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It Takes All Kinds ... To Fill A Gurdwara!

by KARMINDER SINGH

 

 

The following is a list of twenty observable categories of people who come to the Gurdwara. The majority, of course, are the one from the Normal category, which is listed as the last category - consisting of those who come for the loftiest of reasons, for piety, for soul food, for spiritual succour, in humility, in gratitude ...

And then, there are the others.

This list is constructed on the basis of personal observation and the categories are by no means exhaustive. Nor are they mutually exclusive. Check and see which category (ies) applies.

 

The People Watchers: These are folks who think that the Gurdwara is a 3-D cinema hall where a real life movie is being played out for them. In the langar hall and the darbar, they invest time and energy in discovering the best seating spots from which they can watch, observe, analyze and make detailed mental notes of who comes, who walks at what speed, who bows with the left hand touching down first, who sits with the right knee up, who needs to lose a few pounds, who wore the same clothes from last month, who drinks more water than he eats, who licks his fingers after degh and many other such important details. For these folks, their spot is a closely guarded secret; so don't be surprised if they come early to claim it. For them the movie is only paused after they have packed their langar to take home.

The Fashion Models: In every culture and civilization there is always a group of people who feel God created them for the whole world to look at. They are show offs who come to the gurdwara with the latest fashions; unsavoury accessories, cell phones, bags, shoes, wallets, CD players and what have you. They walk about excessively and do all sorts of thing such as dialing imaginary numbers on their cell phones to draw attention to them. Some program their cell phones to ring in the gurdwara at regular intervals to indicate they are important people. By the time they realize no one really cares, its time to think of what else to show off the following Sunday.

The Social Geeks: These are people who are socially dull, meaning that from Monday morning to Saturday night they have no social life. So the gurdwara is their social life. They spend all day in the gurdwara and spend it on saying hello to everybody. They find out how well and badly everybody is doing. They tell people about themselves, their kids, their pets, their sicknesses, their neighbors, their movies, their vacuum cleaners, their plants and the condition of their basements. They tell people what they think of the weather here, in Canada and in Punjab. By the time they find out that people really don't want to know all these, it is time for them to have langar and go home and wait for next Sunday. 

The Famine Victims: One look at these people and you think they have just come back from famine starved Somalia. There are three sub categories of this type: The Breakfast grabbers, the Lunch gobblers and the Breakfast and Lunch Hoarders. They survive on tap water and gum from Monday morning to Saturday night and rush to the gurdwara in their pajamas to have their first decent breakfast for the week. Some go back to bed after that. Some go to work - after pretending to sit around for five more minutes after the meal. They want to show that they did not just come for the food. Some go lean on the gurdwara walls upstairs, pretending to memorize the paatth, till its time for langar. As for The Lunch Gobblers - they are too weak to wake up for breakfast, so they come 7 minutes before lunch is to be served. Tell-tale signs of these people - they park their cars nearest to the front door - blocking everyone. They are too weak from hunger to park further and walk. Some block the neighbour's front door. All doors look alike when you are starving.

The Annual Visitors: These are people who believe that gurdwaras are buried under snow and mud 364 days and open only on Vaisakhi Day. So they hibernate 364 days and get up on Vaisakhi day. Some wake up on the wrong day. They come to gurdwara one Sunday before Vaisakhi or one Sunday after. Some come on the weekday that April 13 is on and get very upset that the celebration day is not the weekday but the nearest Sunday. They phone the gurdwara at 12.00 noon on Vaisakhi Day and ask for directions. Once in the gurdwara they ask for directions to the langar hall and the bathrooms after that. Then they walk over to just about anyone wearing the bana and ask if there is any degh left. Then they ask the granthi the exact date for next year's Vaisakhi. They want to make sure they hibernate for the right period. Then they ask what else is being distributed. Unfortunately this year, they get to read this about themselves. Their cell phones ring to the hibernation anthem: "Aa-ye baithey khaa-ey pee-ay khiskey!"

The Gossip Mongers: There are people who would whither and die if someone exterminated gossip. Gossip is the main chemical component of their DNA. So they come to the gurdwara to energize themselves with Oscar Award winning gossip. They sit in pairs in corners, constantly pat each other on the backs, are deeply engrossed in their gossip but manage a wide smile to anyone who passes by. Their slogan: G stands for Gurdwara. G stands for Gossip. My slogan: G stands for Garbage -  let's sweep gossip out of the gurdwara.

