“Another part of Earth to visit,” Axyl Malcannan noted as he glanced around at the mostly agricultural land either side of the road they were travelling upon. It was early morning. The sun had only just come up and the wide sky above them still looked pinkish-red on the horizon, reminding the young Gallifreyans of dawn on their home world. Ahead was a city that was their destination for today. For reasons of his own Chrístõ had decided they should enter it travelling upon a horse drawn buggy with a linen sunshade over the passenger seat. Behind them two horses pulled a more utilitarian flat-bed wagon upon which the TARDIS, disguised as a very large cabinet, was being transported.

“This one was in the presets from when I was a student,” Chrístõ said. “I never got around to it, though I very much wanted to. I think it was meant to be an example of another strictly hierarchical culture to make me appreciate more fully my position as an aristocrat of Gallifreyan society. We are in India in the early twentieth century, when the Caste system was as rigid as it was possible to be.”

He went on to explain how the majority of Indian people followed the Hindu religion and were divided into four main castes, with the Brahmana, the spiritual and intellectual elite at the top, the Kshatriya, the civil servants and military leaders, the Vaishya, the merchant and business caste and the Shudra, the labouring class. He went on to explain that this was only a very simplified model of the caste system and that within even the Brahmana there were at least fifty sub-castes such as Advaitic Brahmans, Vaidiki Brahmans, Saraswat Brahmans…. The same was true of the other castes, with the Shudra being divided according to their skills and crafts, the Suthar, for instance, being carpenters, the Shimpi tailors, the Swakula Sali weavers and so on.

His students listened carefully as he went on to add that beneath these four casts were the ‘outcastes’, the Dalit, known as Untouchables because physical contact between a higher caste and them was considered unclean and required purification of the body afterwards.

The carriage passed by one such individual at that very moment. He was dressed in a loincloth and was sitting beside a begging bowl and a rolled up mat he may have slept the night upon. Chrístõ reached in his money purse and threw a coin. It sailed through the air and landed neatly in the bowl, much to the surprise of the beggar.

“Where would Axyl and I be in such a society?” Diol wondered aloud. “Would we be Untouchables?”

“You would be the artisan class, the Shudra, I imagine,” Chrístõ answered. “Gallifreyan society does not have beggars, and it is in no way as rigid as the Indian Caste system. The fact that you two, not to mention mixed blood mongrels like me, are all allowed to go to the Prydonian Academy is proof enough of that.”

“They don’t exactly make it easy for us,” Axyl pointed out, and Chrístõ couldn’t argue with that. He had never really discussed the petty ways the pureblood aristocrat sons of Prydonia had of making outcasts and untouchables within their school system, but he knew the brothers had experienced much of the same attitudes he himself had encountered at the Academy.

“So what caste are we pretending to be?” Diol asked, moving on quickly from thoughts of their school life. He pulled at the sleeve of the deeply dyed silk shirt he was wearing. All three of them were wearing a form of loose shirt and trousers called Salwar Kameez. The brothers noticed that this was the common form of clothing for men of all classes. Workers in the fields wore plain, un-dyed cotton Salwar. Their driver was wearing a similar outfit, while a man who Chrístõ had identified as a tax-inspector, being driven in a single man buggy was wearing the same but in dark blue. It was, they thought, an eminently practical form of clothing, but the type of fabric and richness of dye was another indication of social station. The deep colour of the silk they were wearing suggested that Chrístõ had made them men of substance within this society.

“None of the above,” their teacher answered. “The turbans we all had so much trouble fastening before we set out identify us as followers of Sikhism. We don’t quite have the required beards that go with them, but if you have practiced Power of Suggestion as I have been teaching you, people will see what they expect to see.”

His students nodded and asked him to explain more about Sikhism. Chrístõ explained that is was a monotheistic sect, separate from the Hindu polytheistic religion more common in India, which didn’t observe the caste system and had some interesting notions about equality among men.

“I think I like them,” Axyl commented. His brother agreed.

“Then we’re in the right place. We’re approaching the outskirts of Amritsar, the holy centre of Sikhism.”

