Amritsar: Food and Atari, on Day 2

We woke up early with one unified objective – to eat some good food. There was a list of good places that had been circulating amongst us and there were many options for lunches and dinners, but only two for breakfast. We had only two breakfasts to be had – so we picked up Kanha Sweets to start day 2.

Located about a 10-minute drive from the hotel via an Uber cab, this place is located in a small side street but does have a reasonable amount of space. It can probably seat 100 people on simple steel chairs. At 8:30 am it wasn’t too crowded, even on a Saturday. It filled up by 9, though. I don’t know how big the breakfast menu is, but everyone in sight was having the same item – the chhole, alu sabzi, and pooris. Once you bought a plate with 2 puris, the other items came with free refills. The spice of the cholle and the sweet jaggery taste of the aloo blended perfectly and this was possibly my favorite meal of the trip – a bar set high. I could not stop eating. I was so absorbed with the food that this also happened to be one of the meals where I forgot to click a single picture.

After the wonderful meal, we decided to mix in some tourism and history. A short cab ride took us to Jaliawala Bagh, a small garden near the Golden Temple that has immense significance in the Indian struggle for freedom. A peaceful protest was fired at by the colonial police and it triggered an immense reaction throughout the country. The entrance is a narrow alley close to the Golden Temple and it has been done up recently to include some fancy artwork, a memorial, exhibitions, and an eternal flame. It is a nice walk around the park, but the stories that the bullet marks on the walls tell are scary.

We got back to the hotel for a quick swim while the ladies stayed behind to help grow the retail economy of the city. The pool was tiny and after some splashing around in a crowded ‘oversized bath tub’ we settled for some beers and prepared our appetites for the next round of food. This was supposed to be a lighter round, before the long drive to the India-Pakistan border. The cuisine of choice was chaat and the legendary place serving it was called Brijwaasi. The benchmark for chaat among Delhiites is high and it was always going to be hard for anyone to beat the typical Delhi fare. Brijwaasi did well! The bun-tikki was outstanding and probably better than any I have ever had. The papdi chat was great – but a little on the sweeter side – so not for every palate. The bhel puri was good and so were the gol-gappas.

This had to be followed up by something sweet. We made a quick stop at Sharma sweets for their famous Jaleba. The shop is a completely non-descript one, in a busy lane – but the taste makes up for the lost ambience.

We went back to the hotel for a quick pitstop before the hour-long drive to the border. We were told there were some nice dhabas on the way serving some awesome food and lassi. No one was hungry and most of us had dozed off only a few minutes into the drive. Traffic slowed down as we approached the border and it came to a near standstill close to the parking lot. It took us a while to get in, a time we used to buy tricolored caps. It was a much larger crowd than I expected though everything beyond the parking lot entrance seemed to be well managed.

A crowd of nearly twenty thousand gathers here on the weekends to witness the ceremonial lowering of flags every evening. The Indian side of the stadium can seat about twenty-five thousand and it was nearly full. The Pakistan side stadium is much smaller and it was nearly empty – driven by either the pandemic or the recent shake-up of power in the government. The ceremony lasts about 25 minutes and is free to watch, except for parking charges. The parking lot can get crowded, especially on weekends. It is a short 10-minute walk to the stadium with a security check in the middle. No large bags or unnecessary electronics are allowed. Phones are okay, and so are cameras but someone was asked to leave back his charging cables.

Once we got our seats on one of the top levels we started getting involved in the ceremony. I had expected a bit of Indo-Pak jingoism, but it was a surprisingly positive atmosphere. An army man was rousing up the crowds with slogans, but they were all positive. It was a good build-up despite the hot Sun. Vendors are walking around selling icecreams and cold drinks. The only things missing were dustbins to throw the waste. The buildup to 5:30 pm included some loud cheers and a BSF movie talking about their history. The ceremony itself is fun to watch with soldiers on both sides showing off some high kicking skills and then posing around. The flags were lowered at 5:50 and we started our walk back to the cars.

The drive back was smooth once we exited the parking and we got to the hotel by 7:15. The ladies shopped, we ordered room service for the kids and we collected at 8ish for our only dinner out. We weren’t planning for anything fancy – we were headed to Adarsh Meat Shop in C Block Market on Ranjeet Ave – right next to the place where we had lunch.

The place wasn’t fancy and didn’t even look crowded as most people sat in their cars and ate the fabulous mutton, washed down by some liquor from the shop nearby. Amritsar is truly a car-o-bar city. We didn’t have a car, so we sat in the dingy inside booths and enjoyed some fabulous mutton chap and kaleji (liver). The food far exceeded expectations and we ate quite a lot more than planned – three rounds of orders. While the place is famous for the chap, the kaleji and keema were the highlights for us.

We stepped out looking for a bar, to round up the night with a few cocktails. Some locals recommended a place that was a 10-minute walk away and they suggested we carry along beers – “you will reach by the time the beers get over”. We skipped the beers and walked, stopping for some phirni on the way. It was one of those days when you miss the good looking for the great. We skipped many places just because we thought we will find something more perfect for the night only to end at a place that was probably worse than everything we had skipped. We did get a good long walk to build up the appetite.

The place we ended up at (can’t remember the name) had some live music and the singer was just packing up when we reached. He surprisingly agreed to restart singing just because we asked once. It was quite a good feeling, till he actually started to sing – that’s all I will say. The drinks were below average and we didn’t order much food, so there isn’t much to say about this one. We soon took an Uber back to the hotel and called it a night.

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