Monday, 6 October 2014

Too much, too many, too late

We had a busy day ahead so an early start would have been useful. However, today was N's birthday and we hadn't reckoned on the kindness of the friends visited earlier in the week. They arrived bearing not only my suit, freshly sewn by the tailor, but also two beautiful birthday cakes. 

I rushed upstairs to put the suit on. I needed a narla. No June, that's not your cat, it's the stringy thingy you thread through the trousers to hold them up. So wearing the top and a pair of thick tights I joined the crowd for the traditional birthday singing. 

Later A helped me with my Narla so I could wear my pretty, new outfit to the Golden Temple. It fitted so well. The suit I mean, not the Temple. 

There were only seven of us in the car today. We almost had a seat each. Our host S was the driver. He proved to be just as adept as his son at avoiding vehicles. We even avoided a four vehicle smash by a calm, right turn onto the wrong side of the road. We returned to our side as soon as there was a gap. No one seemed to mind. 

Before the Temple, there was the slight visit to a wedding to attend to. It was obviously not a small affair by the size of the venue. The outside was decorated as lavishly as the interior. As well as the fake grass, there was an elevated stage with white comfy seating. Elsewhere there were sofas for guests to lounge on. The whole of one side was taken up by tall hatted chefs preparing a range of snacks and more elaborate food. 

Following the carpet, we made our grand  entrance. Oh oh. Something or someone in our group caused a stir. I hoped my narla wasn't hanging down (that's for you Kiran!). No, it was safely tucked away. All heads were on swivel mode. Yes, it was 'Spot the Odd One Out' again. But they were all smiling.

We found a free table. I was facing a sofa bearing  a couple of elderly ladies. One must have been up all night. Her head lolled backwards and she was obviously snoring.  She would waken with a start then two seconds later her head would start to droop and off she went again.  I found this highly amusing as did others on our table. We had to restrain ourselves so as not to cause offence.  That was so difficult. 

The room was so colourful. The ladies wore bright sarees and suits. Many husbands had matching turbans. Little children in their best party outfits raced around playing 'Robin Hood'. (They were all given bows and arrows from the wedding group. Beats a party bag any day!)

A constant stream of waiters brought silver platters bearing tasty morsels. I had   Chaat (Mr S's favourite according to his lovely daughter). Good choice. The chicken looked good but we were going to the Temple later so I followed by example, sticking to a veggie diet today. 

Suddenly everyone started moving furniture. Large sofas were placed in front of the stage. One fell to pieces so it was hurriedly carted away. I thought this might herald the arrival of the bride and groom. No such luck. This was the start of the entertainment. Vividly coloured dancers whirled and twirled while the singers 'out of lip synced'. A range of props/instruments were used. Hubby's trellis was stretched and closed to make a clacking sound. Then they brought on my brother's walking stick with a red ribbon tied to the end. Eat your heart out Morris Dancers!!

A new set of entertainers came on. They started their routine. They were very good until their tape broke!!  Looking bemused and forlorn, they retired backstage to try unsuccessfully to fix it.  

We wandered outside, had a relax on the sofa, nibbled some nibbles then visited the Queen. I jest not!  The ladies' toilets were called the Queen. Now I know the Queen is small but the toilet here was much smaller. Oh I got myself in a pickle trying to keep the flaps of my top and my floaty scarf out of the wet floor. Then I had to contend with unfastening my narla with my spare hand, remembering to keep a knot in it otherwise I could have been in quite a predicament!  Hot and bothered I emerged from the Queen wondering if my little 'contribution' had been worth the effort. 

Our host said it was time to go. What!!  I hadn't seen the happy couple yet. Never mind, that was how it worked. Pop in, show respect and pop out again. 

It was only a short drive to Amritsar. Satnav played up a little but a friendly policeman pointed us in the right direction. We zoomed up a multi-storey like a car chase in a movie. We were lucky to find a spot. As we started to walk down the first floor exit ramp, our host spotted a tuk-tuk and five of us squeezed in. Going backwards down the multi-storey then whizzing through the crowded, busy streets of Amritsar ranked alongside Space Mountain in Disney. 

At the Golden Temple, after a couple of false starts, we found whoever we were looking for.  We entered the main arena, after leaving our shoes in a potato sack with the cloakroom attendant. Heads covered we paddled through the foot bath. I had a problem Houston. The bottoms of my bottoms were too loose and slipped over my feet. Longer and longer they stretched until they looked like Mr Tickle's arms. It was so busy. I had to keep up with the rest. Hopping on one leg I would try to push the trouser leg in place. Then hop on the other leg to do the same. Three steps further and my soggy bottoms were flopping about again. This was not the elegant entrance I had hoped for. 

The Golden Temple was impressive. Loads of people had told me. They must have told loads of people in India too  it was heaving. The queue to enter the prayer chamber was far longer than Alton Towers' rides on a Bank Holiday. We had a secret weapon. We were taken to a side barrier and secret words were spoken. Scrunched together we were squeezed through a narrow gap. We gained another member to the group here.  She pushed through with us. Ah well, I didn't mind. 

Warned to stay close, I did my best. As we entered the prayer room, the volume of people pushed us along. I kept close to the left hand barrier as instructed and followed A's instructions. I tried my best to get my head to the floor but as my bottom stuck out just as the crowd surged forward. I just managed to give my 'collection' before being popped out of the room like a cork out of a champagne bottle. 

Keeping in a fairly orderly but fast moving queue, we received our 'prasad' (?). Today it was a sweet tasting treat not a banana. We regrouped. Arrgghh. One missing - the daughter of our host. Had she been kidnapped?  No, she was so busy nibbling, she lost sight of us. Thank goodness for mobiles. Not that I had mine with me though. Better stay close. 

After a dip in the Holy Water, we posed for the photos before being hurried back to collect our potato sack. The ride back to the car park was just as exciting as the one there. Spotted a few good shops along the way but there was no time to visit. 

Next stop the India-Pakistan border to take up our reserved front row seats for the stand-off performance by the opposing troops. That was the plan but things don't always go to plan here. We arrived too late!  The army refused to let us through and the performance had ended. We were gutted. 

To cheer us up, our kind host took us to the Mall. Meadowhall India-style. Pretty much the same except our boot was checked for bombs, bodies searched and bags checked. Oh I was praying she wouldn't pull out my spare pants or pile bullets!!

After a little shopping and a meal, the others went inside the 5D cinema to experience a film. I am not too good on those sort of things. I waited the ten minutes outside, trying to look nonchalant yet all the time alert. I had read the pickpocket notice in the Queens. Three guys sidled up and were giving me a bit of a once over, leering and laughing. Not my most comfortable moment. I only understood the word 'American'. I was just about to retreat to the Queens when my family appeared. Relief or what!

Having not eaten for fifteen minutes, they needed their evening meal. Back to the food mall. N suddenly realised that she didn't have her shopping. She remembered placing it on the table when we ate our snacks. Panic!!!! The waiters were asked, the cleaners were asked, the security staff were asked. No one had it. Downhearted we went to buy more of the same ( not telling what as it was a gift). I sent a prayer to St Ant and A sent one to her God. Between us a miracle happened. The man who found the bag had returned to the shop, leaving his telephone number. N phoned him and he came to the shop, bearing the lost bag. My faith in human nature was returned and I silently asked forgiveness for blaming the suspicious looking waiter. 

Time for home and Face Time birthday greetings for N. it had been a funny old day. Ups and downs but fun. 

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