The Business Dealer: There are two types: The Bad and the Fake. The Bad ones keep hustling the committee with their ideas on how to raise money for the gurdwara. Their ideas almost always involve the selling of some product or service they deal in. The catch is simple: get the gurdwara to sell a useless product for them at five times the price to the sangat. The gurdwara can keep one tenth of the profit. The Fake ones have no such ideas. They just walk around with their cell phones ringing incessantly to fool everyone into believing that Bill Gates is calling them and they are too busy to take the call.

The Matlabees: These are people who belong to some group or organization (not a gurdwara). One week before their organization is supposed to organize a function - a fund drive, a crowd requiring activity or a donation-seeking event - they turn up in full force, ready with fliers, posters and rehearsed speeches, masquerading as loyal and committed members of the sangat. You immediately recognize them because you saw the same group exactly one year ago and wondered what happened to them after that. Well, they are back, yearly. Now they want the entire gurdwara divan to come to a screeching halt to accommodate their requests. They want to stand up on stage and make speeches about their event. They want to distribute their fliers to every single individual including any unborn children. They want the Gurdwara Notice Board splattered with their fliers. They want the committee to organize buses to ferry the sangat to their event. They want all members of the sangat present to heed their call and turn up for their event. It's a pity they don't stay long enough to see their fliers ending up in the garbage cans.

The Do-Nothing Folks: Some people are just born dull, though through no fault of theirs. These people come, sit around, look around, smile around, walk around and go back. They don't respond to any messages and any requests to help out. They are in a state of mental fatigue compounded by muscle paralysis. Some are just brain dead. They don't pick up a tissue, they don't shut a dripping tap, don't flush the toilet, don't put their shoes on the racks, and don't empty their cups before putting them in the garbage. They believe the gurdwara is maintained by the same people who clean the White House, so they have to do nothing.

The Granthi Hustlers: This is a peculiar category. God Bless them. They listen to the kirtan and katha and the stage secretary and the hukamnama, all with intense scrutiny, taking notes of all grammatical errors, slips of the tongue, his/ her hand movements, what was left out, and other mistakes. They walk up to their target and start off with the statement: "Today you did fantastic, I enjoyed it so very much." What they mean by fantastic is that they were able to catch the one mistake to comment on. And they enjoyed it so much because the target presented them with an opportunity to show that they know better. Their modus is simple: they begin with a question, and then go on to provide a 45-minute lecture-type answer themselves. The objective is to show they know more than you. Advice to granthis, kirtaniyas, and the stage secretary: fake a diarrhea attack when these people walk up to you. If you don't, then be ready for their verbal diarrhea.

The Control Fiddlers: A group of people who think they have great fingers and that fiddling with heat controls, switches, taps, carpet threads, toilet flush handles and toilet paper is their objective in life. They must turn something, unscrew something, and turn off what is switched on and vice-versa.

The "This-Should-Be" Folks: These are people who have alternative ideas for everything from the colour of the walls to the composition of oxygen in the kitchen air. They stop sevadars and say: "You know, this sink should be there, this door should open the other way, that door should not open at all, there should be a door here, this switch should be an inch higher, that plug an inch lower, this wall should be a brighter colour, these curtains should be of darker colour, these tiles should be bigger, this staircase should be wider, that corridor narrower, the ceiling should be higher, and so on. Sevadars have varying levels of patience with these people. The most patient will say, "Oh, I was thinking exactly what you are thinking," and walk off. The less patient one will say, "Why don't you move the sink, widen the staircase, move the ceiling up ... !" You get the message. The least patient will say, "These people should be ... !" You fill in the blanks.

The "I'm-Free-Next-Week" Crowd: These are people who put up a big facade about wanting to help out and do something. They stand around sevadars who are doing something; make very concerned suggestions about how to do it better. All of this  with both hands in their pockets. When the sevadars make the mistake of asking for their help, they respond most enthusiastically and animatedly (with hands still in their pockets), "Oh, I am off next Tuesday," or "I have a free day on Wednesday," or "I wont have to pick up my daughter next Thursday" or "I'm going to pass by the gurdwara next Friday." Sometimes they make their excuses a little more alive, such as: "Next Saturday, I'm going to the Mart and I'll buy the right kind of scrub to get rid of that stain," or "Next Monday, my cousin is coming from Canada and I'll ask him to bring a new broom they invented that picks up even more dirt."

