Sunday, 21 August 2011


Week 4.

We left for Manali on a creaky old bus on Sunday afternoon. It’s a semi sleeper because sleeper buses are illegal in Himachal Pradesh – the difference between the two is that a sleeper bus has bunks whereas a semi sleeper bus merely has reclining seats. However, as luxurious as this sounds, when everybody reclines there’s simply no room for your legs – and everyone –does- recline. Another interesting design fault in the buses is that all of the windows and air conditioning units leak, making for a less than pleasant journey.

We arrived in Manali after 17 hours of twists and turns through the mountains. Upon leaving the bus we were surrounded by people convincing us to go to their guesthouses, as standard, and after we’d decided on one we were taxi’d to Old Manali.

Manali is beautiful. I’m really going to struggle to convey how different it is to Delhi. To begin with, it has a fantastically crisp, cool climate. The air feels clean and there’s actually a breeze!  After three weeks in humid, polluted Delhi you cannot begin to imagine our joy at actually having to wear a scarf! Because it’s a hill station village in a valley, the road is a winding upwards path, with lots of branches off it, and there is a beautiful view of the river or the opposite side of the valley everywhere you are. 

We were centrally located, right next to three lonely planet listed cafes, which was ideal as it soon became apparent to us that we’d be eating a lot this week! We had breakfast in Moon Dance café, a fantastic place psychedelically decorated (as most of Manali is) and decided upon our course of action. I had found a ‘day in manali for under 4 euros’ online, and armed with this (and no map, there are no maps of Manali so tourists are forced to pay for guides) we set out on a very very long walk.

We started at Manu temple, which was a fairly simple Hindi temple before continuing upwards towards some steps carved out of a massive stone leading apparently nowhere. There were, however, fresh cowpats on them which gave us hope that this was a legitimate route. Throughout the day we would search eagerly for these signs of life in lieu of having any actual idea of the direction we were going.

We walked for what seemed like hours upwards on rocky terrain before reaching a green space overlooking the valley. We then continued walking upwards and onwards, only the path was a little less defined now, we were ducking under branches, pushing through brambles and clambering over rocks, still hoping we were following the directions properly. We came to a peculiarly isolated café in the middle of a field, called Reggae Café. It was tended by a man who invited us to sit down but who explained that they weren’t open; about twenty dogs roamed around the space territorially and barking occasionally. There was a sudden rainburst that lasted for about an hour, but after twenty minutes we decided we’d risk it and carried on down our slippery path.

It was about here that our route got a bit convoluted. We were walking along a side of a valley looking for the village of Gushpal, but we had ended up somehow in a huge apple orchard that kept sloping upwards and downwards as we walked east. However, constant intrusion onto other peoples’ land to ask for directions turned out to be a good approach for us as we eventually made it to this picturesque village with wooden houses and women on balconies working at their looms. It was so quiet, we felt like we’d been transported to another time, despite the occasional tv satellite poking out of the roof of a shack.

We then walked onwards to the village of Vaishist. Not before, however, we’d crossed the river. The Himalayas being the Himalayas, it seems like there’s little need for a bridge across fast flowing rivers in the middle of valleys. We’d searched for a nearby bridge but none presented itself, so instead we had to navigate a way over by stepping on stones closest to the surface of the water. About halfway over we gave up and just waded through, ruining our shoes in the process. The rest of our walk was soundtracked by a constant ‘squelch… squelch… squelch…’

When we reached Vaishist we had lunch in a reggae themed café, and drank a thimble full of whisky toasting the father of a new acquaintance of ours’ birthday. We then went and bathed in the hot springs that are a part of a Hindi temple there. Men and women have separate pools so I parted ways with Johnny and Chris for a while and luxuriated in my first contact with hot water for three weeks.

Afterwards, we befriended a Babaji, who is essentially a hindu holy man – kind of like a pilgrim, I guess. He took us to a café and we had a chat and a cup of chai as the sun set over the valley.

After that we walked home, absolutely exhausted. We went to a restaurant called Shesh Besh for dinner. Shesh Besh became our favourite place to go almost immediately, it’s colourfully decorated, with very chilled music going out over the speakers and chess boards and backgammon boards are on every table. The food is absolutely delicious too, which is a help.

The next day, I was struck down by some small illness which rendered me incapable for the day. I slept and read for the whole day, which was lovely.

