Of Langar and Love

Langar

Khalsa Diwan Gurudwara

“Parsada, Waheguru.”

“Chutney, Waheguru.”

“Kheer, Waheguru.”

VT was serving food at the langar and I was in the kitchen. He must have served some fifty people and was on his toes for over an hour. From cleaning green chilies, I had moved to making rotis on a big tawa. Around twenty five at a time, turning each on both sides till they cook, and keeping an eye on all at the same time. 

It was a cold afternoon and we were having lunch at the Khalsa Diwan Gurudwara. Just when we were about to finish, both of us noticed that the only person serving the many was exhausted. We instantly knew it was time for seva. That was our last afternoon in Hong Kong and like life comes to a full circle, we got ready to do our part. It was our turn to serve exactly the way we were offered food over the last couple of days – with love, affection and a sense of duty towards the community.

A short-term assignment sounds fancy from the word go. You get to visit a new country, you explore a different culture and it’s a break from monotony. You tick off places from your travel bucket list and you come back home, rich with experience. What more can you ask for?

However, most of that is superficial.

Not being with family makes the assignment hard. You make this new place your home for the duration you have work but it’s a home without a kitchen. How long can you survive on restaurant cooked food? A minimum of three meals, every day and all of these bought is taxing on health as well as on the pocket. If you are particular about your food choices, things get even harder.

VT was on an assignment to Hong Kong and along with a couple of his office colleagues, one day he visited the Gurudwara. The peace, the feeling of community, the chants, and the entire experience in itself was memorable for him. It was an experience away from your world yet something that gets you closer to your world.

Over a Skype conversation, he mentioned of this visit and how after over a month of staying in HK and surviving on packed meals and lunch boxes, he got to have some daal and chapati. I was certainly happy for him and made up my mind to visit on my trip.

My experience was exactly like his. I loved the way the food was served. It felt as if I was home. No one to judge you cos you are eating for free. No one to ask which country or religion you belong to or what language you speak. That’s the power of a langar. Not that I haven’t had food in a langar before but outside of India was new to me. And along with me ate the Chinese, the Hong Kong nationals and many others from various parts of the world. Who serves free food with so much love that you feel guilty of not paying for it? In cash or kind.

I felt overwhelmed and we made it a point to visit the Gurudwara at least twice a week. Even the day we completed five years of our wedding, we dined there sitting on the floor and accepting the food that was served. It was humbling. No fine dining, just the two of us side by side, chants upstairs and gratefulness in our hearts.

So that afternoon, when we got an opportunity to contribute, we could not let it go. There was no gender bias in the roles. Men were cooking and women were serving. Even I served some people and then moved to the kitchen. I did not know the language people were speaking but that hardly mattered. Everyone was working with the one goal and that is what mattered.

Sometimes we do things that the heart wants us to do. However physically exhausted we may feel, we put our best foot forward to give back to the society and spread some love. Those times when material goods do not matter but gestures and smiles do.

We served for over an hour at the langar and both of us knew it was a day well spent. A day that will be remembered for life.


Writing a personal story for Yeah Write #269 today.

52 Responses

  1. Maria says:

    This is a incredible experience having food in the Gurudwara(: and helping in the making and serving of it… nice way to show love to the community(:

  2. Aseem says:

    I have been to a gurudwara once but have never ever been to a langar. Though I have always heard people talk about it, your post brings the entire atmosphere at a langar to life and now am quite keen to experience it sooner rather than later.

  3. Beloo Mehra says:

    Langars are such a unique cultural aspect of Indians, particularly Sikh community. I have also experienced similar things in Jain mathas and of course several Hindu ashrams – in India and also in the US. Such a divine experience, everything becomes a prasad in such places. I loved reading your description of this blissful experience of doing seva at a langar.

  4. Richa Singh says:

    The picture and the narrative reminds me of Bangla sahib, I loved that place. It was my must go place in college almost every other weekend. A couple of us would drive past two in the night and just sit there for an hour. So serene.

    And you know this whole being away from country and finding gurudwara sounds like a really nice thing to happen to VT 🙂

    • Parul Thakur says:

      Oh yes, it was the best thing ever. Thanks, Richa. I have never been to Bangala Sahib. In Engineering college, I did not even explore anything around Delhi/Noida. :/

      • Saadia says:

        Wonderful post here and I just had to comment after reading as S. Asian communities have many similarities – despite religious diversity. The Langaar culture is quite a norm in Pakistan too on almost all Shrines of Muslim Saints and also other communities like Naani ka Haj in Balochistan and interior Sindh.
        Bless you and your husband for being such beautiful souls, ameen.

  5. Thank you for giving me new experience through words! This is something I’ve never encountered, so I loved reading about it!

  6. Laura says:

    Beautifully described. I’d heard of the Gurudwara from TV but I’ve never experienced one, and you made it feel like I’d been there!

