India the Mother: Passing through Amritsar, looking for Kulcha


Sikh Gold Temple in Amritsar, India

Sikh Gold Temple in Amritsar, India

The train ride from Delhi to Amritsar is like a dream, due to the difference between cheap ‘sleeper-class’ and ‘2nd class sleeper’, though I won’t comment on the semantics. I only know it cost 3-4 times as much. I guess the previous was ‘rack rate’, like being placed on a rack, in a freezer, and slowly frozen to death. This was much nicer, windows that actually shut tight, complete with heat, and sheet.


The weather outside is certainly no nicer. For not only have I been coming steadily westward from Kolkata, but steadily northward also, daytime temps tolerable at 15C/59F, but no spring picnic. I bet it’s cold in Kabul, too. That’s where I’m supposed to be in about a week or two. I know exactly what the temps are in February at 35N latitude at 6000 feet elevation.


The big deal in Amritsar is the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, and the one that cost former President Indira Gandhi her life, when she ordered it stormed to seize so-called separatists holed up there. Her Sikh bodyguards didn’t forgive her that transgression. Other than that, there isn’t much to do here, just wander another Indian town dreary and dingy, especially when it’s raining.


Rickshaw Charlie at dawn: Amritsar, India

Rickshaw Charlie at dawn: Amritsar, India

The first day wasn’t so nice, and I was tired, so I waited a day to see the temple and take pictures; big mistake. The weather has deteriorated, and the rain is socked in. It’s depressing, a real challenge for my normally sunny disposition (?!). And you’re supposed to walk around the temple in this weather barefoot. Yuk.


I get it now: all the filth and the squalor in India, from what are otherwise a very cultured and intelligent people. They’re just like us! Europeans, that is, and that’s no clumsy metaphor. We both speak Indo-European languages, so that implies a similar racial background. I haven’t seen the genome comparisons, but I imagine they’d confirm it. But it’d have to be a genome study based on caste. If the racist caste system does nothing else, it helps maintain the original racial composition of the Aryan invaders of c.1500 BC.


Factor in the turmeric from all that curry and now Poona Prakash looks just like Peoria Pete, and Agra Sanjay looks just like Niagara Nick or Viagra Sam. You can’t see that in more racially mixed Persians, though they’re closer chronologically and geographically to the Indo-European center. But you can see it in their language: not Hindi. Hindi has morphed almost beyond recognition of its Euro and even Sanskrit roots. It’s almost as bad as English, or French.


What's a pilgrimage without purchases?  Amritsr, India

What’s a pilgrimage without purchases? Amritsr, India

The Vikings weren’t known for their high culture and hygiene, either, nor were American cowboys. I suspect Greece and Rome took far more from Egypt than is generally acknowledged, including columns, and city planning. Around the time of the classical Egyptian era we Aryans were just sitting out on the steppes watching, and waiting, and inventing wheels, and later stirrups, and later pistons.


India’s missing the boat, though, for serving food to foreigners. With all the potatoes, ketchup, and deep-fryers, somebody could make a fortune with french fries, and doughnuts, and real coffee, of course. The locals just don’t get it—caffeine, that is. They think coffee is flavored milk, some kind of ladies’ drink. Chai is tasty, but no better caffeine-wise. Hey, now I get it! They’re us without the caffeine!


Maybe Terrence McKenna was right: our different manifestations of consciousness and social order are cause and effect of our drugs of choice. The Enlightenment, Age of Reason, and Industrial Revolution occurred hand in hand with coffee, which reached the shores of Europe right around—surprise surprise—the 1600’s. That makes sense. Without coffee we’d be just the listless bunch of shuffling, shucking and jiving loafers that we accuse most of the rest of the world of being.


Sikh Golden Temple: Amritsar, India

Sikh Golden Temple: Amritsar, India

Somebody’s pulling my leg as I walk down muddy streets.No, I mean that literally, but it’s just a dog, hopping all over me, looking to get lucky I guess. At first I freak, but then I realize: he just wants to play. Yes, he does. Yes, he does. I love it when some strange dog picks me out of the crowd like that. A dog in Ulcinj, Montenegro, once took me on a tour of the city at 5 a.m. A puppy in Valdivia, Chile, was broken-hearted when I couldn’t take him with me.


But I think he understood, in his own non-verbal cause/effect Boolean style of logic. Domestic pets are one of the great untold stories in this world, and proof that acquired traits—and love—can be transmitted, if not inherited. But ultimately I have to shoo this one off, just like the others. People are starting to stare. Indians like to stare.


The next day dawns clear and bright, the day of my departure from India, the day of my two-hour taxi ride to Pakistan. I like India, but it’s intense. I could use a little break. Let’s do this. And oh yeah, kulcha is a type of Indian bread that they specialize in up here, usually eaten with some spicy saucy stuff. Personally I like just the plain bread with butter, before all the goop. That’s how it’s priced, too, per usual. Extra goop is standard procedure. I’ll get the hang of this yet. I’ll be back.