Golden   // jeff

Gingerly walking through the trough of running water and covering my head with a bandana, I step out of the chaos and noise of the street, onto the cool marble tiles and wonder at the floating golden temple in front of me. The lake reflecting a perfect, shimmering opposite just beneath. The sound of the Sikh priests singing hymns rings around the complex – the even, soothing melodies calming the nerves and welcoming all who visit. Despite so many other guests, this place feels like an oasis of peace.

We walk around the lake several times, taking in the temple from all angles, all reflections. We sit and watch the Indian sightseers, who watch us in return. All of us tourists to this holy site. Stepping up the stairs towards the Langar (free community kitchens), a feature of all Sikh temples, the sound of clanging metal plates, bowls and cups begins to drown out the holy songs from the loudspeakers. On the way through the doors we are handed a plate, a bowl and a spoon.

The dining hall is a huge open space, with people sitting on the floor in neat rows all around us. We join the closest row that is rapidly forming and take up cross legged positions. Volunteers go down the line with food, serving each person from large tin buckets or oversized baskets. The food is simple, delicious and refilled readily. This is easily the most efficient thing we have seen in India so far.

On the way out, our plates are collected by yet another volunteer. We can see the dishwashing nearby, a massive operation involving sixty or eighty more volunteers surrounding long metal sinks. From the kitchen we return to the calm cool marble walkway, refueled for a few more laps.



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