On Wednesday we walked to New Manali and struggled to work out the government bus system. At the bus station there are no signs or apparent bays, instead there is a constant stream of traffic and men standing around barking at each other. Fortunately a kind woman pointed us in the direction of the right bus and we boarded for Solang Valley. When we arrived we found ourselves pilots for paragliding and clambered up to the peak from which we would leap. It was pretty special. Afterwards we zorbed, which essentially involves being strapped into a large inflatable ball and rolled down a hill. It was about as pleasant as it sounds, but I’m glad we did it. On the Zorbing course we met a lovely boy called Thomas from the Netherlands, we went for a drink with him afterwards and he taught us how to play backgammon – what an amazing game!

On Thursday we embarked upon our Great Adventure – or, our day long trek to Patalsu Peak, which is 4200m above sea level. We began at Solang Valley and took a quadbike type thing to the river at the bottom of the valley. Then we walked over a quaint looking bridge and our trek began. At first we were walking through fields and fields of cabbages, then through a small village, then through trees and thickets – all the while going relentlessly uphill. I can’t pretend I handled the whole thing with enthusiasm and grace, at one point I asked Sam to count to 10 while I measured my heartrate and then panicked  ‘My heartrate’s 192bpm! That can’t be possible! I’m going to die! My heart is going to burst out of my chest and run away from me…’ All credit must go to Johnny and Sam for putting up with my constant rest breaks and whinging. I was convinced we hadn’t brought enough water as well, and a dreadful fear of dying of thirst at the summit plagued the entire journey. It would have been just my luck to achieve getting to the top, only to drop dead before I had the chance to even update my facebook status about it…

Anyway, the closer we got to the top, the prettier it became. We had to walk through this beautiful field of wildflowers, and then what looked like a wild strawberry field (this gave me some consolation, at least we would not starve in our 8 hour trek.) Our guide told us it had been just beyond a line of trees and when we got to that point I collapsed upon a stone (that looked just like the stone table I imagine Aslan being killed on. That should have been my first warning.) We ate some of the wild strawberries Sam had thoughtfully collected and I basked in the success of reaching the top.
‘You do know this isn’t the top right?’

shoots through my reveries. I sit up and bluff, ‘um, oh yeah, definitely..’ looking with trepidation at the looming peak ahead of us, that I had hitherto managed to ignore. Having been persuaded to continue by no other technique than peer pressure (less a case of ‘because it was there’ more ‘because they told me to’) I recommenced the trek.

You may be thinking, ah, but what views! Surely the sights you could see from so high must have afforded you some consolation in the depths of your exhaustion?! – unfortunately, by this point we were lucky if we could see the person in front of us, so thick were the clouds we were walking through.  We reached a random assortment of rocks and our guide told us we’d reached one of many potential tops. I felt a flood of relief wash over me, even as I heard him continue

‘but if you want to, we can continue to…’ and he pointed behind him, at a sharp, steep, terrifying looking peak some distance away. It was too much for my poor nerves to bear, and I resolved this time to resist peer pressure and remain behind while the boys continued ahead. I figured that with the murderous gleam in Johnny’s eyes that my complaining had elicited over the past hour, and considering we really were far away from any kind of help, and our water supply really was running dangerously low, it would be best for all parties involved if I stayed behind.

I found a comfortable looking rock (about 8 ft from the ground, heaven knows how I managed to get up there) and took out Sam’s book and attempted to read…

I wake up, having had no intention of falling asleep, as heavy droplets of rain start falling down. I have no idea how much time has passed, the clouds have rolled onwards thicker than before and I’m suddenly feeling disoriented and slightly panicky. It’s really quite cold. I weigh up the risks of getting off the now slippery and wet rock, and staying out in the exposed rain… I decide to throw caution to the wind and clamber down, managing to remain intact. I find a nearby shepherd’s hut and rock back and forth in a corner of it for a while, before attempting to build a fire with wet twigs and a broken lighter (the main lesson I took from this is my future uselessness in a post-apocalyptic scenario.) Fortunately the boys were on their way back and could save me from going crazy from solitude a la Tom Hanks in castaway.

The way back was, if anything, more difficult than the way up. The rain had turned our perilous path into a slushy obstacle course of skids, roots and rocks. We were lucky if we made it 20 metres at a time without one of us slipping over. However, Sam kept an eye on me so my fall rate was significantly less than everyone else’s but our guide who remained curiously unexhausted and pristine. However, we finally made it home – or, to Shesh Besh for a reviving cup of tea and dinner.

