One of the best things about India (and one of the only things I’m really low-key proud of), is how diverse we are with our culture. India has TONS of people. This truckload of population is completely not ideal for a different number of reasons, however having these many different people in the same space kind of ensures that you end up knowing everything about this other person you’re sharing space with.
The Sikh community in India refers to the people who follow Sikhism. This religion was founded primarily in the 15th Century and follows majorly the teachings of Guru Nanak.
Now, I’ve never been a religious person and thus I’ve never really known much about Sikhism (or any other religion we have here). My interests usually tend to be out of curiosity or because my mother is interested.
For our summer vacation, we vacationed to Leh, a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was beautiful and I did NOT want to leave. Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state in our country. It borders Pakistan on most sides and anyone who has decent internet at home would know that India and Pakistan are always at loggerheads. Because of this exact reason, the Indian Army has a gigantic presence in the state, including in Leh.
Now, just like we have Temples, and Muslims have Mosques, Sikhs have Gurudwaras. My mother has been wanting to visit one for the longest time. The Gurudwara Pathar Sahib is located 25 kms from Leh. It is run and maintained by the Indian Army, and this time, it was on our itinerary!
Visiting the Gurudwara, was, by far one of my favourite parts of the trip. I’ve never been to one before and the whole experience was completely new and exciting. After we went around the Gurudwara, my parents decided that we better stay for the Langar. Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. The free meal is always vegetarian and the people sit on the floor, eat together, and the kitchen is maintained and serviced by Sikh community volunteers.
Thus, we sat and ate in the Langar and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was one of the best meals I had on this vacation. I couldn’t get over the simple fact that everything there was being done voluntarily. That, army men and soldiers were voluntarily serving ordinary people like me!
The thing with Langar is that once you’re done eating, you’ve to go and stand in line to first, wash your dishes with soap water and second, with clean water and then wash up yourself and deposit the utensils so they can be used again. I fell in love with this concept. I’ve never seen any religion preaching so much of self-service and independence.
My other absolute favourite part was that anyone can eat in a Langar. And by anyone, I mean ANYONE at all. Me, you, a beggar on the street, Donald Trump.