This is the fourth year in a row that Bangkok-based Vanita Chawla came to Malacca to attend the largest annual gathering of Sikhs in Southeast Asia. She simply loves it!
“I just love everything about this programme,” she tells Asia Samachar when asked what brings her back to the Sant Baba Sohan Singh Ji Salaana Yaadgar Semagam. “Everything, actually.”
When pressed for one thing that stands out, the travel agency operator mulls for a moment. “The way they do the Langgar seva. They just show up and do it, no ego.”
Vanita is one of the thousands who attend the annual programme held annually towards the end of May to cherish the memory of the late Sikh granthi-parcharak Baba Sohan Singh. The programme, usually simply referred to as the Malacca barsi, ends tomorrow (27 May 2018).
“It’s a great to place to catch up with family and friends. I’m coming after a long time.”
“Lots of opportunities to do seva. You can go on non-stop.”
These were some of the other conversations overheard at the annual event.
SPIRIT OF SERVICE
It was just past midnight on Friday. One of the visitors was set to return to his hotel. There was a queue at the shoe safekeeping stall. This is where you deposit your footwear as you enter the Malacca gurdwara and an adjoining society headquarters.
One lone volunteer was manning the stall, trying his best to cater to those wanting to reclaim their shoes, some after a long day at the programme.
The visitor decided he could stay a little while longer and joined the lone volunteer at the shoe safekeeping stall. Together, they attended to the check out crowd in front of them.
This is just one of the examples of the many things that one can do at the programme, or any other similar Sikh events.
Of course, a lot more is happening. Dr Manjeet Kaur and a band of volunteer medical personnel are busy at the medical bay.
There is a group from a local dental clinic providing free dental check up. Another group is manning the blood donation campaign.
A good number of volunteers are involved in preparing the non-stop meals – from breakfast to dinner to supper. You get food and drinks no matter what the time throughout the four-day event which ends tomorrow (Sunday).
The non-stop reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is going on at the darbar sahibs (prayer hall) of the Gurdwara Sahib Malacca and Vidyala. Many take time to listen to the Sikh scripture reading, flowing in rhythm.
A few big names in the field of kirtan are also present to add weight to the programme. They sing Sikh hymns at what is called the kirtan darbar.
Outside the gurdwara complex, you can shop at the various temporary stalls selling all sorts of Punjabi items. From Punjabi suits to Punjabi sweets.
This year, newly elected federal government minister Gobind Singh Deo paid a visit to the event. He was well received by th gathered congregation, all still brimming and jubilant seeing a member of their community making it into the national Cabinet. It’s not something that Sikhs thought possible before in this country, though their fellow Sikhs in Canada have broken the barrier in 2015.
Joining Gobind were Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong and Kesidang state assemblyman Seah Shoo Chin.
As in the years past, Singaporeans and Indonesians are also present at the event. At least five chartered buses cane from across the causeway.
“My wife and I have been coming for many years,” said Sarban Singh, 82, who for many years helmed the education side of the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA).
You may be see him again here next year.
Newly minted minister Gobind Singh Deo visits Sikh gathering in Malacca (Asia Samachar, 25 May 2018)
Historic moment. Gobind becomes first Sikh minister in Asia outside India (Asia Samachar, 21 May 2018)