Friday morning we booked our bus home to Delhi for Saturday afternoon, and got a government bus to Naggar. We’d heard there was a castle and a memorial to a famous artist in this town, so we figured it was worth the trip. However, we walked the kilometre to the castle and managed to walk right past it! It was only a chance encounter with a boy we’d met the day before in New Manali that alerted us to our mistake. It’s perhaps the least imposing castle in the world, made of wood and of no great height. We paid our 50rs and went in. It’s fairly disappointing, just a balcony really with some nice views of the valley. In the basement there’s a museum, or, a display case with an assortment of things and no writing explaining them or their relevance to the museum. It was all significantly underwhelming.

We then walked to the Nicholas Roerich memorial a further two kilometres away. It was actually really beautiful and well put together. I enjoyed myself, despite having never heard of him before.

On the way back the heavens opened in a truly spectacular fashion. After about three minutes I gave up any attempt of trying to stay dry and just concentrated on not tripping over my sodden harem pants. On the bus back you could see the rivers and waterfalls had turned brown from the force of the extra water, it was pretty terrifying going round those winding mountain top roads when they were acting as riverbanks themselves with so much water running down them.

The next day we got up and it was still raining. We went to the tourist office we’d booked with and they told us the roads were closed and we’d have to rebook. Suddenly, Manali was looking less appealing. Glumly, we walked to Shesh Besh for breakfast, and we sat inside in the chillout area with cushions on the floor and a television. Our spirits were roused by noticing a stack of DVDs and we spent literally the entire day watching dvds and ordering food at shesh besh. It was a perfect day for just chilling out.

We went to Moon Dance for dinner when I realised there was football on. It seems to be a peculiar trait of mine to enjoy watching football far more when I’m abroad, but I think it’s something to do with missing the pub culture. It follows that where there is an English football game being shown (Liverpool v. Sunderland) there will be English tourists drinking beer, which is the next best thing to a pub, I suppose. Anyway, I was right, and we met a load of just-graduated students from Manchester and two medics from Imperial.

After the football was over, we moved onto a bar/restaurant that was right next to our guesthouse. We could hear the music being played there going on all night every night. It was hilariously typically traveller-esque. There were maybe three travellers in a corner playing on their guitars while people sang along to songs like bob Dylan and the beatles, and even coldplay! Then a really gifted tabla player performed… and people just took turns to play and chill. We ended up staying until about 4.30am, by far the latest night we’d spent out.

The next day, Johnny and I changed our booking for our bus home. The two medics from Imperial had persuaded us of the merits of the deluxe bus, rather than the luxury bus, so we thought, why not! As events transpired, it became apparent that there were many reasons why not.

It got off to a bad star, with everyone having been loaded onto one bus, then asked to move to another. My reclining seat refused to remain un-reclined and in front of us sat two large Indian women, one of whom – to Johnny’s great and ever increasing annoyance- would recline her seat back slightly and then rest her hand above her head on her headrest, which happened to be a few centimetres away from Johnny’s face. There was a constant battle between the two for the entire journey. The woman would flick her hand over her head, Johnny would (first politely, then with rising irritation) ask her to move her hand away, and the woman would look shocked and affronted, only to do exactly the same thing half an hour later. It was infuriating. Then there was the small matter of driving over recent landslide debris and over flooded river banks.

That would have all been fine, but for the punctured tyre about 6 hours in. We had to stop in the middle of nowhere and wait while another tyre was brought to us. It took an agonisingly long time. We passed the time with games of Arrogance with the medics, but it wasn’t exactly the stuff great memories are made of.

Our long journey continued, and as it started raining outside I slowly became drenched due to an incredibly ill-conceived style of window in the coach, which was two glass sliding panels with about an inch of space between them meaning that everyone in a window seat was as subject to the weather as if they were in a (cramped, uncomfortable, cold) convertible.

In the morning, a full 3 hours late, we were unceremoniously dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Well, it was Delhi, but not as we knew it. Rather it was a Tibetan colony somewhere in Delhi and no-one spoke English to tell us where the nearest metro was so we wouldn’t be overcharged to go there by an enterprising rickshaw driver. By now I was near breaking point, I’d barely slept, my hair was a knotted tangled mess and the ridiculous amount of tat I had bought in Manali was weighing me down horribly. I furiously hailed down a cycle rickshaw and on finding my way to the nearest metro, found myself a seat and scowled at anyone who looked at me until I finally reached lovely East of Kailiash in lovely South Delhi.

