None Compares to You!
ਡਿਠੇ ਸਭੇ ਥਾਵ ਨਹੀ ਤੁਧੁ ਜੇਹਿਆ ॥
Guru Granth Sahib 1361
“Share with me your experience of visiting the Golden Temple,” says Hitesh Kumar, the man with whom I have dueled with way too many times. The man who has also facilitated numerous skirmishes and sided with me on various occasions during the curating of the IN5 Experium: The Golden Temple of Amritsar exhibition.
It has been a healthy banter which I enjoyed immensely.
And so, I oblige and write this essay for him.
It is around 10 a.m.
I enter the Sri Harimandar Sahib complex.
I remove my shoes, dip my feet in the cold water and slowly climb up the stairs.
I am on the landing.
My eyes feast on the magnificence of the scene.
The Jewel glistening in the midst of a shimmering pool of water.
I can hardly believe that I am finally here.
I am overwhelmed.
Being apprehensive of crowds, I had told myself I didn’t need to go into the inner sanctum.
Instead, I’ll sit outside and pay my respects.
A tall man dressed in white, with a glowing face appears in my line of vision.
He is smiling.
He raises his left arm and points towards the sanctum, urging me to go there.
Slowly, I walk down the stairs and proceed towards it.
It is as if; I am being pulled towards it.
A thought arises: Am I worthy to enter?
I tread ever so slowly.
Every step seems heavy.
It is as if I am carrying the weight of many lifetimes.
If ever there was a private moment, this is it.
It is as if I am alone, yes! I am alone.
There are thousands of people around me, yet I don’t see them or hear them.
What engulfs me: Am I worthy?
Every step I take is in total awareness.
An awareness that I am walking on sacred ground.
I say sacred because centuries of Sikh blood has flowed protecting, defending, building and rebuilding this Jewel.
It is an inner pilgrimage… Am I worthy?
I can barely breathe.
My eyes are brimming.
“Am I worthy?” …resounds within.
I walk onto the bridge.
There are no lines.
No one is pushing or shoving me.
I enter the sanctum.
Sabad (Infinite Wisdom) resounds within.
The heaviness seems to have lifted.
My every step is filled with gratitude.
My head touches the ground.
A current goes through me.
A deep silence descends.
I see no one.
All I hear is Sabad resounding within me.
I walk upstairs.
There is a place for me to sit.
My eyes close.
Time stands still.
A couple of hours goes by.
I leave the sanctum and walk towards the langar (community kitchen) hall.
The doors are open.
There are no lines.
I sit down and miraculously; everything appears before me.
The faces of the sevadars (volunteers) are glowing; they seem so happy to serve me. I have never been served with such love.
The langar is of kari-caul, (yogurt-based curry with chickpea-flour fritters and rice) my all-time favorite.
Shamelessly, I take two servings, which I have never done before.
I leave the langar hall satiated and joyful.
I call my mother, “Mother, your kari is the best, but today I ate kari that was far better than yours.”
She laughs, “Guru knew you were coming, therefore served you your favorite food. There is no comparison.”
To this day, I have not tasted a kari better than the day I ate kari at Sri Harimandar Sahib.
It is twilight.
The sun is setting.
Orange hues grace the sky.
Thousands of voices from every part of the Sri Harimandar Sahib complex are reciting the evening prayer.
The atmosphere is charged.
The energy is amazing.
It is a beautiful sight.
I stand up for Ardas (collective supplication).
It seems like everyone has stopped as well.
There is no movement.
The earth and the sky meet.
It is all one.
There are no boundaries.
There is no distance.
The vastness embraces me.
I am being absorbed into an energy, which is hard to describe.
And when my head touches the cool marble, I literally melt.
I want the ground to open and swallow me.
There is no other place that I want to be, but here.
This is it.
This is home.
Tears flow unabashedly.
With my forehead resting on the marble floor, I say, “Can I just stay here? I won’t take up too much room. I’ll just sit in a corner and not ask for much.”
I hear, “You need to go back. You have work to do.”
What can I say?
What can I do?
With a heavy heart, I walk back to my hotel.
Was this submission?
Did I truly not care who walked all over me?
Is this love?
Is this what happens in love?
When you willingly allow the one you love to walk all over you.
What type of a love is this where you are willing to annihilate yourself, so that you can be with your love?
The Next Morning
It is 3:30 a.m.
It is cold and dark as I walk towards the sanctum.
It is quiet.
I walk up the stairs and sit there.
I am in a daze.
Everything seems to be moving ever so slowly.
I listen but cannot absorb.
I am just there, being cradled.
The fragrance is sweet.
I drift in and out.
It is 5:30 a.m.
I leave the sanctum and head back to the hotel.
I am cold and yearning for a hot cup of tea.
But the hotel does not have tea provisions in the room.
And, there is nothing open this early.
Suddenly, I hear, “Biba, cha-langar (daughter/sister, tea-offering).”
I stop and before I know it, I am handed a small white plastic glass of hot tea and a generous handful of phulvari (fried rice-crackers).
I am overwhelmed.
I sit on the concrete raised floor of a shutter-closed shop and sip my tea with streaming tears.
Guru heard and provided – how blessed are you resounds within.
I am in another realm.
When I come down to earth, I find a homeless man sitting to my left sipping tea. I look at him and we speak as if it is the most natural thing to do. Both of us are in gratitude for the hot tea.
To this day, I cannot believe that I, ‘Miss Prim and Proper’ sat on the pavement in Amritsar and drank tea. And for not one moment did I feel any anxiety or hesitation sitting beside that homeless man. In fact, I felt he and I were one. At that moment, I understood the meaning of langar. It resonated within me and I grew.
This is the power of Guru that can transform petty beings like me!
I send the essay to Hitesh.
He calls, “I don’t know if I can capture those emotions while filming Sri Harimandar Sahib, but I am sure going to try.”
“And the next time you go to Darbar Sahib, I want to go with you. When will that be?” he asks.
“When my Swami (Owner) says, “Come here...”