Of Langar and Love
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.