Thus endeth our week in the Himalayas, with the journey home undoing the effort of unwinding for a week.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Week 3

I finally got to visit the flagship school of Katha. It's amazing. 

It’s beautiful; bright white and gleaming in the middle of sprawling slums. It’s angular with slanting walls and arches everywhere. Stairways lead to balconies overlooking the playground or to the roof which looks out towards the poverty surrounding it. The classrooms are all dark and cool and excellently equipped. There’s a computer suite, a woodshop, art rooms, textiles room, a kindergarten and a nursery – there’s everything the most well equipped school in England could desire.

A little information about Katha.  

The Katha Lab School began in 1990 as a learning centre in the slums of Govindpuri, Delhi, with 5 children. Today Katha has 9450 children in 43 Katha Schools in Delhi and in the 4 tribal schools of Arunachal Pradesh.

Knowing that children working on the streets are unable to go to school, the Katha School on Wheels Programme takes learning to them. Their colourfully painted RTV van touches 10 traffic intersections across South Delhi every day. Filled with fun learning materials, books, puppets and a computer, the vans bring nearly 1,000 children into interactive learning.

The Katha infotech & Ecom School, KITES, trains students from primary to high school, and makes them computer-confident individuals. During the last year, 286 students were awarded ‘O’ and ‘A’ level Certificates. Two new centres were started last year with the support of CAF and Adobe India, in Tughlakabad, NCT, and Khore Gaon, Haryana.

KSE, started in 1995, provides vocational and entrepreneurship training with leadership and job shadowing opportunities. This intensive and professional programme works with an objective of helping children stand on their own feet and support their families. The school offers the following programmes:
§  Fashion Designing
§  Cutting & Tailoring
§  Embroidery
§  Wood Craft
§  Bakery
§  Carpentry
In the year 1990, Katha started Jhunjhunwadi, the preschool in the Katha Lab School. We run 54 preschools that are happy places for 3-5 year olds living in 65 slums. Their preschools develop a social, artistic and culturally rich environment for children who live in Delhi’s large slum clusters.

On Saturday we went to Agra. We had been told  by everyone who'd been to get there for dawn, so we could see the sunrise change the colour of the Taj, so we booked our taxi for half 1, so we could get there athalf five in time for dawn at quarter to six. However, our taxi arrived at midnight, and our extremely dangerously sleepy driver got us there at four am. The Taj doesn't actually open until 6, so we were kindly allowed to sleep in a hotel foyer for an hour and a half, before racing to the Taj, only to be rained on and for 
the clouds to obscure the sun entirely. However, the one benefit in getting there so early was that it was really really quiet. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Amazing Amritsar.

These two photos were taken one hour apart.

Kathak Dance

Travelling in style..

One of the officials at the golden temple.

Amritsar, sponsored by coca cola.

Iskon Temple

Charlotte, the soldier and I.


The last week has been fairly eventful!

Work has remained the same; I am still planning and writing the content for this book to accompany the educational series. However, I have found out that as well as lesson plans it has to have information for parents to teach their children with – which effectively doubles my work load. It’s very interesting though, I’m relearning all my KS3 geography facts!

Extra curricular stuff has been fantastic this week.

On Tuesday we booked our bus ticket to Amritsar and then went to Iskon (international society for Krishna consciousness) temple, which is a large Hindi temple complex just up the road from where we live. We went at around 6.30 and watched the beginning of a Hindi celebration. They all danced and clapped and wandered round in a kind of spiral shape. It was interesting. The interesting thing about Iskon is that while it serves as a temple to many, it’s also got a museum and a café and a place for feeding the homeless. The logo also looks like it belongs in a comic book.

