Selfless Service: Sewa

Weekend Projects

Gurpurab also known as Prakash Utsav, celebrates the birth of the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs had ten Gurus and each year there are at least ten events to celebrate besides Vaisakhi-the birth of Khalsa.

Langar is something that excites me the most about these events. Langar is the term used in Sikhism for community kitchen in a Gurudwara where a free meal is served to all visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, color, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

My favorite part is to take a small portion of the dough, roll it between the palms of my hands, form a ball, and then flatten it to form a 6-inch circular disc. It is then passed on to the ladies standing beside the hot iron griddle to cook the chapattis. Every disc of dough that I flatten is better than the one before. It is a self-challenge and the results are strikingly visible.

The only key is to find a seat in the kitchen. There are so many devotees willing to help in the preparation of the meal; it is never easy to get the role you desire the most. Kids mainly play the part of kneading the dough or rolling balls from the dough, but adults get a chance to flatten the balls into a disc. Some ladies prefer chopping the vegetables while the others like to stand beside the hot griddle to cook chapattis. Men prefer assisting in lifting heavy weight pans and pots filled with curries or perhaps stirring the curries while they are being cooked with giant spatulas.

Besides the selfless service, each one of us has the opportunity to make new friends, share our joys and seek advice from elders on some of the troubling circumstances be it work or home. The younger generation learns from the adults and the adults learn from the elders.  It all happens under one roof. The system worked its magic especially for a generation heading towards nuclear families.

Nowadays, I hardly see this congregation in India. The interaction between toddlers and teens, teens and adults, adults and elderly and all the other permutations have been wiped out by just employing the chefs to cook the meal for the community. The service that was done by the community for the community has dropped down to an astonishing degree. The scale of patience has dropped, interaction is limited, stress levels have surmounted and divorces are no longer a rarity.

Is it just me feeling this loss or is it really losing its touch. I wish we can all get together and revive this tradition. Once again we can all mingle and laugh and share our joys and sorrows together under one roof listening to the mesmerizing music.

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