First things first, many people asked:
Because the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469) is in Nankana Sahib Pakistan and this year is the 550th Anniversary of the Prakash Purab of Guruji (or Guru Nanak Jayanti as we know)
Is it safe?
Yes. We were accompanied by a convoy of Police/Security Officials and commandos from the moment we entered through Wagah and all throughout our travel there in Pakistan. The places designated for our visit, were already sealed, additional policemen were deployed and access to locals denied (except for special permissions to local followers) and CCTV cameras were installed in and around the premise. Though we had a lot of restrictions on going out of the Gurudwara we were accompanied by a guard to protect us in public places. And even in areas with no security, everything was normal.
Is getting Visa easy? Will there be any issue in getting Visa for other countries’ post-Pak visa?
Not at all. It was a Pilgrim Visa and not a tourist visa. So there won’t be issues in future travels.
But it is difficult in the first place itself to get the Pak visa for us Indians. We were going in a group of a congregation of 150+ people and the POCs of our group had to face multiple interrogations to justify the reason for the visit. Documents of each and every applicant were thoroughly scrutinized and the process was on for almost 6 months. Our dates got postponed twice by almost a month and finally got the visa in the first week of July.
An interesting question: How’s Pakistan? Is it different from India?
The question itself has a little bit of the answer
Not really. Did not feel like I am in a different country. Wese hi log, Punjabi boli, milta julta culture. Cute gorey chittey bachchey.
Weather was a bit hot, just like Delhi/Punjab/Ahmedabad ki garmi, but it rained 2 out of the 7 days that I was there and it washed away all the heat.
People are Overwhelmingly Hospitable, extremely helpful.
“Pyaarey Log” is the phrase for them.
Though initially scary, the policemen were very helpful and ensured we felt at home with their little gestures which cannot be put into words.
All the people I came across respected Sikhs a lot and treated them with a lot of affection.
In fact, they have this craze for Sardar guys. The moment they see a Sardar, they gather around to get selfies clicked with them. Overwhelming again. I had to really push away and say no nicely.
Though Islam is the dominating religion there, I got the opportunity to meet Christians and Hindus in the traditional salwar kameez dress doing sewa in gurudwara and it was hard to make out which community they belong to.
Logon mein aapas mein bada pyar hai, and maybe that is the reason they are able to give that love to others around.
Did you visit Lahore?
There is this saying: O jiney Lahore nahi vekhya o jammeya hi nahi – means, jisne Lahore nahi dekha wo samjho paida he nahi hua.
Luckily, the Gurudwara sahib we visited in Lahore, was situated right inside the Great Iqbal Park, with the Lahore Fort, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Samadh and Minar-e-Pakistan around, all in one frame.
We could see the beautiful setting sun from the terrace of the Gurudwara far away near the Minar and the Bridge near Ahmed Ali Road.
The Gurudwara marking the Birthplace of Guru Ramdas Ji was right inside the gulley of Chuna Mandi Bazar, the famous Azad Cloth market. Reminded me of Amritsar, Kalupur and Chandni chowk markets.
And the food – kya kehne!
Few Lines from my conversations there which I will never forget:
“Sarkaaron aur Leaders kaa kaam hai kursi bachaana, humein yahan andar baithe toh koi nafrat nahi“
“Asi te Pyar Mohabbat de bhukkhey haan“
“Ji aya nu Sardar ji, saade layak jo sewa ho sake dasso“
“Modi nu bolo Imran naal gal baat kare“
“Wahan india mein sab log kese hain?“
“Wahan jaake video call karna and humein dikhana India kesa hai“
“Border na ho to aap subah Lahore aake shaam tak mein phir se Amritsar ja sakte hain“
“Kashmir ka pata nahi, koi Modi ko kaho Lahore and baki ka Pakistan bhi sath le le”
and many such lines still echoing in my ears.
People there too wish for peace and love. Especially those close to the borders.
Unse puchhiye, jinka yahan kuch reh gaya hai, jinka wahan kuch reh gaya hai.
They consider themselves lucky that the birthplace of Guruji is in Pakistan and also Kartapur Sahib where Guruji spent the last few years of his life.
I am glad I got this opportunity to visit historic Sikh places, meet the people there, make friends and appreciate what we have across the border.
On the last day of the trip, while entering the border, we will remember how the policemen/commandos smiled at us and waved goodbye.
Leaving a piece of my heart there, bringing back many special memories and an experience to cherish forever.
Ab ke hum bichhde toh shayad kabhi khwaabon mein mile,
Jis tarah sukhey huye phool kitaabon mein mile.
Snehdeep Singh Kalsi