The Wall Supporters: People who believe the gurdwara's walls need support and they are ready to provide it. They believe if they don't lean on the walls, the walls will, over time, start to lean, or worse, just keel over. They also believe the paint on the walls, if it rubs on to them while leaning against it, will help cure their innate laze. The whole darbar may be empty but they will not sit in the center, rushing to the walls instead. O Wall, Wall in the Gurdwara, Who is the laziest of them all?

The Free Heat Therapy Seekers: People who think sitting while leaning on the heat panels will ensure only their neighbours get backaches, muscle pains and joint pains. They further believe if they took some heat home from the gurdwara, the heating bills in their house will come down by at least 30 percent. So they hog the heaters, trying to absorb as much heat to take home as possible. Their logic: if people can take home degh, langar, samosas, pakoras, barfi, etc, why can't they take home free heat? In the summer, they take home cool air from the gurdwara's air conditioners so that they can enjoy the 30% savings all year long.

The Car Park Admirers: These are people who think the real beauty of the gurdwara is in the car park. They get their peace and comfort by hanging out in the car park, looking at other people's wheels and memorizing their registration plates. Their major complaint: Why don't you serve deg and langar in the car park? That way we won't have to come into the gurdwara at all. Their minor complaint: Let's put a speaker in the Car Park so we can know when degh is being served.

The Instant Converts: They turn out from just about nowhere and on their first visit after months or years, appear to be the most excited people in the universe. They are terribly impressed by the gurdwara program and want everyone to know about that. They want to be part of all that they witnessed and experienced. They want to enroll in kirtan classes. They want to enroll in the tabla classes. They want to be in the Punjabi class. They want to participate in the akhand paatth. They want to do seva. They want to help. They want to lead. They want to contribute. They bug the secretary, the president, the granthi, the treasurer and every other sevadar by declaring, "Give me something to do. I want to get involved. I want to do something. I want to do everything." The only thing they don't want to do is come back next week or the week after that because by then they would have converted to something else. That is why they are called the instant converts.

The Idiotic: They come to the gurdwara to protest their coming there. They go there to prove to themselves that it is not worth going. So they come in protest, sit in protest; in short they do everything in protest (except eat langar, regarding which they have no protest as yet). They protest in the bathrooms by not flushing the toilets. They protest in the shoe area by yanking off and chucking their shoes randomly. They protest the seva by not getting out of the way. They protest the kirten, katha, ardaas and hukamnama by sitting in the langar hall and reading a magazine or counting the knots in the carpet they sit on. To show the seriousness of their protest, they read the same rotten magazine every Sunday and count the same knots. They are labeled idiots because that is what you would call someone who went to the cinema and listened to his own rotten CDs while the movie was running. The very idiotic even form a group; discussing the rotten magazine and the carpet knots downstairs while kirtan and katha is going on upstairs.

The Dyslexics: People who have trouble reading notices and clocks. If the notice says 'Divan starts at 10:45 am and ends at 1:30 pm', they turn up at 1:35 pm sharp. When asked about the root causes of their dyslexia, they respond, "Oh, we come to the gurdwara to 'mathaa tek'. Everything else, we are not interested in." When told that at 1:35 pm they can only 'mathaa tek' to a slab of granite that is the palki because the Guru is then in sukhasan in some other room, they respond, "Oh, the Guru is everywhere." When asked if so, then why not mathaa tek at home, the response is, "Oh, but the langar is not everywhere." See what dyslexia can do to your brains?

The "I-Got-To-Go" Folks: These are people who rush into the gurdwara, talk with a raised voice, move hurriedly from person to person saying "sussrika" and immediately adding "I got to go! " They mean to tell us they are terribly important people, they have a life to live, a business to run, things to do, etc., and the rest are people with all the free time in the world who have no where to go and nothing to do but waste time in a gurdwara. But some people don't get their message as it is intended. They read "I got to go" differently and start pointing to the toilets. Maybe they want to flush these "I got to go" people down you know where.