As they came from the countryside into the city the signs of those distinct demarcations of class were obvious. On the edge of the city was a shanty town of roughly made sheds that passed for homes for the better off outcastes who managed a roof over their sleeping mats. The outskirts of the city proper consisted of well-made houses of the Kshatriya and the Vaishya. Public servants and bankers lived well. Further into the city there was the business district where the banks and stockbroking houses were and the artisan districts where the weavers, tailors and such had their workshops and the market place where their goods were sold.

Then there were the temples with their scripture schools where the Brahmana were as revered for their wisdom as the masters of Prydonia.

And in pride of place in the centre of the city was the largest temple complex of them all. Diol and Axyl had spent much of their youth in the Capitol, surrounded by magnificently tall and graceful towers. Even so, they gaped in admiration at the long, chalk white edifice with its elaborate domes topping the central clock tower. They were impressed.

“Harmandir Sahib,” Chrístõ said as the carriage stopped before the grand entrance. “The Golden Temple, spiritual centre of the Sikh people.”

“Golden?” the brothers looked puzzled. “There’s some gold on the domes… but mostly it’s white.”

“This is only the outer part of the complex,” Chrístõ explained. “You’ll see. Come on.”

He dismissed the carriage with a generous tip for the driver and gave instructions to the carter to take the TARDIS to the railway station and have it safely stored in the freight yard. He didn’t need it just now. When he climbed the steps to the grand archway entrance called Darshani Deor, he would not be a Time Lord, the brothers would not be Time Lord candidates. They would simply be men, equal to all other men within the walls of Harmandir Sahib.

First they were required to show that they were truly equal to all men and humble before the Sikh god by removing their shoes and washing their feet in an ablutionary tank. They had little trouble doing that and it was rather pleasant dipping hot feet into cool water, but they noted a group of Englishmen and women finding the custom distressing. The ladies had to take off stockings and hold up their long skirts while the men were required to remove shoes and socks and roll up trouser legs. They also found the notion of covering their heads with cotton scarves disturbing. The women didn’t like messing up their elaborate hairstyles.

“The British, of course, consider themselves higher than everyone in India,” Chrístõ noted. “We’re still a few decades away from independence. But they must observe the customs when visiting religious shrines. The native people would take great offence if they literally rode roughshod over them.”

“Why are they here at all?” Axyl asked.

“The woman and the younger man are newly arrived and enthusiastic to see all the sights,” Chrístõ replied after noting their conversation carefully. “This is merely tourism to them. I suppose it is to us, too, but we shall blend in rather better.”

The English visitors were still having trouble with the hygiene rules when Chrístõ brought his students down the inner steps to the Sarovar, a huge man-made lake of blessed water where men and boys stripped to the waist were performing purification rites. The Malcannan brothers looked a little worried, but Chrístõ assured them they didn’t need to take part in those particular rituals. They were here to visit the complex and learn about the culture.

“And there, of course, is the Golden Temple,” he added. “It really is covered in gold, added in 1830 by Emperor Ranjit Singh as a tribute to the glory of God and a fitting home for the scriptures of Sikhism.”

“That’s a lot of gold,” observed two young men who had grown up in the shadow of the gold mines of the southern plain of Gallifrey and knew the effort it took to get the precious ore from the ground and refine it.

“It is,” agreed Chrístõ, whose father owned most of those mines. Covering buildings with the substance wasn’t something anyone on Gallifrey had ever thought of. Since they had no gods to glorify it would simply be ostentatious. But coming from a world where gold was valued as highly as it was on Earth, they all fully appreciated how magnificent the Golden Temple was.

“It is the Sikh Sanctum Sanctorum,” Chrístõ said. “The Holiest of Holies, a truly sacred place. Yet notice the four entrances, symbolic of the welcome given to people of all beliefs. Even three aliens like ourselves who follow no religion will not be committing any blasphemy by entering into the temple as long as we do so with humility before their god. The walls within are covered in inlaid panels with quotations from the holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The book is read continuously every day by priests. A complete reading of the text takes two full Earth days and nights. Pilgrims come to listen and pray.”

