapers from a 15 meter diameter base to just 2.5 meters at the top.  This tower was used by the Mughals as a way for the priest to call the villagers to prayer.  Due to a horrible stampede incident in which 58 people, mostly school children, lost their lives the tower can no longer be climbed. 

Humayun’s tomb was our second stop and we learned that unlike what most guides tell you, such as the Lonely Planet, this building was not constructed by the Persian born senior wife of the Humayun, but was rather build by his son, Akbar.  The early Mughal architecture of this sandstone building is exquisite. 

We were all mesmerized by the tourists we saw walking around.  They were wearing shorts, tube top dresses, and tight shirts… it looked a little promiscuous to us.  Showing shoulder is a no-no!  

Lunch was at a food court that resembled an American mall; yet, in this place you had to stick your body in the line aggressively in order to give your order.  I still don’t know my Indian food terms very well and so I had a very difficult time ordering food.  The rest of the day consisted of working on independent study proposals and field journal entries.  There were some internet problems… it is really hard finding internet access points in Delhi, which is ironic because it is such a big city, so in the evening I wandered around the streets to avoid the rest of our homework that was due. 

I met a group of older Danish folks that were traveling around India for a few weeks.  I told one woman that my grandparents had a house in Svendborg and it was discovered that one man, who was a banker in Svendborg, had know John Engelsted.  He told me that he had actually seen the gravestone of John Engelsted last week and if he had known he was going to meet me he would have taken a picture of it.  Aw! How cute!

My evening was relaxing with a little TV watching in Hannah and Rebecca’s room.  They were on the first floor and had a small flat screen T.V.!  What a luxury!  We ended up watching some junky American movies (aka The Little Rascals and Knotting Hill).   


Mon, Oct 5th

            With an entertaining morning run, my day started off well.  I now no longer notice when men stare at us running down the street.  In Delhi, I have yet to see another being exercise.  I think most people work out in gyms and never outside.  I caught up on laundry with some Tide packets and hot water.  The day was spent learning about India-Pakistan relations and then catching up on homework and errands.  I attempted the bank again but was denied by the hours. 

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