Satnam Waheguru means “Wonderful Lord”, I don’t know who the Lord is but when I visited the Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) in Perth over the weekend. I felt that if there was a Lord, he probably lived in right here in this temple. The peace, the tranquility and the sense of belonging that I felt being in those open halls was almost surreal.
A friend had asked me to help with a langar (community kitchen) where food is served to anyone for free despite their religious or ethnic backgrounds over the weekend. A part of me just wanted to stay at home and wallow, but somehow I pushed myself and decided to spend a day helping them cook and thank god I did.
The Sunday morning was unusually chilly and foggy as I dragged my sleep induced body all the way to the Gurudwara, which was an hour’s drive away. As I tentatively took my first steps inside a little unsure of what to do, I found myself engulfed in a mass of complete strangers working together in harmony.
Someone kept washing the vast number of utensils, and someone else was moping the floor ensuring there were no hazards. Someone made Tea while someone stirred the Dal and Kheer, others rolled out the Bhature that were then drowned in a cauldron of hot oil swelling up to perfection in sync. You can imagine how happy that made the Punjabi in me.
The fruits of the morning lead to a delicious breakfast of Chole Bhature with various accompaniments served with a lot of love. Before we knew it was time for lunch, and I found myself facing this enormous mound of kneaded whole-wheat dough to make around a 500 chapattis. While I scratched my head wondering how could I possibly even begin to make them, a lady walked up and picked up the rolling pin and started to make chapattis. Then another lady, then another and before I knew there was an assembly line for making chapattis. Someone started the griddles to cook them, and someone else began to slather them generously with Ghee.
One pair of hands became two, two became four and suddenly the kitchen that was quiet after the Breakfast was bursting to seams with volunteers who were happy to cook together. Everyone smiled, conversations were happy ones, and no one looked tired and grumpy. Strangely as I worked in the kitchen cooking so much food with everyone, my hunger was completely forgotten.
So when we finally ate lunch, I realized I was not hungry at all. The lunch was eaten as a Prasad (offering to God) rather than a meal. There was Rice, mutter Paneer (peas and cottage cheese), Dal, Raita, Roti and Kheer (rice pudding), Salad and Pickle. The meal a simple one was very delicious. And the funniest thing was that the meal was not made with measurements, there was no one tasting anything before the food was served, but everything was just right. Clearly when we cook with love everything just comes together.
And before I left for the day I went and bowed down in front of the holy book and had “Kada Prashada” the food of the gods that is synonymous with Sikh Temples around the world. Made with Wholewheat Flour, Sugar and a lot of Ghee the Prashada tastes exactly the same in every temple you go. This Golden nectar is one of the sweetest ways to thank the Lord for his blessings for us and our souls that need it the most. A truly humbling experience.