Sarjit Kaur | Roti for the Soul | 6 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
A journey of a lifetime ventured by eight siblings connecting to their roots and paying tribute to their Motherland. They ate, prayed, healed and loved. Their incredible adventure to Amritsar, Delhi and Agra is told in two parts.
The rim of his wheels squeaked against weathered rubber tyres. As he peddled, sand trickled on the ground and dusk permeated in the air. The evening sun was setting in. This youth vigorously peddled his three-wheeled rickshaw. Through him, we watched the world go by.
When we reached Rajouri Garden Mall, we paid him 50 rupees though we had haggled for Rs 20 earlier on. He looked at the currency with disbelief! I remembered our parshad or sweet offering and quickly placed Mars chocolates in his palm. He took a hard look, smiled and pressed his palms together, thanking us the good old fashioned way!
His fellow rickshaw mates watched in anticipation as he unveiled his treasure with pride and joy. “Chocolat”, he gestured in his local accent. He then placed them carefully in his pocket. As he made a U turn and peddled off, he took one last gaze at us. The expression on his face – as if saying “Is this all real?”
While my sister insisted on walking to the nearby mall, it dawned on us that certain journeys must be taken, because they teach us something to remember for life. We learnt and experienced ‘gratitude’ through the soul of his eyes and heart. In the end, what we seemingly do for others, we really do for ourselves.
The black and white drama on our TV screen came flashing back… The year was 1767. Kunta Kinte was captured and chained. Then shipped and sold into slavery in America. He was first generation, from Gambia. Alex Haley, the seventh generation descendant of Kunta Kinte traced his family history. From his roots in the African village to Maryland. His best-selling novel ‘Roots’ was adapted into a TV miniseries. It tracked each generation, describing their suffering, losses and eventual triumphs in America.
In March 2015, our family history was brought to life! Eight out of ten siblings and our sister-in-law went on a journey to reconnect to our roots. To Dad’s birth place in India. Where it all started. The place he left in search of a better future. For his future generations. Tara Singh, which means ‘star’ was this courageous and visionary musafir.
The highlight of our trip was our pilgrimage to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. We travelled via Shatabdi Express from Delhi, the Indian-equivalent of Orient Express. This joyful 6-hour train ride gave us a glimpse of the countryside of various districts namely Sirhind, Ludhiana, Phagwara, Jalandhar and Beas. We bonded and connected while savouring glorious authentic food served on board.
We discovered in Delhi that our Amritsar hotel bookings confirmed over the phone were not registered. Our own drama and suspense unfolded. Just like in the movies! It didn’t help, that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi decided to visit the Sikh holy city on the same day we arrived.
We read in the local papers that security personnel were beefed up with 7,000 officers mobilised. We saw armed officers at rooftops and streets. The roads leading to the Golden Temple were closed to heavy vehicles for 1.5 kilometres surrounding the complex. Perhaps that got the hotel staff vigilant, and not take customers during that period.
Having a big group like ours stranded, with no place to stay was completely worrying! After several frantic calls by my sister, a travel agent in Kuala Lumpur finally managed to get us into Le Golden Hotel which was just a 2-minute walk away from the Golden Temple. We were so relieved. It was divine intervention. This closer alternative turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Due to road closures to heavy vehicles, we had to travel to our Amristar hotel via auto rickshaw. Our respective drivers manoeuvred every nook and corner of the cowboy street while we watched the hive of activities at dhabas (restaurants) and sundry shops, from our vehicle. We did a selfie with our friendly Sardarji driver, much to his amusement and finally arrived in style at our hotel .
The queue to pray or matatekh at the Darbar Sahib was a breeze with most Indians shying away from the Golden Temple that day due to the Premier’s visit and road closures. We understand cricket matches is the other reason people stay indoors in India. It took us less than 15 minutes to clear the queue, which otherwise would last for more than an hour. The Gurdwara is typically visited by 40,000 devotees daily. Again, God cleared the path for us. We felt so blessed.
Harmandir Sahib is a real beauty. She is made from gilded copper and gold plate; dome and lotus shaped structures and marble tiling with mural art painting. She is surrounded by a serene man-made lake. To reach the temple, one has to take steps down the premise for an ego-free and humbled journey. We walked on the pathway around the Gurdwara in a clock wise motion, covering all four sides. Similar to the Ka’bah process, I thought.
A huge LED screen stood majestically on air, covering the meaning of the SGGS holy readings, live. We saw Modi from a close distance as he visited the Golden Temple. The closest we have and will ever get to any Indian Premier in our lifetime! We may have a connection in our past lives, perhaps.
Draped in sarung and holding on to the metal chain, we took three steps down and soaked in the sarovar or pool. I recited my ‘Mulmantar’ prayers underwater while envisioning the faces of loved ones. Sound currents echoed in my ear, as if I was in a different world. I was immersed in this plane. At dawn, we each took turns to have this cleansing and purifying dip. We basked in the glory of the morning surya.
We kissed the holy ground we stepped foot. We bowed in reverence to Him. We felt the sacred energy within the temple grounds. We soul searched. We engaged in conversations with Him. We teared. We healed. We all sat at the steps leading to the Akal Takht and prayed together in memory of our beloved parents. We never felt more complete as a family.
My sister had the honour of meeting our late Dad, Mum and brother in law who ‘visited’ the Golden Temple. She was comforted at seeing them happy and at peace. My other sister seated beside her, felt the vibration of their energy. That divine experience brought a ‘closure’ for both of them.
At the Amritsar airport, a little pigeon was trapped within the complex. My brother said he could do little, as it had entered a trespassed area. Not long after, we heard a thumping sound between the chair that my sister and I sat. It was the same pigeon. “Your wish has been granted”, I smiled.
My brother scooped and held the pigeon gently in his palms and proceeded to the exit door. I watched as he spread his palms open. The pigeon flew. Higher and higher into the sky. Until she was nowhere in sight. She was set free!
When I was at the Himalayan range in Nepal and upon the advice of my spiritual teacher; I prayed for the souls embedded within the rock, trees and creatures, to be set free. “They have been in that state for millions of years. Human beings are the highest form required, to merge with our Creator”, I recalled him saying. Since that incident, birds have become a visible feature in my life. Especially in the mornings when I drive to work. Upon seeing them, I pray for the elevation of their souls.
Birds also acted as messengers in ancient times, carrying pieces of written paper. My brother interpreted the episode – as the pigeon conveying a message to our late Dad about us. Dad was sure happy to see us in his homeland. Together as a family.
In Part 2, the writer shares their journey in Delhi and Agra.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
Roti for the Soul is a column on life and its quirks. Sarjit Kaur is a wife, mother and an official at the Malaysian stock exchange.
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Beautifully said when i read ur article it just reminded my journey to india.
Another wonderful article. Thanks for sharing your enjoyable trip to incredible India !
Beautifully written. I imagined going through the journey once again!