Thank you Sanjana, for sending me a mail greeting me on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti on 6 November. The last year, on Guru Nanak Jayanti – the birth of Nanak, the first guru of the Sikhs – I wanted to relive the experience of partaking of lunch/ langar at the gurudwara close by. I did not make it and the wish remained unfulfilled.
It was almost 2 p.m. when I saw Sanjana’s mail. Could I make it for langar this year? I feverishly selected my glass-brocaded kurti from Kolhapur, jumped on my scooter and was off. As I reached the gates of the gurudwara at Mangor Hill, Vasco, I beheld the Sikhs elegantly dressed and milling around in a festive mood. But could I venture in alone?
I became more resolute when I remembered how I had partaken of langar at the gurudwara at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab on my way back from seeing the awesome Bhakra-Nangal dam in 2008. Those were the years I was the traveller-poet discovering the soul of India.
Furtively, I entered the premises unsure of what to do. I told myself, this was the faith that kept India together -- a respect for another’s religion and a magnanimity of sharing the best tenets of one’s own.
I spotted two lads, looking regal in their turbans, washing their hands at the sink. I plucked up courage and introduced myself as a poet and asked where the langar could be had. I covered my head with my kerchief, as I was instructed to do, and followed them as they went in to pay their respects to the Guru Granth Sahib– the holy book of the Sikhs. I noticed the harmonium and mikes at the side but no players. I was told the keertan (religious singing) concluded at 2 p.m.
On the way to lunch I noticed a team of women energetically making rotis. This is the spirit which is so inspiring where the entire community works to serve food to whoever wants it. Langar is served here every Sunday as well. I was briskly given a thali, a glass and a spoon. In the packed hall my friends found a place where the 3 of us could sit together. Langar of black dal, steaming rotis, cauliflower vegetable with potatoes, raita and kheer was delicious.
Guru Nanak was born in Pakistan in 1469 and died in India in 1539. His 3-fold teaching in Gurmukhi script was simple and socially relevant, viz. Meditate on the name of the Lord (Naam japo); do your work diligently (Kirat karo); and share what you have with others (Vand chakko).
I learnt that the lads had come on the INS Viraat – India’s aircraft carrier which was docked at Mormugao harbour. As we watched the gigantic carrier the next day heading for the high seas, I knew I was a little more enriched – and humbled – by the plenitude of India.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa, on Sunday 16 November, 2014; Pix of Nanak with childhood friend Mardana. Mardana was a Muslim. He was also a musician; Source sikh-heritage.co.uk