Golden Pancakes at the Golden Temple
I met with Gurjit in a restaurant that was top choice according to the Lonely Planet, so it said on the window. Gurjit had a long black beard, wore a blue turban, a long blue coat, half-long white trousers, and two swords. Ami, one of his friends, was wearing the same uniform but added a red iPad to the blue uniform, which gave the whole thing extra swag.
“What’s with the bracelet?” I aksed pointing at the big sharp and solid iron ring Gurjit was wearing.
“It is a weapon.” Gurjit said. “Look, you can take it off and hold it in your fist when you hit someone. Or you can throw it, like a ninja star.”
“You ever used it?” I asked.
“So many times, you wouldn’t believe. Shall we first order dinner?”
After dinner we walked to the Golden Temple in the center of Amritsar. I stored my shoes in the giant shoe deposit and I was given an orange bandana to cover my head. Here I meet the rest of the gang. “Meet the Blue Birds.” Gurjit said proudly. It was a group of ten young Sikhs, all wearing blue turbans, long blue coats and one or two swords. They were a bit shy and smiled so kindly, that I couldn’t imagine they would ever use their weapons. The Guru, a big holy book, was just being carried out of the temple and placed in its bedroom where it rested on a beautiful decorated bed. ‘The book is like a human, so it should sleep in a bed.’ Gurjit explains. The Golden Temple is called the Golden Temple because it is entirely made of gold, even the fans where (painted) gold. Gurjit and Amy talked with much dedication and a proper sense of modesty about the temple, the healing water, the old trees, the miracles and the traditions. “We might be religious, but there are only a few rules. You can do almost anything.” He paused and then continued: “Sikh is about the individual, we don’t push you to believe, it has to come from your heart.” he pauzes, “you like Domino Pizza?”
When people said they were going to India to find themselves I never understood what makes India so special. But sitting at the Golden Temple takes all your stress and doubts away. You can sit there for the whole day and life suddenly seems overwhelmingly simple. To make life even more simple, Gurjit invited Amy and me to his family farm in a small village two hours from Amritsar. The next morning at the farm, loud repetitive prayers were used as an alarm. It didn’t bother Gurjit and his friends too much, but it woke me up. Gurjit’s uncle told me to take a bath. ‘But isn’t that bath for the buffalos?’ I asked, checking if he was pulling my leg. ‘No, it’s good, very nice.’ Why not, I thought. If the buffalos liked it, then I probably would as well. I had a great view of the sun rising behind the sugar cane fields. Gurjit’s Auntie brought me tea and biscuits while I was gazing over the fields. The buffelo’s stared at me suspiciously.
After for four days with the fresh buffalo milk, the fresh sugar cane, the fresh rice, the fresh bread, the fresh paneer, there was no need to leave. Except for the fact there was. Another Pancake Adventure. But before I had to do some training. Sikh people are vegetarian and don’t eat egg. My recipe containts quite some eggs. A recipe I found on a vegan website told me: ‘just don’t use the eggs.’ I used Gurjit’s family as a testcase. First I had to milk a cow. I’ve always imagined that it was easy, just pull those utters down. I couldn’t get one drip of milk out. The cow waited paitently. I got a good training in cow milking. The pancakes turned out pretty good. The only thing was they broke easier than normal, but we just topped it with enough honey and jam. Especially the little niece liked it a lot. I was ready for my next adventure for fifty hungry Sikhs.
The best thing about the Golden Temple, besides its beauty, is the free food industry. Hundreds of volunteers gather daily to serve almost a forty thousand people each day, with around thirty men and women doing dishes at the big scullery. Gurjit told me that almost weekly they sponsored people with free food. Usually giving them a soda, but his favorite was handing out free Domino’s pizza. I thought it was a bit contradictory to give out those mass-produced pizzas near the holy temple. Domino’s even never sponsored this charity. So why not sponsering the poor and at the same time one of the biggest pizza factories of the world, everybody wins.
For the day itself, Gurjit took lead. Managing the whole thing, being constantly on the phone asking his friends to bring one thing or another. I raced with Amy and his Royal Enfield from place to place, to find an extra frying pan. Finally we had two big buckets of batter, two frying pans, two stoves, a big Sikh knife to cut the pancakes with and a group od young blue guys with starting or fully grown beards to hand out, film and manage the adventure. As per India Etiquette, the guests were pushing each other out of the way to be the first to get a pancake. It was great to see, until I saw big men pushing away a young kid. Luckily there were the blue birds telling the people to patiently wait for these golden pancakes.