The Gift Of FoodRISHABH R. JAIN
Harjeet Singh can usually be found riding around New Delhi on his Harley Davidson Superlow, or helping foreign companies set up operations in India.
At home, the businessman has staff to clean and cook for his family.
But at the gurdwara where he worships alongside other Sikhs, he sweeps the floor, cleans dirty dishes and helps prepare meals for thousands not as fortunate as him.
He cites Sikh scriptures: "A tenth of your income and time should be dedicated to serving people." Volunteering in the gurdwara twice a week also helps him purge his ego, he says.
Service is one of the most integral traditions of Sikhism and its gurdwaras. From cleaning to preparing tons of food every day, there is plenty of work to be done. And there are plenty of sevadaars, or volunteers, to do it.
Each day people from all walks of life pour in to assist. Others come for a free meal.
The langar, which translates to ‘community meal’, is available at all hours, but especially during the main meal-times.
Lunch, for example, begins at noon in a large, high-ceilinged hall at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in New Delhi. Several rows of carpets are quickly occupied by people who swarm in and sit down to be served.
They are from all religions, and reflect the spectrum of life in this crowded city. Some are desperately poor. Some work in nearby offices. Some simply like the food.
More than a thousand dishes are laid out on the floor, and volunteers with buckets of lentils and Punjabi flat bread crouch over to fill the plates. The meal, which runs into the evening, feeds more than 10,000 people every day at this location alone.
On Sundays, the number doubles.
The story goes that a teenage Guru Nanak, who founded Sikhism in late 15th century, was given some money by his father and asked to turn a profit. But when Nanak went into town he saw a group of hungry men and used the money to buy groceries and asked them to cook it together and eat.
Later, Nanak declared to his father that he had struck a ‘True Bargain’. While this made his father very angry, it is now a tradition followed by more than 30 million Sikhs worldwide. Nearly every gurdwara in the world, irrespective of size, has a kitchen and serves a langar.
Men, women and children throng the kitchen at Bangla Sahib, one of the biggest gurdwaras in India, brewing soupy dishes in gigantic metal pots, rolling mounds of dough and flipping breads on mesh-topped stoves.
While the gurdwara employs a small group of men to help manage the kitchen, it depends on visiting worshippers to contribute nearly half of all work and food supplies. In addition to what is brought in as donations, the gurdwara spends more than $2,000 a day on the meal, according to the management committee at Bangla Sahib. Sacks of rice, flour, and lentils are stacked from floor to ceiling in the storage room.
The langar must go on every day.
"It is not just an eating joint," said Kanwer Deep Singh, the 47-year-old information officer of the gurdwara. The langar, he said, is a means of bringing a diverse community together, irrespective of social status and religious beliefs.
"In this turn you may be serving, and the next turn you may be sitting down to eat," he added.
[Courtesy: ABC News. Edited for sikhchic.com]
August 28, 2015
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 29, 2015, 7:40 AM.
It was Guru Nanak’s first investment of Rs 20/- what he called as ‘Sacha Sauda’ - “The True Bargain” - that he seemingly squandered in feeding a group of hungry mendicants. For this he earned a slap from his father. Who would have known that Guru Nanak’s investment would remain forever in thriving business and would have a franchise in every Gurdwara no matter where it is and feed the hungry no matter of what denomination, colour, caste, creed he/she was. Even the Mughal Emperor Akbar had to sit among the ordinary people to share langar. All this was done by ‘sevadars’ - the volunteers. Seva, as defined in Sikhism, has a very strict proviso. It must be done with ‘Naam Juppna’ - repetition of 'Waheguru'. Without this it invariably turns into ego. “Jab ih jaanai mai kichh karta tab lag garbh jon meh firta” [GGS:278.17] - “As long as he thinks that he is the one who does this, then he shall wander in birth and death cycles.” There is a saying, no one goes to sleep hungry in Amritsar. Of course that goes for all gurdwaras throughout the world. Where have you such a franchise to match Guru Nanak’s?
2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), August 29, 2015, 9:48 PM.
This is The House of Nanak!
3: Harpreet Singh (India), September 01, 2015, 1:43 PM.
We must read the biography of Bhagat Puran Singh ji Pingalwara. He embraced Sikhi after having langar at Gurudwara Sant Attar Singh ji Reru Sahib. He has described in detail the love and humility with which Sikh volunteers were serving langar. We must ensure such love, humility while serving langar. Angry or harsh words must be avoided as also unnecessary arguments, controversies. Also, at such a large gurdwara like Bangla Sahib, langar, tea, etc.
4: R Singh (Canada), September 02, 2015, 9:55 PM.
But our new 'rajas' do not believe in inconveniencing themselves. They sit on tables to get served, along with their VIP guests.
5: Paramjeet Singh (India), September 15, 2016, 9:52 AM.
R Singh ji, ek dum correct :)