Lovely Charlotte joined us on Wednesday– she was a gapper three years ago and returned for six days to revisit the country she fell in love with. We went to see a film called Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, it’s obviously an Indian film and it’s really very good. No English subtitles, but about one word in fifteen was English, which made it an interesting experience. A typical conversation would go ‘hindihindihindihindi.. you know.. hindihindi I can’t believe it, man.’ It’s not typical Bollywood, only two songs, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The main song was this:

On Thursday we went to Habit to see some Indian dancing. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting. We got to Habit which is a cultural centre that showcases dancing every night and fought our way through the rain to the auditorium. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were attending a celebration of a particular dancer and she came and opened the show. We stayed for two dancers, both in the Kathak style. Kathak is story telling through dance. The Sitar will begin and the Tabla joins in after an introductory piece (thank you music GCSE…) and the dancer engages in very slight deliberate movements for about two minutes. The dancer will then go to the mic and narrate the dance they just performed – in hindi so absolutely unintelligible to us – before adding a sort of vocal accompaniment to the music, in a way that can only be described as ‘Ta..Ta..Ta… TaTaTaTaTaTa… TikiTa…’ for a few minutes, and then going to dance again. Wikipedia reliably informs me that there are ten sections in a Kathak dance, so it’s a fairly long piece. The dancers wore bells around their ankles, so for sections they just moved their feet to make sounds by a floor level mic front and centre stage. Having looked at other Kathak dances on youtube since, I think the ones were saw were just particularly dull. The second dancer was a large toadlike woman who constantly berated her musicians, thus breaking the spell somewhat.

On Friday we went to Sarojini market which is a cut price market selling all sorts. Charlotte and I bought elephant necklaces and Shalwar Kameezs (100 rupees apiece!) which we took to the tailor to alter to fit our size. Everyone should have a tailor, they are frankly amazing. We also went to Dilli Haat again where I finally capitulated and bought the teapot I fell in love with last week (and two mugs.. and coasters thrown in for free!) Later on we climbed into our rickety overnight bus to Amritsar. The sleeping arrangements weren’t the best, a tiny single size bunk for two people. However, aircon didn’t matter because the window was right by our heads, and big enough to fall out of, so if any trees were brushed past we certainly knew about it! We improvised slightly and used Kameez-tying-string to create some kind of safety barrier on the other side, lest a sudden turn lurched us into the aisle amongst bewildered Indian men.

After a night of not so much sleep we arrived in Amritsar and walked to the golden temple, certain as we were of getting accommodation there for the night. We wandered in, shoes stored away in the lockers, hair covered by scarves and spent a fruitless hour in the scorching heat trying to get to where we would book a room. Alas, it was to no avail, and we went to the tourist office in front of the temple and asked for a recommendation for a hotel. We were asked if 250 rupees per room per night was acceptable to us – and it was! That’s about £3.50. We were met by a smiley sikh man who took us back through the temple to the other side – past several coca cola stands selling bottles for 5 rupees (Amritsar is sponsored by CocaCola, I’m almost certain. They have a fountain of a cola bottle in the middle of town and murals of it everywhere. All signs saying pepsi are vandalised, and mass texts are sent among the Indians saying that workers at the pepsi factory have aids and if you drink it, you will get aids. I kid you not.) towards a narrow dark street. He then led us into what appeared to be his house and his sisters and mother greeted us as we walked through the door. Essentially, Harpreet Singh was midway through turning his house into a guesthouse, and upstairs there were several bare looking rooms with airconditioning and comfy beds. We were told that for the weekend we were part of the family and anything we wanted they would provide. We got free water, free tea, free breakfast, free internet – it was amazing! The sisters even took in our dresses for us, and only let us pay them very very reluctantly!

After we’d spent a while in the cool, refreshing and showering ourselves we wandered out to look at the golden temple again. Here I began to experience firsthand what I had before only heard rumours of: being a tourist attraction in my own right. Oftentimes people will just shove a camera in your face and take a picture, much more preferable is when someone asks you first and then arranges their friends/family/baby around you before taking a picture. It can get ridiculous though, with people swapping in and out, taking the photo then being in the photo. And once one person has asked, a whole flood of people then wait to be in the picture with you and what was initially you being polite has ended up as being fifteen minutes of being continuously photographed. Anyway, it was blazing hot and we hadn’t eaten yet so we wandered through dark and twisting streets to find a restaurant to eat at  (Chris has an aversion to street food so whenever we’re with him we have to eat indoors.)

After lunch we went to the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre which is now a memorial garden. The whole garden is set out so you can see where the soldiers stood, and you can see the bullet marks in the wall. It’s very sobering.

