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A beautiful, free lunch

King and poor man are treated equally at Sikh "kitchen for all."

 The ladies chant Sati Namu. Waheguru as they make chapatis
The ladies chant Sati Namu. Waheguru as they make chapatis
Place

Sikh Temple (Gurdwara)

12269 Oak Knoll Road, Poway

“You need to take your shoes off and put a covering on your hair.”

He says it in the kindest possible way. Vikash Kumar. He ties a triangular orange scarf over my head.

Because this is a Sikh temple. Around us women are chanting Sati Namu. Waheguru. Sati Namu. Waheguru. Sati Namu, as they flap together chapatis and toss them on the hot plate.

“It means ‘True Name of God,’” says Ritu, one of the women. “This is what will make them so delicious. They have the blessing of God.”

I started looking for a Gurdwara — Sikh temple — when I heard some guy talking about their famous golden temple in Amritsar in India. And, okay, how every temple looks forward to feeding visitors.

I found these guys here in Poway.

Ritu rolls chapati — not unlike tortillas.

This is a Sunday around twelve. I’m in the langar — the “kitchen for all.” The women make dough balls, then squeeze them out flat with wooden rollers, chanting and chatting, keeping their salwar kurdas — traditional top and pants — and veils out of the way with black aprons. They toss the chapatis on the hot plate, and after they’re cooked, an elderly man in a red turban and a suit rubs each with a slab of butter and adds it to a pile.

Vikash and Balvinder discuss stew

Others stir giant pots bubbling with a stew of cheese, peas, potatoes, or with dal (dried lentils, peas, beans). A lady named Balvinder (“It means ‘strong’”) stirs the lentils. She has a red scarf and green top, and keeps the black Apple watch on her left wrist above the splashes. Next to her, Salwinder Singh, a gent with a plum-colored turban and a gray beard, sweeps a bowl of fresh-chopped parsley into the dal pot.

Salwinder Singh adds herbs to dal mix

Behind him, Girish is putting black tea, ginger, cardamom and sugar together to make a big pot of tea.

“Is it okay if I visit the service?” I ask Jamal Logari. He’s also helping in the kitchen. Sunday service is about to start next door. I’m curious.

“Of course,” he says. “We are open to all people of all religions. Or atheists!”

So I pad across in my socks to the big wooden place that looks like a Midwest barn, but used to be a church. Inside, people are scattered cross-legged on the carpeted floor or on cushioned benches around the walls. A man sits behind an altar with a whisk, fanning what must be a holy book covered under drapes.

Beside him, two bearded men, cross-legged on the carpet, get into action. One starts bopping away at a set of Indian tabla drums, and the other plays an Indian-style hand-pumped harmonium. Soon he begins singing. Some of the people join in choruses. Other times he reads scripture. All the time people are coming up to the altar, kneeling down, then receiving a small piece of food from a lady who’s also operating a Mac that screens the day’s quotations and translations on the wall.

“You shall hear the vibrations of the tinkling bells,” says one quote, “when your mind is held steady.”

Kids run back and forth, but they’re quiet. After an hour, at the end of lots of sometimes emotional singing and quoting from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, a guy comes around and hands out a small lump of sweet, wet bread to all of us.

“This is the Karah Parshad,” he says.

Mmm. Sweet. Juicy. Like a sweet bread mixture before you bake it. Sugary, oily. You’re supposed to receive it in your bowl-shaped hands to show respect. They even make sure they’ve made it from equal amounts of semolina flour, clarified butter, and sugar. The idea is to symbolize equality, as between women and men, rich and poor.

I’m kinda moved and grateful to be allowed in to such an intimate, sacred moment.

So now I’m working my way back through a sea of shoes and kids and old people into the langar.

Everybody helps out at the temple meal: rich, poor, young, old

I shuffle in with the line — again, they emphasize the line here: it says it doesn’t matter if you’re a king or a poor man, you’ll get treated equally, when your turn comes around. Soon enough, the volunteer servers start splotting in lentils, then the paneer (Indian cheese), peas, potatoes, ghee, sweet rice, salad, and a wrap-up of hot chapatis. Like tortillas, but crisper. Great for grabbing the lentils or the curry with. Natch, we’re talking vegetarian food all the way.

