Tuesday January 22, 2019
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‘Concept of equality’ pervades world’s biggest community kitchen

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually

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Bangla Sahib is one of the most famous place of worship of Sikhs in Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
Equality is important for the biggest community. Wikimedia Commons

If there is one big leveller for people, irrespective of their religion, caste, gender, social status or riches, it is the “langar”, or community kitchen, at the Golden Temple complex, where the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandir Sahib, is located, in this city considered holy by Sikhs.

Referred to as the world’s largest community kitchen, the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Langar Hall of the Golden Temple complex is unique in several aspects. On an average, it feeds over 100,000 people daily — from children to old people — from all religions, castes, regions, countries; and people from varied social, economic and political backgrounds.

“It is a 24×7 operation that carries on day and night all 365 days of the year. This has been going on for centuries, since the concept of langar was introduced by Guru Nanak Dev (the first Guru of the Sikh religion and its founder; born 1469) and propagated by other Gurus,” Wazir Singh, senior in-charge of the langar preparation, told IANS here.

Unlike other government organisations and institutions in India, there are no provisions for reservations based on caste or religion. Wikimedia commons
The Golden Temple complex provides food for many. Wikimedia Commons

At any given point of the day or night, the place is not only swarmed by devotees wanting to partake what is considered as blessed by service but by hundreds of volunteers who are ever-so-ready to be part of the voluntary cooking and serving process. The langar food is even sent thrice daily to the two Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC)-run hospitals in Amritsar, especially to a ward where treatment of mentally-ill patients and drug-addicts is being carried out. The SGPC is tasked with the management all Sikh shrines.

“We have over 500 volunteer employees. The sangat (community) also pitches in with great enthusiasm daily. People come from across Punjab on trucks and tractor-trolleys — even other states, different countries — to help in this massive exercise of making and serving food. Several local residents, including women, have been coming here for years. People take time out of their government and private jobs to serve here, irrespective of their religion or caste. We welcome everyone with love,” Wazir Singh, speaking in Punjabi, pointed out, even as he continued to issue instructions to staffers involved in cooking the langar.

The langar is all vegetarian — comprising mainly of dal (maa-chole ki dal), rice (slightly salted for taste), chapattis, achar (pickle) and a vegetable, along with something sweet (kheer or prasad). In the morning, the “chai langar” comprises of tea and rusk.

The devotees sit down on the matted floor inside the langar hall in rows. To manage the huge rush, the SGPC volunteers allow only a few hundred to enter the hall at one time. The whole operation is carried out in a meticulous manner as a daily routine.

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“The whole exercise is quite enormous but it goes on, with the blessings of the almighty, seamlessly. The daily expense is around Rs 15 lakh. We use 100 quintals (100 kg) rice and up to 30 kg (each) of dal and vegetables daily. Over 100 LPG cylinders (domestic size) are used daily for the cooking along with hundreds of kilograms of firewood for the traditional cooking. Nearly 250 kg of ‘desi ghee’ (clarified butter) is used in the cooking. We have over three lakh steel plates. We can serve 10 lakh (one million) people in a day,” Gurpreet Singh, in-charge of the kitchen, told IANS. SGPC functionaries pointed out that 30,000-35,000 people from Amritsar and nearby areas are daily visitors to the shrine and partake langar thrice. Many of these are migrants from other states and poor people who cannot afford meals.

“Our doors are open for everyone without discrimination. We follow the concept of equality here,” said Amrit Pal Singh, a SGPC official at the Information Office. The chapattis, in the thousands, are made on eight chapatti-making machines and even by hand by women and men volunteers. The steel utensils (plates, glasses and spoons), used by devotees, also numbering in lakhs, are washed voluntarily by the devotees themselves or by volunteers.

“The shrine complex has such a spiritual attraction about it. The langar served here leaves you satisfied in many aspects. The whole experience touches your soul,” Ramesh Goyal, a devotee from Bathinda, said.

“I had always heard about this shrine. Today, what I experienced was heavenly. The langar service is unparalleled in any religion. They do it with so much devotion and humility despite such huge crowds. It is unimaginable,” Tariq Ahmed, who had come here with his family from Patna in Bihar, told IANS. Anup Singh, a young Sikh devotee from Amritsar, often accompanies his grandparents and parents to the shrine.

Sikh Community, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh
Children belonging to Sikh Community, Wikimedia Commons 

“I love to serve chapattis to the people having langar. It is a very satisfying and fulfilling experience,” he said. “The whole exercise is carried out selflessly. It is a big task but everything is carried out smoothly. We keep introducing changes depending on the needs of the devotees,” Roop Singh, Chief Secretary of the SGPC, told IANS.