The pilgrims were waiting expectantly on the wide footpath around the Sarovar called the Parikrama. Chrístõ and his students waited with them to watch the original copy of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib brought in procession from the Akal Takht. The book was carried on a palaquin carried on the shoulders of Sevadars – volunteers from among the faithful - while the pilgrims recited prayers. With the sun still low in the sky the rising sun reflected off the golden temple lit up the holy water beautifully as the ceremony took place. Chrístõ and his students, despite having no concept of religious worship in their alien culture were moved by the sincere devotion of the people around them. They felt privileged to be in that place.

“We’ll visit the Sanctum later,” Chrístõ promised when it was over. “And pay due respect to the faith of these good people. But there is something else to do first.”

Chrístõ led his students around the Sarovar by way of the shaded colonnade that lined the long side of the rectangular Parikrama. They walked slowly, respecting those among the crowds who stopped to pray at shrines or at the holy trees planted around the complex. They felt a tranquillity of thought and deed.

“Perhaps it’s a good thing Cinnamal isn’t here,” Diol noted. “He would have been bored by all this piety and want to make mischief.” His brother laughed quietly.

“You do Cinn an injustice,” Chrístõ admonished them. “He has found his true calling in the Youth Ballet and is becoming quite a serious young man lately. Love has been another factor. Jennica would not be impressed by his mischief. He behaves himself for her.”

The brothers smiled. Cinnamal Hext in love – and with a Human woman, at that, had been a surprise to them, too.

“Yes,” Chrístõ conceded, listening to their telepathic thoughts. “A place where all men are equal would be a real shock to Cinn. That’s true of a lot of Gallifreyans. We can all learn much here.”

Contemplating that truth, they came, by the slow, meditative route around the pool, to the Langar. Here, that concept of equality among men, and, indeed, women, was most effectively demonstrated in the lines of people of all ages, all classes, sitting on the bare but scrupulously clean stone-flagged floor. Chrístõ found three places not far from where the English group were trying to come to terms with the concept. He and his students sat quietly, listening to the simple prayers of the people around them while they waited to be handed a plate containing a simple meal of dahl curry, rice and a piece of chapatti bread. Two young women and a man moved along the line giving out the food from large pots. The man caught Chrístõ’s attention, but it was the young women who interested Diol and Axyl. They had very pretty smiles that were reciprocated wholeheartedly. Chrístõ made a mental note to remind them of their comments about Cinn and his Human sweetheart later when they had left the temple complex. He didn’t need to remind them that there was an injunction against impure thoughts here. They had simply reacted as young men would to the smiles of pretty women.

“Do the females always perform the serving tasks?” Diol asked as he sampled the dahl and found it palatable, though a curious kind of meal for what qualified as breakfast by the local time.

“Not exclusively,” Chrístõ answered. “It is a religious duty to give service. Families take turns to prepare the langar meal that is given freely to all who come and sit, whether they be a high or a low caste, an untouchable, or even their colonial overlords. Everyone sits together. Everyone eats the same food, served from the same pot.”

“I like that idea,” Axyl said, looking around at the assembly and noting that men wearing nothing but grey loincloths were, indeed, sitting next to men with rubies in their turbans. The English group were next to a family of a man and two boys wearing the simple cotton Salwar Kameez and a woman in a colourful sari. “We’re all absolutely equal. Good idea. I think this culture has a lot to commend it.”

“I agree,” Chrístõ replied. “I agree absolutely, a GREAT deal to commend it. When we’ve eaten, I need to go talk to somebody. Why don’t you two wander around and find out more about the history of Sikhism. Consider it a partial credit in comparative philosophies.”

It was a long time since Chrístõ had reminded them that they were with him to learn. They rarely needed telling. This was no exception. They were eager enough to find out about this way of life in which they did not need to regard themselves as Caretakers and in which men born much lower than them, as well as men born far higher, were treated alike.

Chrístõ watched the brothers head towards the causeway to the Golden Temple itself with a crowd of pilgrims. He noticed the two young women who had been serving food in the same throng and wondered if there was anything to make of that. But he had a mission of his own right now and he had to trust his students to behave themselves.