My meal- stew of cheese, potatoes, peas; rice; chapati; onions; rice-based desserts

Lots of kids wearing orange head-scarves like mine hurry round offering water to everyone. “Uh, tea?” I ask. “Just a moment,” a girl says, and heads off for an urn I hadn’t spotted. Comes back with this cup of steaming strong, sweet, gingery tea. Man. Works well with the chapati and potato curry tastes.

This is when I meet this gal in a turban, wearing a lethal-looking Sikh ceremonial dagger. Her name’s Harisimran. American. She is an MBA, a CPA, and runs the Duwara Consciousness Foundation (motto: “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”) She had a totally interesting childhood, half in the States, but with long patches at school in India. Mother American, father English. “What do I love about this religion? Sikhs welcome everybody. Have you heard of the temple at Amritsar? Every day they feed from 30,000 to 40,000 people. It’s the largest free catered meal in the world. Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, free thinkers, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. They all come. Everyone’s welcome. That’s what makes Sikhism special.”

Harisimran and Davinder,

Harisimran says she and her Punjabi-English husband, Davinder, have set up two food programs right here, Tuesdays at Carlsbad’s Holiday Park, and Thursdays at Joe Balderrama Recreation Center in Oceanside.

I’m impressed. It’s been a beautiful, free lunch. But, guess it’s time to put the shoes on, take the kerchief off, and get back out to the real world, where they say there’s no such thing.

The Places: Langars in the Park include Holiday Park, 3333 Eureka Place, Carlsbad (Tuesdays); Joe Balderrama Recreation Center, 709 San Diego Street, Oceanside (Thursdays)

Hours: 7-8pm

Prices: Free

Buses: 944 (Poway); 325 (Carlsbad); 303 (Oceanside)

Nearest Bus Stops: Poway Road at Oak Knoll Road (Poway); Pio Pico Drive and Eureka Place (Carlsbad); Mission at San Diego Street (Oceanside)

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 The ladies chant Sati Namu. Waheguru as they make chapatis
The ladies chant Sati Namu. Waheguru as they make chapatis
Place

Sikh Temple (Gurdwara)

12269 Oak Knoll Road, Poway

“You need to take your shoes off and put a covering on your hair.”

He says it in the kindest possible way. Vikash Kumar. He ties a triangular orange scarf over my head.

Because this is a Sikh temple. Around us women are chanting Sati Namu. Waheguru. Sati Namu. Waheguru. Sati Namu, as they flap together chapatis and toss them on the hot plate.

“It means ‘True Name of God,’” says Ritu, one of the women. “This is what will make them so delicious. They have the blessing of God.”

I started looking for a Gurdwara — Sikh temple — when I heard some guy talking about their famous golden temple in Amritsar in India. And, okay, how every temple looks forward to feeding visitors.

I found these guys here in Poway.

Ritu rolls chapati — not unlike tortillas.

This is a Sunday around twelve. I’m in the langar — the “kitchen for all.” The women make dough balls, then squeeze them out flat with wooden rollers, chanting and chatting, keeping their salwar kurdas — traditional top and pants — and veils out of the way with black aprons. They toss the chapatis on the hot plate, and after they’re cooked, an elderly man in a red turban and a suit rubs each with a slab of butter and adds it to a pile.

Vikash and Balvinder discuss stew

Others stir giant pots bubbling with a stew of cheese, peas, potatoes, or with dal (dried lentils, peas, beans). A lady named Balvinder (“It means ‘strong’”) stirs the lentils. She has a red scarf and green top, and keeps the black Apple watch on her left wrist above the splashes. Next to her, Salwinder Singh, a gent with a plum-colored turban and a gray beard, sweeps a bowl of fresh-chopped parsley into the dal pot.

Salwinder Singh adds herbs to dal mix

Behind him, Girish is putting black tea, ginger, cardamom and sugar together to make a big pot of tea.

“Is it okay if I visit the service?” I ask Jamal Logari. He’s also helping in the kitchen. Sunday service is about to start next door. I’m curious.

“Of course,” he says. “We are open to all people of all religions. Or atheists!”