The SGPC, known as the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, manages the Golden Temple complex and gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. It has an annual budget of over Rs 1,100 crore, mostly from donations at the gurdwaras.

The Golden Temple complex itself gets millions of visitors from across the country and other parts of the world annually. The strong Sikh diaspora in other countries like United States, Britain and Canada actively contributes to the shrine and visits it whenever they can. IANS

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Opinion: It’s High Time That we Stop Objectifying Women

Sex is wonderful, beautiful, marvelous- but only when it is right! Sex can also be destructive, terrible and boring. Sex is what you make it, not what it makes you

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From flatcars to Xerox machines, bikes to baby food, sex is the common marketing tool with the covert sexual invitation- purchase me!

Sex today has been clubbed with the thought of pleasure. Our society is more inclined on the sensual. ‘Think about feeling good’, ‘Do as you desire’, ‘Let yourself go in the flow’, ‘It’s your life!’, ‘I will do what I like’, it’s a free country and I can do anything I like’. The individual centric, pleasure seeking philosophy in which ‘self’ is given the number one position in all areas of life.

Therefore, we are led into the search for physical excitement as the answer to our aching emptiness. Sex is delightful but it can’t be a philosophy driving our lives. Why is it that the highest compliment is to be sexy? How come so many people devote hours imagining about sex? Why is the reality so altered from sexual expectation? Where do all these sexual feelings come from? How can such obvious attitudes be avoided?

So many questions! Now more than before sex is at the uppermost of the agenda and people require to be speaking openly and justly with the demands that are upraised.

We talk or hear about predominantly of a friend of ours who had experimented early with casual sex. He’d narrate stories of what happened with all kinds of partners –and of course was mostly admired for his sexual capabilities. He had moved from ‘falling in love’ to ‘having sex’ and soared from one bed to the subsequent like some sex-overwrought butterfly.

The sexual notions validated in films and TV shows provide an inaccurate and fraudulent view which has become established as normal acceptable behavior. It is exceedingly destructive to only view sexual relationship as the height of romantic love.

Raymond Chandler notion about alcohol holds true of sex: ‘Alcohol is like love: the first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that, you just take the girl’s clothes off’.

Opinion: It’s high time that we stop objectifying women.

One of the properties of the sexual revolution has been the use of women in particular as objects for sexual manipulation.

Terrible proof of the casual and superficial attitudes to sex which treats women as objects with which to satisfy desire, as a collection of body parts, as some kind of mechanical device to please your sexual urges.

Sexual objectification involves viewing and treating another person’s body as an object valued based on its sexual appeal, usually to the neglect of other aspects of the person, such as their thoughts, feelings, and desires.

If we look at the world of advertising, a new type of woman has been created for consumption of desires of the society because this woman (created by the advertising world) has no wrinkles, blemishes, or scars, and her skin is totally perfect. Her eyes are splendidly bright and her bounteous breasts and buttocks are defying the ‘law of gravity’. Her teeth are white beyond imagination, flawlessly straight, and appear unreal. The problem is that it is very hard to find this woman in the real world as they do not really exist. She is the outcome of many hours spent in the make-up chair and days of photo renovating.

Also Read- Novel Hope for Stem Cell Approach to Treat Diabetes

Then we have Jadavpur University professor, Kanak Sarkar who compared a virgin woman to a “sealed bottle” on a Facebook post. In his post, Sarkar said, “Are you willing to buy a broken seal while purchasing a bottle of cold drink or a packet of biscuits? A girl is born sealed from birth until it is opened. A virgin girl means many things accompanied with values, culture, and sexual hygiene. To most boys, virgin wife is like angel.”

Though he has been taken off duties but he later said it was intended for “fun” among a group of friends on social media and “not for public consumption”.

Modern men are programmed to view women as sexual objects which has led in part to the way men view women as objects at work. The extent of this reappeared in the year 2017-2018 with the birth of the #MeToo and TimesUp movements birthed by sexual harassment claims made against Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein when American actress Ashley Judd passed her story to key news agencies. We have to move away from typical images of perfection by accepting “Photoshop-free,” women and celebrate the real-diverse women around us.

Gender inequality, sexual objectification, and sexist attitudes should become a remnant of the past. The worth of an individual, to any extent or aspect, should not be determined by their physical being.

By Anurag Paul

Writer | Photographer | Conversationalist | ex- Press Trust of India (PTI) & NewsGram | Connect on Facebook- Anurag Paul, Instagram- anuragpaulm or Email- anuragpaulm@outlook.com

Sex is wonderful, beautiful, marvelous- but only when it is right! Sex can also be destructive, terrible and boring. Sex is what you make it, not what it makes you.