Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

My Photo

Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lungers/World Food Day!

16 October is the UN declared World Food Day. The day, also known as End Hunger Day, is an opportunity for the global community to unite in an effort to help raise awareness of the global problem of hunger and to strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In the U.S., one example of World Food Day events is the Sunday Dinners that Oxfam America sponsors in collaboration with several other NGOs. However, the greatest devotion in achieving the goals of observing the day are seen in the dedicated 'langar' service in Sikh gurdwaras all over the world.
Langer is the term used in the Sikh religion for common kitchen where food is served in a gurdwara to all the visitors without any distinction, for free. The langer is open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. The institution of the Sikh langer, or free kitchen, was started by the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, creed, color, age, gender or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ridden society of the 16th-century India where Sikhism began. There is a story on the origin of the langer institution:
When the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev, attained manhood, his father gave him 20 rupees and sent him on a trading expedition, impressing upon him that a good bargain makes for a good profit. On his way to buy merchandise, Namak noticed the pathetic condition of a group of poor men and decided that the most profitable transaction he could make with his father's money would be to feed them. When he returned empty handed his father reprimanded him. Insisting that true profit is to be had in selfless service of feeding the hungry, Guru Nanak established the institution of langer.
In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langer expresses the ethics of sharing, community inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. The institution of Guru ka langer has served the community in many ways. It has ensured the participation of Sikhs in the task of service for mankind. Langer also teaches the etiquette of eating in a community situation, which has played a great part in upholding the virtue of equality of all human beings and provides a welcome, secure and protected sanctuary, particularly for the have nots. People from all classes of society are welcome at the gurdwara. Food is normally served twice a day, on every day of the year. Recent reports say some of the largest langers in Delhi prepare between 50,000 and 70,000 meals per day. At Golden Temple in Amritsar nearly 100,000 people dine every day and the kitchen works almost 20 hours daily. All the preparation – the cooking, serving and the washing-up – is done by voluntary helpers, known as sevadars. Besides the langers attached to the gurdwaras, there are improvised open-air langers during festivals and gurpurabs. These langers are amongst the best attended community meals anywhere in the world, upwards of 100,000 people may attend a given meal during these lungers. Wherever Sikhs are, they have established their lungers. In their prayers, the Sikhs seek from the Almighty the favor: “Loh langer tapde rahin – may the hot plates of the langers remain ever in service.”
In tune with the times, langers at gurdwaras in the UK have moved on from black or yellow dal (lentil) or wheat flour chapattis. Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Burmingham displays on a notice board at its entrance that a langer of pizzas and chips is served on its premises. On festival days more items are added to the menu for more than 100,000 Sikh devotees. All the items, including pizzas and chips are prepared in the gurdwara community kitchen. In San Jose, California, Governor Jerry Brown and other political leaders joined thousands of colorfully dressed Sikhs to celebrate the greatly expanded gurdwara at the Evergreen Hills, and enjoyed the lavish plate of the langer meal, made in gurdwara's echo-friendly modern kitchen and served in style in stainless steel plates with built-in bowls – spinach-and-mustered-leaf saag, mildly spicy dal, curries, potatoes, rice, raita, rotis, pickle, rice pudding and sweets, ended with masala chai. The big lunger hall had arrangements for both, whether you wanted to sit on the carpeted floor or use the sitting arrangement with tables and chairs.The same menu and arrangemen has become a permanent feature with further improvements on festival days.
Footnote: I have a confession to make. When my wife inderjeet, having Sikh background and quite conversant with Sikh traditions, asked me for the first time to have langer meal at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara in New Delhi, I very reluctantly agreed as I was always under the impression that the food at the lunger was meant for the poor and the homeless who would be waiting for their turn in line to be served. On entering the lunger hall, I was shocked to see well dressed men, women and children from apparently high class families rubbing shoulder with the ordinary class while enjoying lunger meal, taking it as 'prasad', sitting on long mats along the floor. There was a bigger shock awaiting – the food was served in our row amongst others, by a person we knew well, the CEO of a reputed travel company and partner in my brother's business. Yes, most of the sevadars serving the meals were well- to- do people who were volunteering as duty towards the Guru Sahib and devotion to the cause of community feeding. They are the ones that truly celebrate the World Food Day in its true spirit, whenever they volunteer at the lunger.


Post a Comment

<< Home