( Hope you have read Day 1 in Amritsar )
We were ready early in the morning of our second day in Amritsar. Skipping the buffet spread in the hotel, which we did every mornings of our stay, we asked for a cab to go out and try the local breakfast options.
We had decided on Kanha sweets.
As we sat waiting for the cab, B said he had something to show me and asked me to step outside for a while. I walked with him for a few meters and just around the block, there was a a very small shop in front of which he halted. And said "Look".
And saw this machine!
It had two hands inside that were moving all the while, stirring the milk boiling within. I could not take a snap of them for obvious reasons. The boiling milk is then curdled and made into paneer.
He gave us tips on what to shop for and where from, who to believe and who not to, which restaurants to try out and which ones to stay away from, and so on.
We always love talking to locals whenever in a new place. They are the best guides you can ever have.
Myself, who does not touch a piece of paneer, ever, too could not resist that fresh piece of joy.
The taste was divine. The paneer was still warm and almost melted in our mouths.
As we were chatting, there were people coming in and buying paneer . Old men on their morning walks, housewives, young children running errands, etc.
We saw two big sized blocks get over in a matter of minutes; and it was only 8:30 in the morning.
If you are a group, they joined tables for you. Single or a couple, you may have to share your table.
After all everybody wanted their breakfast ... Kanha's famous Chole Poori.
The accompaniment is Chole ... simply cooked with medium salt and even lesser spices. But the star of the show is the Launji that came with this .... the Aloo ki launji.
Sweet and sour to taste ... "wohi asli cheej hai jo is poori ke saath chaiye" ... insisted the boy serving us.
Seeing the all the rushing and shouting about going on, I was hesitant to question him. But when I did, he happily shared the recipe with me, along with suggestions of what else can be enjoyed it with.
There was also a third dish ... a salad made of Rataloo or boiled, sweet yam mixed with lots of onions and lemon juice.
We then took a plate of their halwa. Hot and soaking in ghee, it was heaven in that plateful.
This too is a place I would love to come back to if ever I am in Amritsar again.
A glum faced man sat there making Gulab jamun balls and throwing them into the kadahiful of oil in front of him. We tried small talk; he refused to look up. The serious looking person we came along in our whole trip.
We decided not to push our luck and asked if we can have some gulab jamuns. He gave a flick of his headed, which we decided was in the affirmative as he immediately gave a piece of the sweet in a leaf bowl to us.
One bite and I felt my throat was sealed for good. The syrup was very, very thick and very, very sweet.
The bee sat on the biggest drop of the sugar syrup in the bowl and drank it up all.
If it looked brilliant and dazzling in the night, it looked just as serene in the morning. The white marble all over glowed in the morning light. There was a slight chill in the air but not uncomfortable.
Since it was a Saturday, it was more crowded than usual.
At the shoe stand, a hefty policeman came smiling up to B and said "Jootton ka khayal toh hotte rahenge ji, pehle ye aaggey kar lo" ... and made B shift his wallet and mobile to his front pockets.
Yes, the Golden Temple sees more rush on weekends and other holidays.
We stood in the line for darshan. The crowd was patient. There is an air of tranquility all around ... difficult to believe that right at that moment there might have been more than a thousand visitors inside the temple. It took us almost 1 hour to reach the inside of the temple. If you are visiting the Golden Temple, do go inside and also upstairs. There are two flights of stairs that take you to the top of the temple. The walls are from the olden times and the original frescos on them are still there. People sit around quietly; some praying, some waiting for the elders to catch their breath. With the water all around and the ardas or kirtan in the afternoon air, it was beautiful!
Maharaja Ranjit Singh had said that no person in his kingdom should go to bed hungry. And had started the act of granting funds to all gurudwaras for langar, the community kitchen.
The langar in the Golden Temple serves free food to thousands of people everyday. It runs on grants and donations.
We had a simple meal of roti, dal, kheer and khichri. The taste was divine ... just as any other prasad does.
Sitting down with so many people, all eating quietly, was a different experience altogether. The reverence to food could be felt in the air. It was not just another place that people go to eat at .... it was a place that provides nourishment; plain basic food ... food of the earth, that every human needs. Very humbling. Very real.
It was late evening when we stepped out of the Golden Temple.
We had wanted to see the Golden Temple both at night and during the day .... both done.
As we walked down the temple road, we saw this man frying all kinds of things like rice, corn, soaked channa, etc. on salt and selling them as snacks.
He urged us to try some but we were interested in something else.
And their samosas were indeed good. Spicy, fresh off the kadahi and served with the same aloo ki launji that we had in the morning. The filling had a mix of paneer and potatoes ... another new to me.
Too bad they do not serve tea too.
I was too tired to click photographs ... so just sat back and enjoyed the hot samosas. I had wanted to go back there one more time, before we returned .... but time did not permit.
We reached the hotel, freshened up and rested awhile.
Then walked down the very busy Katra mall road that has numerous cloth shops on both sides. My intention was to window shop but did pick up a two beautiful pieces of hand embroidered Phulkari and Wari dupattas. Just the first of my much bigger loot. :-)
We the nwalked down to Bharawan da dhaba, which was our choice of place for dinner that night. And it was only 10 minutes away. But we were tired so hopped on to an electric rickshaw.
At Bharawan's we had the freshest Sarson ka saag and Makke ki roti. Along with dal makhani.
And like everybody we saw in Amritsar do, washed it down with a bottle of cold drink.
Sitting there in the middle of complete chaos, local people speaking local dialect and fresh hot local food in our tummy, we were blissfully happy the way our second day in Amritsar went.
Stay tuned. :-)