| Jagdesh Singh | Opinion | Malaysia | 26 Dec 2015 | Asia Samachar |
By Jagdesh Singh
At the foothills, by a small stream in Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, lies a campsite of sorts that has housed about as many as 680 campers for the past seven days. It’s no small number considering the infrastructure that was put in place for these eager participants in just short of two months before the camp. It gets staggering when you start to add in the 270 volunteers as well. Visitors also throng in daily to enjoy the kirtan sessions hitting a peak of 800 people on the last evening of the Samelan. At any point in time, this land accommodated 1,500 people on average and the food from the langgar was in abundance.
Ever since 1963, the Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) has been organising these camps with precise and clear objectives. The main one being to create a conducive environment for Sikh children and teenagers to experience the life of a disciplined Sikh while learning aspects of Sikhi to be inculcated in their daily lives after the camp.
The tangible results from these camps over the years have been with a small number of the participants committing themselves to this lifestyle by partaking in the Khande Di Pahul Amrit initiation ceremony. I myself have personally witnessed many of these celebrations over the years and they are indeed inspiring. This year, 18 gave their ‘head’ to their Guru, symbolising the surrender to the Guru.
The intangible benefits are immense. Prayers, parchaar, sewa, friendships, satsang, memories, and fun.
Over the years, this camp has been a permanent mark on many a calendar in Sikh households across the country, as well as neighboring countries. So consistent it has been that it has been made a template for many other Sikh organisations around the region to follow and to improve on.
This year, the Samelan organising committee took a bold step, deviating dramatically from the template. Instead of renting a school, with the classrooms and halls to be used for the participants, they instead built the camp literally from ground up in Khalsa Land, a 22-acre piece of land owned by the Sabha, located on the fringe of a forest reserve.
Many, including myself, were skeptical with this ambitious idea, more so with the short period to prepare.
Many of us were vocal about our concerns. The matter was rigorously debatred at the SNSM’s annual general meeting. But the committee, egged by the Sabha Jathedar Pavandeep Singh himself, persisted. They had presented their plans at the meeting earlier this year. Safe to say, he allayed these fears and the team persisted forward with their plans.
“We have to start somewhere,” Pavandeep tells me in a chat when asked the reasons for going through with the Khalsa Land plan.
“We did our calculations and mostly for permanent. We talked and got input from naujawans from all over. Kids are fed up with the school environment. They wanted something more. It’s now or never.”
This was the first time in decades that the participants enjoyed air conditioned sleeping quarters, classrooms, water heaters in some bathrooms and a magnificent marquee made into an air conditioned Grand Darbaar. Everyone seemed comfortable.
I have to say that he was spot on in terms of the environment created this time. The surrounding hills and greenery, the fresh air, was appreciated with gusto by each participant. And having the certainty that this land belonged to each and everyone of them instead of being borrowed from others felt different. There was a stronger sense of ownership, by both participants and volunteers.
And judging from the smiles and laughter from the children and teenagers, the word on the ground indicated that the Samelan met its objectives this year in making them experience what they were supposed to experience and learn. They learned, they sang, they played, they prayed within a safe and conducive environment, taught and coached by sevadaars from all corners of Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore.
It was a little surreal to see this time around that every single one of the participants and volunteers didn’t need to send off their Guru from the Samelan grounds as the Guru Granth Sahib belonged to the Khalsa Land [there is already a Darbar Sahib running at Khalsa Land, with the Guru Granth Sahib parkash]. There wasn’t that empty feeling when it happened every year before. The goodbyes weren’t so hard this time.
To certify the Samelan a success would be a tad premature. The camp review would provide the necesary details on the magnitude of effort required and the actual cost incurred. Questions will no doubt be raised by the sanggat about the monies used because the funds are, after all, from the sanggat themselves.
For now, I give kudos to all involved for a wonderful Samelan in Khalsa Land for the first very time. Pavandeep and his team has now proved it all possible. They have paved the way forward.
Jagdesh Singh, one of the volunteer editors at Asia Samachar, has been a volunteer facilitator at the SNSM camps for about a decade.
[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]
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