He followed the man who had served his langar meal. He was dressed as a fully baptised Sikh, with three of the five articles of faith visible – the iron bracelet called a kira, the kesh, uncut hair wrapped in a turban, and the long, curved kirpan sword at his side. The other two articles, the cotton underwear called katchera and the wooden haircomb called a kanga were presumably concealed about his person. He also had a full beard and dark skin.

But Chrístõ was full certain he wasn’t an Indian.

The man walked from the langar kitchen back to the Parikrama and then through a door into the base of one of the two slender watchtowers called the Ramgarhia Minars. Chrístõ followed silently, not drawing attention to himself, though full certain the man knew he was there. He walked behind him up the winding steps inside until he came out on the open gallery under the domed top of the tower. The man waited, looking across at the golden sanctuary.

“So,” he said, still with his back to Chrístõ. “The son of Lœngbærrow is a man, now.”

“You ARE a Time Lord, I knew it,” Chrístõ answered. “I felt your psychic ident when you served me.”

“That would never happen on Gallifrey. Even an Oldblood heir of your age would be inferior to one of my age and experience.”

“As it should be,” Chrístõ admitted.

“And yet you like the egalitarian ideal exemplified in the Langar.”

“I like the idea that my two students, who are of the Caretaker class, might be equal to me as an Oldblood. But even here in the Golden Temple respect is paid to the guru. As one who is only recently graduated, I should be a fool if I did not recognise the wisdom of one who is much older than I am.”

“Good answer, son of Lœngbærrow.”

“Sir, who are you?” Chrístõ asked. “I felt your ident but you deliberately kept me from reading it. And… do you know me? I don’t think I know you. Though of course you must have regenerated many times.”

“More than I care to recall,” the Time Lord answered. “I am known as Amar Deep Singh.”

“Amar Deep?” Chrístõ half smiled. “I believe that translates to something like Immortal Light. And of course, Singh, the Khalsa name all Sikh men adopt – meaning Lion – the king of animals. It seems an appropriate name for a Time Lord prince of the universe. But not one you would use in the Capitol.”

“That is the only name I have had since I came to this place. Before then, to be sure, I had another name. And long before that I was, like you, the proud son of a noble House. Your father, the one known as both The Executioner and The Peacekeeper in his time knew me before and after I cast off my given name. But there is no need for you to know more than I have told you already.”

A pseudonym, hiding his true family name! Chrístõ felt a strange thrill. There were only two reasons why a Time Lord took on such a name. Either he was a Renegade who had been renounced by his House, or he had done such great deeds that he no longer needed to be known by an ordinary name and was known by a definitive article like those his own father had once been known by - The Executioner, The Peacekeeper….

What was Amar Deep Singh’s definitive article?

“You know my father?” He went for a question he knew he might get an answer to rather than the one he wanted to ask.

“We met once, in the space station at Qihe-Ne V. I was drinking single malt whiskey with your father and we were swapping stories about planets we had visited. It was one of the rare occasions when the Peacemaker, that great man of diplomacy, talked about his former life as an assassin for the Celestial Intervention Agency – certainly one of the few times he talked about it with one who was not an Agent. My life took me in very different directions. Our meeting that day was pure coincidence. But we talked for a long time. Too long, perhaps. We neither of us knew that you had come into the private drawing room where we were ensconced and were listening to our tales with a boy’s fascination for colourful adventures. I suppose we both put a little too much of that colour into our reminiscences. We were at fault in that, as we realised when you came from the shadows and asked me if I would take you with me in my TARDIS, as an assistant.”

“I don’t remember,” Chrístõ admitted, though the scene had a ring of truth about it.

“I laughed. Your father frowned and asked you why you weren’t in bed. You were, I think, barely twelve.”

“That must be why I don’t remember, then. But I have always wanted to travel and explore the universe for myself. I was thrilled when I got the chance to pilot my own TARDIS. I was quite a bit older than that when I got my licence, though.”

“I should think so. What brought you here to the Golden Temple?”

Chrístõ explained about the presets in his TARDIS database, and his two students who were as eager to learn about the universe as he was.

