I have been known to say ‘I don’t like people.” What I really mean is I don’t like the worst in humans – but when the warmth and generosity of spirit is about I can quite like people. At the Sikh temple in New Delhi I came across one of the nicest examples of humans being kind to each other.
Our group arrived at the temple in the late afternoon. The sun was still hot but the shadows of the buildings were cooling the tiles. We were obviously tourists with our white faces amongst the colourful saris and bold turbans. But like respectful people we joined the ritual cleaning of hands and feet and climbed the steps to the main complex. There were people about visiting the holy places and visiting with friends, paying contributions and sitting quietly. Beyond the courtyard, down some steps we found a man talking loudly to a silent group of people. They were sitting under cover of a large building which faced a narrow lane. Towards the end of the path were some wide doors. Our guide led us here and inside, down the corridor and suddenly we were in a huge kitchen.
This kitchen had some machinery but also a lot of people hand making food. This was the community kitchen which daily served 20,000 meals to anyone who came to the dining room. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor you could eat a free meal here. In the kitchen were lots of very well dressed citizens and they were happily giving of their time and energy to make these free meals.
One end of the room had a massive low bed of flour with men and women sitting around it rolling chapatis. I joined some of the others at the flour table and caused many a laugh as I tried to make chapatis. Somehow the dough didn’t want to be rolled into perfect circles. The Indian lady next to me had no trouble but my dough was just unruly.
After giving up and feeling sorry for the poor person who would eventually be served my chapatis we moved off with the group to stand by the dining room. We arrived just as the doors were opened and people streamed into the room. Along the floor were laid red strips of carpet. The silent people sat on this carpet and waited without murmur for the servers to bring them their food. Each tray had the same and I watched as a lady ate some of the food and stored the rest in a container to take home; maybe for someone else or maybe for another meal. She did this with the utmost dignity and without greed or hurry. It was a very peaceful scene and quite noticeable was the mix of class and dress. The Sikhs believe in service as a holy calling and they undertake to serve these meals every day of the year.
Mandy has been a tour leader with Tours Direct for over 15 years. She has a wealth of experience and never gets tired of travelling to old and new destinations.