And finally, the Normal: These are the simple folk who come to the gurdwara to pray, to learn something, to do darshan of the Guru and His sangat, to do some seva, to listen to the Guru's kirtan and his message. They help out because they consider the gurdwara their own. They contribute something for the same reason. They are punctual and regular. They inspire others who are doing seva. The gurdwara is their spiritual life. They don't bother with the gossip, the fashion, the show-offs, etc. They know they are coming after a week and they want every second to count. They don't want to commit any follies in the gurdwara. They sit straight with full concentration; listen to the kirten, katha, ardaas and hukam attentively. They respect everyone and get respect themselves. They don't care what others think of them and don't waste time finding out the latest goings-on. They don't ask what the gurdwara can do for them, but what they can do for the gurdwara. They don't care if there are very few people in this category. All they care is what the Guru thinks of them. May Waheguru bless them.

 

[The original version of this article was first published by the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Medford, MA, U.S.A.]

March 5, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, CT, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 5:46 AM.

I LOVE it! You have me in splits! Great categories.

2: Tripti Singh (New Jersey, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 7:22 AM.

Superb ... brilliantly covers all aspects ... enjoyed it; it brought a smile in the morning.

3: Satvir Kaur (Boston, MA, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 9:54 AM.

This article was printed in a local gurdwara magazine once and it is funny to me because the author, whoever it is, fits in the first group perfectly since he/ she must have written this after careful observations of the sangat.

4: Roopinder Singh Bains (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), March 05, 2010, 10:37 AM.

This is hilarious!

5: Mlle. S. (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 10:39 AM.

You forgot about one group ... what about the non-Punjabi/non-Sikh guests who come to visit with a friend? As first-time visitors, we stand-up-sit-down-stand-up-sit-down-bow-down-stand-up, etc. - looking out of the corner of our eyes to be sure to stand up-sit-down-bow-down at the right time. We invariably sit on the wrong side, not noticing the gender divide, and for women at least, we struggle to keep our shawls over our heads while standing up, sitting down, and bowing. We understand absolutely no Punjabi, but we sit and smile and listen for two-three hours in an awkward position, shifting our knees in front of us and beneath us and back in front of us. Just when we think it is time to go, everyone lines up and eats an entire meal! We are introduced to several dozen people whose names all sound alike, and half of them have the same last names. We are very confused, but we say Sat Sri Akal to everybody because that is what it appears should be said. We leave - we go home, and some of us learn all about Sikhi and Gurbani; we discover how beautiful and wonderful it is - and if we are very lucky, our friends invite us back! Hopefully, with time, we too fall into the category of 'normal'!

6: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 05, 2010, 11:26 AM.

Out of all above, the normal category, though small, should be considered as the sadh-sangat, the rest constitute the sangat in general. Now please specify a category for the parbandhaks of the gurdwara and also their sevadars.

7: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 11:33 AM.

This is too funny! In my elementary years, I was a people watcher - actually no, a turban watcher. That's how I used to occupy myself while my parents would listen and enjoy the kirtan. Now, I am split in all of the above categories, depending upon what my Guru has decided for me for that particular day.

8: Amardeep (U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 3:26 PM.

Mlle. S., you need no invitation to go to the gurdwara. You can go anytime. It is yours as much as it is ours! Especially if you are taking such bold steps of understanding gurbani ...

9: Ajay Singh (Rockville, U.S.A.), March 05, 2010, 6:26 PM.

I found it very juvenile, petty and creepy. If this was meant to be a satire or humorous, it failed miserably. The author is all the personalities he writes about sans normal.

10: Bhupinder Singh Ghai (New Delhi, India), March 05, 2010, 11:59 PM.

If you found ths piece funny. Listen to this one ... In a gurdwara, you find four types of sangat. Oonghe, Soonghe, Choonge and Doonghe. Oonghe: Those who comes to the gurdwara to catch up on lost sleep. You find this kind napping during kirtan, paatth and even during ardaas. Soonghe: This type is only interested in knowing "what's cooking", so they keep on 'soonghing' - smelling - the kitchen air. Choonghe: This type is just interested in criticizing everything with regards to the gurdwara without actively participating in any of the affairs. Doonghe: The rarest of the four, who are immersed deep - 'doonghe' - in the Naam.

11: Baljit Singh Rihal, JP (London, United Kingdom), March 06, 2010, 3:30 PM.

Absolutely fantastic!