“This place and time was a preset in your database?” The man who called himself Amar Deep Singh looked puzzled. “A curious choice.”

“Why so?” Chrístõ asked.

“First of all, because it is rather surprising that your Masters at the Prydonia should want to put ideas about egalitarianism into a young head. Sending you to one of the few places in the galaxy where the idea of equality between all men actually works is very much at odds with the rigid hierarchy of Gallifrey that they usually uphold to the letter.”

“That is certainly true,” Chrístõ admitted. “Perhaps they expected me to remain steadfast to Gallifreyan caste traditions and reject the ideals of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It must have been meant as a test of my loyalty.”

“Perhaps,” Singh agreed. “But there is another possibility. Maybe it was a much more dangerous test than that.”

“What do you mean, sir?” Chrístõ asked.

“This time, this place… you did check the temporal date when you landed your TARDIS?”

“Spring 1909,” Chrístõ replied immediately. “That was the date encoded into the preset.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“I didn’t question it. Why would I? It was one of the safer locations. A lot of the presets were deliberately set to test me in dangerous situations. I know that. There was a reason for it. I was meant to demonstrate that there WERE circumstances when our policy of non-interference in the affairs of other worlds might be set aside. I think the jury is still out as far as the High Council are concerned, and I rarely use the presets these days. I usually manage to find enough trouble without them, but….”

“Either your TARDIS badly needs recalibrating or the preset deliberately brought you to a temporal date ten years later than you expected. This is April 1919. April 13th, to be exact… a little before ten o’clock in the morning.”

“Oh....” Chrístõ was sorely tempted to use a Low Gallifreyan swear word, but he was, after all, still within the sacred walls of the Golden Temple and profanities were naturally regarded as blasphemies against the god worshipped by the pilgrims below.

“You understand the significance of this date? You have enough knowledge of this planet’s history?”

“I do,” he answered simply.

“If it is a mistake, then it is merely coincidence,” Singh reasoned. “The sort of coincidence that befalls me on too many occasions. I think you are the same, judging by your remark about attracting trouble.”

“And if not….”

“Then somebody intended to test you in a very hazardous situation.”

“It’s one of the major Fixed Points of Earth history,” Chrístõ noted. “Involvement in it would be dangerous on two levels. I would be risking my life, and risking censure for interfering in what cannot be interfered with.”

“Quite so. Does one so young as you have enemies who would wish to see you killed or disgraced?”

“More than I can count. And not all of them stand up and show themselves as enemies. I don’t know how many of them smile to my face and wish for my downfall behind my back. It may well be their wish was meant to come to pass here in this time and place."

“Then it is in all our interests to thwart that plan. The sensible thing would be for you to take your students and leave immediately. There are still a few hours before the crisis point.”

“Yes, it would,” Chrístõ agreed, though he made no attempt to leave.

“I think you and I are alike in some way,” Singh added with an inscrutable smile. The sensible thing has never been my first choice in any situation.”

“The next best thing to sensible would be cautious,” Chrístõ conceded. “Remaining here, but taking care to avoid being caught up in those events that are so inevitable. That should not be difficult. It is a big city.”

“It is, indeed. And one in which I have a home. May I extend its hospitality to you and your students? We shall take a light lunch together and see these unhappy events through from a safe distance.”

“That is an excellent idea,” Chrístõ agreed. “Assuming I can find my students.” He looked out over the sacred water at the people crossing the causeway called the Guru’s Bridge to visit the Sanctorum. His young charges weren’t among them. He cast around and spotted them on the Parikrama below the watch tower. They were standing beneath the Gurdwara Dukh Bhanjani Ber, one of the holy trees. He was only slightly surprised to see that they were accompanied by the two young women who had served them in the Langar.

“I wonder if your students know the tradition of arranging marriage contracts under that tree,” Singh commented dryly.

“Oh dear. I rather think they wouldn’t,” Chrístõ replied. “I hope I’m not going to have trouble with any Indian fathers.”

“As the young women are my daughters, that won’t be the case. But perhaps we’d better get down there, all the same, before anything occurs that cannot be undone.”