Last minute plans are always the best, aren't they? S and I were planning to visit Ludhiana over the weekend. My close friend from my Hyderabad days was visiting home after completing her exec MBA from IIM-A and I wanted to met her family. Having only spoken to them over the phone in all the time that I'd known her, I was very keen to meet them and get to know them.
S had work in Chandigarh the day before we were to leave, so he asked me to join him. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity. So we drove down on Thursday night. It took us 4 hours to get of Delhi and we reached Chandigarh at 4 in the morning. Fortunately, S's office had taken care of the reservations at the hotel and we were able to turn in within half an hour.
As soon as S left for the site, I tried to catch up on a little sleep, but I didn't succeed. I kept looking out the window as the cleanliness and organization of the city wowed me entirely. My friend and her brother reached Chandigarh around lunchtime and we ate at Lyons in Sector 17. After that I insisted that we go see the Rock Garden. This is one of the city's claims to fame. The garden, designed by Nek Chand, is an example of how beauty can be created from waste. Some of the items were creative. But to see tens of thousands of the same... can get a little boring and repetitive. Also, the place was meant for children and they shouldn't have allowed adults in. The entry doors are about 4 feet in height, and extremely narrow. I hit my head at least 3 times. The place is also filthy and no one has bothered to clean the place. The city on the outside is so pretty, but inside, the picture is very different. Later that evening, we drove to Ludhiana.
My friend's family could easily qualify for the host of the year award of there ever was one. We were treated to sumptuous traditional Punjabi fare... nothing like the stuff you get in restaurants. All of us talked late into the night and my friend's niece kept us great company.
The next afternoon, we left for Amritsar. I had always wanted to see the Golden Temple and this was a great opportunity. To be able to visit it with my friend! The city of Amritsar reminded me of Agra. Filthy, crowded and polluted. But the temple complex is very beautiful. The restrooms provided are cleaner than most, if not all, airport restrooms that I have seen so far.
Nothing prepares you for the beauty that hits you when you enter the complex. Spotlessly clean, calm and serene, the complex complements the temple beautifully. I just kept staring and staring at the colourful work on the gold, the lovely marble inlay and the murals within the temple. This is not what's in the pictures, this is for real. I had to tell myself that. A meal of amritsari kulcha and chhole outside the temple comples prepared us for the drive back. And the next day S and I drove back to Gurgaon. From among the list of "Places to See", I had finally ticked one off.