12: Jarnail Singh Gyani 'Arshi' (Malaysia), March 06, 2010, 6:14 PM.

This article first appeared in the Commemorative Issue of the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, Medford, Boston, MA, U.S.A., in conjunction with Vasakhi 2005 and carried the name of the real author. After that, it has appeared numerous times under various pseudonyms and in different places. The author attempts to highlight serious matters in a humorous vein ... some maladies that do affect us Sikhs and, according to gurbani: 'vaidah pehlaan rog pehchaan' - "In order to have a cure, we must first identify the malady."

13: Kanwarjeet Singh (Franklin Park, New Jersey, U.S.A.), March 06, 2010, 6:54 PM.

People are people. Why doesn't the author understand that the purpose of the gurdwara is to go there for peace of mind and soul. Even the Guru said - "dekh ke andith keeta" - so why be judgmental?

14: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), March 07, 2010, 6:00 AM.

Guru Sahib in Sukhmani Sahib clearly mentions a variety of human beings that populate this world. Interesting, the author failed to identify himself and his category!

15: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), March 07, 2010, 1:25 PM.

Some years ago in Kuala Lumpur, a visiting raagi (a one man show) from U.S.A., related an incident in the flight from U.S.A., when, his next seat occupant, a young man, was fidgety and would every few minutes take out a magazine from the front seat pocket, read for a few minutes and then change to another one and to another one, purportedly disturbing the raagi. I asked him after the kirtan/ katha that "Bhai Sahib ji, there was no difference between the two of you: what he was doing with his hands, you were doing with your eyes!"

16: Koomar Singh (Malaysia), March 07, 2010, 5:16 PM.

The original was published by the Guru Nanak Darbar in Boston, U.S.A., in their annual commemorative issue a few years ago. [Editor: Thank you for the info. We've added the new info to the posting.]

17: Narinder Singh (U.S.A.), March 08, 2010, 7:31 AM.

The author certainly falls into the first category.

18: Jagjit Singh (Germantown, U.S.A.), March 09, 2010, 8:02 AM.

Show me one person from the so called 'normal' category whose mind does not wander during meditation and I will bow to him/ her. To categorize one group as normal and the other groups as other is something I prefer to leave to God. For those of us who fall in the so called 'other' category ... everyday is a day to improve yourself, so don't feel demoralized - Sikhism offers a path to us when we are ready. [Editor: You may not have noticed, Jagjit ji - this article is published in the HUMOUR section.]

19: Pierre (D.C., U.S.A.), March 09, 2010, 2:23 PM.

I think Ajay is initially correct ... I thought this was in poor spirit and a little mean.

20: Manmeet Singh (Bangalore, India), March 09, 2010, 11:10 PM.

Good one ... Needs to be read by everybody!

21: Satnam Kaur Khalsa (Malaysia), March 11, 2010, 12:45 AM.

Truly hilarious and hilariously true.

22: Amarjot Kaur (Penang, Malaysia), March 12, 2010, 11:39 PM.

The article aims to humour AND make one think. Those attempting to put the author in this or that category miss the humour. Worse, they miss the point of it altogether.

23: Baljit (Brampton, Ontario, Canada.), March 13, 2010, 9:37 PM.

Wonderful article. Quite true and funny at the same time. It's always good to have a light-hearted look at ourselves ... lighten up, people!

24: Gursevak Singh (United Kindom), March 16, 2010, 2:50 PM.

So funny, and so true too. I think the article raises some important issues! I even printed this off to show my parents, grandparents, uncles... they all loved it!

25: Sandeep Singh (India), May 25, 2010, 9:56 AM.

There is one more category of young men who go to the gurdwara ... to watch girls!

26: Tejinder Singh Sahdev (N. Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 06, 2011, 6:45 PM.

This article educated me and encouraged me to stop doing those things which unintentionally I was doing myself in the gurdwara. The article is good and it is up to us how we read it and follow it to improve ourselves. Remember, being a Sikh, you are always a learner. God bless the author.

27: Gurkirat Singh (New Delhi, India), October 05, 2011, 9:48 AM.

I guess the author comes under the people watcher category, coz' he has managed to create a whole list of stereotypes coming to the gurdwara. Makes him a people watcher who judges people by their looks, overt behaviour, etc. I find it very hypocritical.

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