We then wandered through the streets again, walking past people baking bread in stone ovens, past rows of men at sewing machines, past a flour factory. The amazing thing about walking around India is that very often you can look inside people’s homes due to just an astonishing disregard for their own privacy, or holes in the walls around them. We walked down a residential road and it looked like we were reaching a dead end, but I had a hunch and kept walking on. We came to a cotton factory, and the workers let us in to see the machines at work. It was such an experience!

Afterwards we returned home, but not until after I had stopped at a sweet shop to get some coconut burfi. I have fallen in love with Indian sweets, they’re incredible.

At 8.30 we met Manu outside the golden temple. Manu was a friend of Harpreet’s and he was going to show us around the temple and explain to us about Sikhism (earlier he had come to our room with a baby bird and let us play with it!) It was such an interesting tour; he took us to all of the parts of the temple complex and explained to us about the history of Sikhism and their beliefs. He took us into what was sort of like a Sikh communion, but instead of bread and wine they are given a sticky sweet brown substance with a crushed biscuit sprinkled on top. Afterwards we sat on the steps by one of the pools of nectar and chatted – anachronistically Manu’s ringtone was My Heart Will Go On from Titanic! At 10.30 we went to see the holy book being taken from the golden temple into its resting place for the night. Every night and morning they go through this ceremony that hundreds upon hundreds of Sikhs clamour to see. With Manu guiding us however, we were in a perfect location to see everything happen, from the blessing of the cloths that it rested on, to it actually being carried into its room. The rooms are glass fronted so you can see that it has its own bed and a hefty air conditioning system.
We retired to bed after that, after having resolved to get up at half three to see the opening ceremony at 4am the next day – which we did, only to discover that it was exactly the same but in reverse. I may have been blinded somewhat by tiredness at that point though. I do recall it being very peaceful though, despite the probable thousands of people there. Many people just lie in the cloisters and sleep. Men dip in the pool of nectar around the golden temple – the same water that pilgrims drink in the temple itself.

We went back to bed, and then got up for breakfast with the family which was a Punjab special that they only ate on Sundays, a kind of potato and onion and vegetable chapati thing. It was indescribably tasty! We resolved to actually get inside the temple today and returned to it. However, despite very obviously being lost tourists, no-one could tell us where the queue began or ended. At first we were queuing in the men only line, then when that was pointed out to us we joined the women’s line, only for us to get to the front and be redirected to the tourist’s entry point. People of Britain, never underestimate the value of a well-placed signpost and people who queue patiently.  However, this tourist fast track system is amazing. Instead of waiting for at least three hours in very cramped and packed conditions under a scorching sun, we just rocked on past and straight in. It almost makes up for being continually ripped off the rest of the time. The inside of the temple is beautiful, it’s very small, but if you go upstairs, people can take small prayer books and sit in the windows and read to themselves. The view was fantastic but photos weren’t allowed.

That afternoon we went to Wagah, which is a ceremony on the border of Pakistan and India. Essentially, you arrive at a place, and it’s got a kind of carnival atmosphere, there’s street food everywhere and thousands of people milling around. Then, at a specified time, you’re allowed through the barriers and a great surge of people rush forward, only to be stopped by mounted police who let people through so many hundred at a time. After that you’re split into men and women to be searched, and then slightly further down the line you reach a kind of semi auditorium with banks of seats. To our dismay we saw everything was full up already. However, being a tourist again has its advantages, and we were shown to our own bank of seats, very close to the actual border.

It’s very hard to describe the ceremony, it began with pairs of women or children running with the Indian flag towards the border, and waving it at the Pakistanis. Then a lot of women came down from the stands to dance in the centre to Indian pop music. After that, a tall man in white got the crowd excited with some pantomime style audience participation about how great India is. Then a very long and complicated ceremony begins. The soldiers have red plumes on their heads and they walk in a way to make monty python proud, supposedly in imitation of fighting cockerels. Before each walks, they have to make a loud ‘Aaaaah’ sound for as long as they can into the mic, and the soldiers in Pakistan do the same simultaneously – it’s a competition to see who can go longest, Pakistan won every round when we went. After a lot of funny walking and ceremony, the flags were lowered at the border and the ceremony was over. We got ourselves limed corn on the cob and went back to Amritsar.

We packed our things away and went to the bus stand, where we waited inside and watched a Bollywood film of suspect origin in the booking office, before getting on a considerably nicer bus than before and going home to Delhi. It was an amazing weekend.