So I pad across in my socks to the big wooden place that looks like a Midwest barn, but used to be a church. Inside, people are scattered cross-legged on the carpeted floor or on cushioned benches around the walls. A man sits behind an altar with a whisk, fanning what must be a holy book covered under drapes.

Beside him, two bearded men, cross-legged on the carpet, get into action. One starts bopping away at a set of Indian tabla drums, and the other plays an Indian-style hand-pumped harmonium. Soon he begins singing. Some of the people join in choruses. Other times he reads scripture. All the time people are coming up to the altar, kneeling down, then receiving a small piece of food from a lady who’s also operating a Mac that screens the day’s quotations and translations on the wall.

“You shall hear the vibrations of the tinkling bells,” says one quote, “when your mind is held steady.”

Kids run back and forth, but they’re quiet. After an hour, at the end of lots of sometimes emotional singing and quoting from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, a guy comes around and hands out a small lump of sweet, wet bread to all of us.

“This is the Karah Parshad,” he says.

Mmm. Sweet. Juicy. Like a sweet bread mixture before you bake it. Sugary, oily. You’re supposed to receive it in your bowl-shaped hands to show respect. They even make sure they’ve made it from equal amounts of semolina flour, clarified butter, and sugar. The idea is to symbolize equality, as between women and men, rich and poor.

I’m kinda moved and grateful to be allowed in to such an intimate, sacred moment.

So now I’m working my way back through a sea of shoes and kids and old people into the langar.

Everybody helps out at the temple meal: rich, poor, young, old

I shuffle in with the line — again, they emphasize the line here: it says it doesn’t matter if you’re a king or a poor man, you’ll get treated equally, when your turn comes around. Soon enough, the volunteer servers start splotting in lentils, then the paneer (Indian cheese), peas, potatoes, ghee, sweet rice, salad, and a wrap-up of hot chapatis. Like tortillas, but crisper. Great for grabbing the lentils or the curry with. Natch, we’re talking vegetarian food all the way.

My meal- stew of cheese, potatoes, peas; rice; chapati; onions; rice-based desserts

Lots of kids wearing orange head-scarves like mine hurry round offering water to everyone. “Uh, tea?” I ask. “Just a moment,” a girl says, and heads off for an urn I hadn’t spotted. Comes back with this cup of steaming strong, sweet, gingery tea. Man. Works well with the chapati and potato curry tastes.

This is when I meet this gal in a turban, wearing a lethal-looking Sikh ceremonial dagger. Her name’s Harisimran. American. She is an MBA, a CPA, and runs the Duwara Consciousness Foundation (motto: “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”) She had a totally interesting childhood, half in the States, but with long patches at school in India. Mother American, father English. “What do I love about this religion? Sikhs welcome everybody. Have you heard of the temple at Amritsar? Every day they feed from 30,000 to 40,000 people. It’s the largest free catered meal in the world. Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, free thinkers, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter. They all come. Everyone’s welcome. That’s what makes Sikhism special.”

Harisimran and Davinder,

Harisimran says she and her Punjabi-English husband, Davinder, have set up two food programs right here, Tuesdays at Carlsbad’s Holiday Park, and Thursdays at Joe Balderrama Recreation Center in Oceanside.

I’m impressed. It’s been a beautiful, free lunch. But, guess it’s time to put the shoes on, take the kerchief off, and get back out to the real world, where they say there’s no such thing.

The Places: Langars in the Park include Holiday Park, 3333 Eureka Place, Carlsbad (Tuesdays); Joe Balderrama Recreation Center, 709 San Diego Street, Oceanside (Thursdays)

Hours: 7-8pm

Prices: Free

Buses: 944 (Poway); 325 (Carlsbad); 303 (Oceanside)

Nearest Bus Stops: Poway Road at Oak Knoll Road (Poway); Pio Pico Drive and Eureka Place (Carlsbad); Mission at San Diego Street (Oceanside)

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Comments
2

"Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, free thinkers, rich, poor, it doesn’t matter." What a marvelous attitude. A perfect world would be just like that. Thanks for sharing this, Ed.

May 31, 2018

I was inspired too, dw

June 1, 2018

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