Article Index

31st May 1984

Satwant could feel her clothes sticking to her, the heat was unbearable, she had spent the night tossing and turning trying to get a goodnights sleep. She glanced at her watch, it was 4am, she thought, I need to get up, help milking the cows so Bibi (mother) doesn’t change her mind about letting me go to Amritsar. She quickly rose to her feet and looked into her parents bedroom and saw that Bibi was still sound asleep.


She quickly made her way over to the water pump and poured some water onto the top of it, to ignite the waters trajectory from below. She gave the hand-pump some quick bursts of arm-action and splashed the water over her face. This wasn't a nice sensation as she could taste salt from her perspiration of the night and the water was warm. Satwant placed a bucked under the pump she again energised the flow of water, with some hard and fast movements of her hands and arms. The water now collected was cool and refreshing, she again washed her face, the sensation soothed her in the humid and windless surrounds of her village of Maheroo, Jalandar.  She filled 4 buckets of the cool water so her family could utilise it.  Her Bibi had woken up and she walked over to her, Satwant quipped “Bibi, I’ll start milking the cows,” her Bibi replied, “fine, you go ahead and I’ll join you shortly.

Satwant picked up some rope and took a bucket of water over to the feisty kicking cow. Satwant quickly grabbed the cows back legs to tie them with the rope, but in her haste she forgot about the cow’s tail and she received a whipping blow of the cow’s tail in the eye. She shuddered and immediately felt perspiration on her neck, she swooned backwards. She resolutely gathered herself and squinting through one eye, still managed to tie the cow’s legs with the rope. After tying the cow’s legs she got up grabbed a stick and gave the cow some vicious blows to let her know who the boss was. The cow resigned to her fate and allowed Satwant to milk her, she first washed the udders which were covered in dung and mud.

Bibi walked over, “You are blessed my daughter, you took on the battle-axe cow,” Bibi could work at double the pace of Satwant, so in the time that Satwant had milked the battle-axe cow, Bibi had finished milking the other two cows. Upon completion they emptied their buckets of milk into the milk-man’s container and kept one-eigth of the milk for themselves.

5am Bibi said to Satwant “Don’t worry daughter you will go to Amritsar with your uncle today.” Satwant’s stomach churned with butterflies, she quickly hugged her mother and kissed her forehead, her mother jokingly said “Stop clinging to me, it is already too hot, do you want me to come down with heat stroke.”

7am Mama Jagjit and Mami Jasbir (maternal uncle & aunt) turn up with their 2 year old boy Suraj and 4 year old daughter Parveen. They had planned the trip to Amritsar and were to take Satwant and her brother Balwant. Satwant’s duty for the trip is to look after Suraj and Balwant’s got to help look after Parveen, that’s why Mama and Mami had wanted to take them to go with them as the pair of children are quite a handful.

9am Satwant, Balwant, Mama and Mami board the ‘Shane Punjab’ train at Phagwara Junction train station to Amritsar. After about 90mins of hustle and bustle in the train and the excruciating heat of travelling in cattle-class in the train, they all took a sigh of relief at the arrival at Amritsar. Thankfully the kids had perfectly slept the whole time.

10.30am After alighting from the train, we all gasped for air and thankfully drank at the public water points at the Amritsar train station. The water was warm but we drank it nonetheless, as we were too poor to afford cold drinks. We had planned to return to Maheroo on the next day after a whirlwind visit.


Satwant:      We make our way out of the station on foot, I and Balwant have to carry the bags as Mama and Mami carry the children. It’s about half a mile walk to Durgiana Mandir and we start the walk with a slow pace, in order to stay as cool as we can. It takes us about 30 minutes to get there. We enter the Mandir after depositing our shoes in the shoes-stand. I walk into the shrine and see the Mandir shining in the middle of the water tank, with it’s gold plated dome. Immediately, I realise the marble floor is burning hot and I run to whatever matting I can find on the walkway. We’re not a particularly religious family, we are Sikhs but we also pay our respects at shrines of Devta’s (Demi-Gods) and those of the Hindu Faith. My Mami had wanted to come to Amritsar for the well-being of the kids.


We pay our respects at the Mandir, offer parshad (holy offering, purchased at the entrance of the temple), and joyfully bathe in the water tank to cool ourselves, in the afternoon sun. I’m not too sure of the historical significance of the shrine and hear it could possibly be the original home of Mata Sita and her sons Luv and Kush, some aeons ago (the family of Lord Rama of the Hindu Faith). I wasn’t particularly bothered any reason to get out of Maheroo was a God-send and Amritsar is one of the largest cities of Punjab, so I was just in awe of the city.


After leaving the shrine we find some shade under a banyan tree and eat our lunch which was handed to us by Bibi in the morning. She carefully packed misse parshade (lightly flavoured chapattis), we drank water from the public tap and Mama purchased milk from the street-traders tea stall for Suraj.


2pm The afternoon heat was at it’s worst now, but Mama and Mami decided we should travel on to the Golden Temple and then rest when we get there. We made our journey through the alley ways of Amritsar, the rich aroma’s, rickshaws and glaring shopkeepers calling out for business, all defined the Amritsar experience for me, as we dodged people and street traffic in the alley ways to the Golden Temple.


We passed Lohgarh Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship), which was a commanding fort on our way and went past Gurdwara Guru Ke Mehal, arriving at the Golden Temple near the clock tower entrance, whilst seeing the roof-top of Akaal Tahkat to our right.  We deposited our shoes, washed our feet in the soothing water wash basin and when I saw the Golden Temple, butterflies stirred in my stomach and a cool soothing sensation ran through my spine. When seeing the Golden Temple I was so humbled and over-whelmed that I dropped to my feet and bowed. When my forehead hit the ground, I could feel static energy reverberate through my forehead and my whole body. I was quickly brought back to earth by Suraj violently slapping me in the head, he had done this to get my attention, I looked up in anger and then I heard Mami hollering at me, “Hurry up! What are you doing? We need to keep together as a group,” I quickly got to my feet and we alighted the stairs to enter the Gurdwara.


We promptly entered the shaded areas of the walkway (parkarma), took water at the Punjabi Sevak Jatha Shabeel (water point) and decided to get some sleep in the shade there. We all peacefully slept here, on the hard marble surface, using our bags as pillows for the next 2 hours.


5pm We awoke and then offered parshad at the Golden Temple, I was amazed at the intricacies of the frescos and embedded jewels of the whole Gurdwara.  The gold artwork and cladding was fascinating as were the expensive throws and flowers around Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee. I was used to going to the village Gurdwara and mechanically bowing, running to get parshad and leaving immediately. So this experience of being over-whelmed by the art and beauty of a Gurdwara was fresh and inspiring.


The Akaal Takhat intrigued me, with it’s weapons and arms of Sikhs and Gurus. We saw the end part of the daily display of the weapons as we paid our respects. As night fell we had Langar (blessed free food) at Guru Ramdas Langar Hall and went to sleep again in the shaded area of the parkarma.