By Heera Singh | OPINION | MALAYSIA |
The concept of ‘Sewa‘ is a very important and significant aspect of Sikhism. In essence it means the provision of selfless service for the betterment of a community. Conceptually, it asks for all Sikhs to give up some of their time, talents and energy to help others and their community to become better. I was able to witness this concept first hand when I attended the Sant Sohan Singh Ji Barsi in Malacca, an annual Sikh religious festival, recently.
What was amazing was that the Malacca Gurdwara (temple) was able to carry out its operational and administrative activities during the festival without any formal workforce or any paid staff! As an example, they were able to serve free meals to approximately 3,000 people at any one given timein a very organised manner. There was no management structure i.e. no CEO, no managers, no supervisors and yet like clockwork, everything was being run very efficiently. Imagine the logistics involved in cooking and feeding 20,000 people! And yet the Gurdwara was able to do it brilliantly and only with volunteers!
I was involved quite intimately in the process as I wanted to see the concept from a first-hand perspective. I found that the volunteers came from all walks of life, from lawyers to engineers to clerks and also many retirees. They just came and did what they were comfortable with, some with the cooking chores, some with the washing, and some withthe serving. And when someone left to go to rest, somehow they were just replaced, and the work just went on. There was no one shouting orders, no one giving instructions and no onedirecting anyone. Some pro-active and experienced volunteers did however take on the role of informal supervisors which did enhance efficiency.
What is the secret to this concept of sewa? In one simple word it is called Faith! Faith made many Sikhs from all walks of life come from all over Malaysia to contribute their services for free. The motivating factor was very simple: they all wanted to attain spiritual fulfilment and fulfil their duties as a Sikh in doing sewa!
As they say, ‘faith can move mountains’ and here I saw it with my own eyes. No job was too difficult or demanding and everyone was ever willing to help in the name of faith. Physical comfort and personal well-being was cast aside in order to serve the community. I saw some women with tears flowing from their eyes having cut onions for almost three hours straight, which they normally would not do! Everyone just wanted to do their best without complaining.
All in all, it was an amazing experience for me. Apart from the spiritual fulfilment that I hopefully received, there were also management lessons that I took from the wonderful experience. Somewhere deep inside me, I know that perhaps the corporate world could learn a thing or two from this awesome concept of ‘sewa’.
The author, a retired Malaysian army officer, a leadership and motivation specialiast and author of a HR book Human Resources Documentation]. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or +6012-6083708]
Malacca Barsi unites 3 generations (Asia Samachar, 28 May 2019)
Spirit of service in full display at Malacca (Asia Samachar, 26 May 2018)
Heera Singh releases definitive HR guide book for Malaysian companies (Asia Samachar, 3 Jan 2019)