  7. Hema says:

    What a wonderful post about finding a small piece of home in a foreign land 🙂 well done!

  8. Cyn K says:

    I had never heard of a langar before. Thank you for introducing me to this concept.

  9. Modern Gypsy says:

    Beautiful! Serving langar, getting Indian food in a foreign land, and love and acceptance from the people around you sounds lovely indeed.

  10. Aditi says:

    Beautiful, Parul! This must have been such an enriching experience.
    Langar food is prepared with so much love and goodwill that the food tastes unbelievable. I’ve yet to go to a Gurdwara here in London. You’ve inspired me not only to go there but also serve.
    Aditi recently posted…#CreativePoetry Inspired by @austinkleon #NewspaperBlackoutMy Profile

  11. Dashy says:

    That must have been a wonderful experience, to return the love and kindness you’ve gotten from there. I’ve never been to such a community serving before, I’m sure it felt deeply satisfying. 🙂
    Dashy recently posted…The Liebster’s Here !My Profile

  12. Ramya says:

    You just took me back to my visit to the Golden temple. And I found peace there. Like you told its all about love and being humble. Being tired physically vanishes when there is peace of mind and love and compassion in heart. Loved reading it! 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully expressed. Peace it is!

  14. Lovey says:

    Wow such an inspiring post Parul. I am sure you would have a divine experience serving the food and eating under the blessings of Wahe Gure Ji.
    And your post reminds me of the childhood days when we used to go to Gurudwara to seek blessings and eat the KADHA Prasad 🙂

  15. Anna says:

    What a wonderful experience to have been a part of. There is always something indescribably and inherently GOOD about kindness. And the wonderful thing is that, when kindness is truly being expressed, every prejudice, judgement or other discriminating factor falls away completely. I suppose it’s just like that old Jewel song, “Only kindness matters in the end.”

    Thanks for sharing your story! It’s beautiful. 🙂

  16. Rajlakshmi says:

    This is beautiful. Wow! I can only imagine how soulful and enriching your experience would have been. Thank you for sharing your story and inspiring us.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…Of Rail Tales & PurikuraMy Profile

  17. What a lovely post Parul. What a wonderful way to celebrate your anniversary. I had no clue langars were organised in other countries too. I have never been to a gurudwara though I’ve planned and thought about it many times but it just has never happened. I have had the prasad though and nothing tastes quite like it.

    • Parul Thakur says:

      Tulika, if there is a gurudwara, there is langar, In India or abroad. I have had food in a langar in many cities in India but Hong Kong was my first abroad. The food is made with love so it tastes heavenly. You should visit one nearby some day with children.

  18. Beeray says:

    Waheguru. Somrhting about gurdwara food.

  19. Melony says:

    I’d never heard of this before, but it seems like a wonderful way to enjoy your native meals. What a lovely experience to have. ☺

  20. BellyBytes says:

    I admire you Parul for doing such a thing. Somehow, for me eating at a community centre without paying for it seems odd and even though I love Punjabi food and have even eaten in dhabbas on the road, I find it odd to walk into a langar for a meal. Of course I understand the sentiment behind it and the reason why anyone abroad would like to visit just for a taste of home so may be this is one experience I will have to put down in my bucket list…Incidentally I’m not averse to the seva and would love to work in the kitchen but eating for free is something I will have to psyche myself into doing.

    • Parul Thakur says:

      Thanks Sunita. You can always pack back in the form of seva or donate raw materials. Even we did that. Will you pay God? No, right? But you can certainly spend time, help others and feel good about the meal you had.

  21. Nabanita says:

    You said it, Parul…there’s something about langars or in general about serving people that leaves you feeling satisfied and happy..so worth it..

  22. Jennifer says:

    What an incredible experience for you. I hope to visit this part of the world someday, but I feel as if I’ve gotten a glimpse of it today through your writing.

  23. It’s admirable when people are at the service of humanity, sacrificing their time, to feed people and bring a smile on faces. I remember every Thursday at Churchgate station, food was served to commuters by some Sikh dudes…Kichdi and Kheer. My Thursday was made since no need to order in hostel mess.

    https://vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/fatglam-shuchi-singh-kalra-on-the-move/

  24. Oh yes, gurudwaras are so humbling. The happiness and pure love with which you are served teachers from one heart to another. And l can imagine how much more precious it must be in a foreign land. Someday l would love to do seva just like you did.

  25. Mayuri says:

    I really love reading your posts, Parul.
    They are written straight from the heart and are honest, sweet and simple, just like I imagine you to be.
    I love visiting Gurudwaras too. I could sit there for hours, the feeling of peace that envelopes me there.
    Your post brought about much the same post for me. Really loved reading it.

  26. I remember watching a langar for the first time, although it was on TV. The idea behind it, and the way the devotees cook and serve the food is indeed humbling. It also speaks of a love that crosses beyond any boundaries. I do hope I get a chance to experience this 😃

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