Peace, unity, compassion seems far out of reach these days with all the complexities of life. Being around hopeful, active, optimistic people serving a greater good is the experience of sangat, it’s not out of reach at all. This is the experience I felt when I participated in Langaar 2012.
UNITED SIKHS asked me to represent the USA in one of its creative projects for the London 2012 Olympics Torch Relay. I was honoured and a bit selfish when I accepted the offer. Honored because they thought I was worthy of representing the UNITED SIKHS and selfish because I heard that Fauja Singh was going to be carrying the torch and I would meet him. It’s been a personal dream of mine to meet him. I first heard of Fauja Singh and his quest to run for charity about ten years back, when he was at the tender age of 92. After learning more about him, I was inspired to run a marathon as well. Yeap, did it once and that was enough for me. It’s a mental challenge more than a physical one, I understood why discipline was important. Discipline in diet, in exercising, simply in life!
July 20, 2012, in London, I was picked up by Sun Kaur, a beautiful, dedicated, determined soul. She’d been making deliveries since 6:30am to Gurdwaras participating in Langaar 2012. We became delivery girls for the day, delivering stickers, fliers, t-shirts, making sure they understand how to make ‘roti rolls’ and where and when to be at their stations to serve Langaar along the Relay route. I was amazed to hear how many Gurdwaras were taking part in the event. It’s hard enough for 2 Gurdwaras to agree to participate in an event, let alone FIFTEEN. By 8:30pm after all the deliveries were made, we arrived at the Gurdwara in Ilford.
We were greeted by so many ‘valahti’ volunteers. They drove hours to participate in this seva. In all the excitement of meeting one another from near and far, London, Birmingham, Canada and of course I’ve got to represent, US, we didn’t sleep all night. At the crack of dawn, 4am, we gathered to start the process of roti rolling, sabji stuffing, burrito-like wrapping, and sticker sticking. What a beautiful moment it was to do seva, the sangat singing ‘Asa di Vaar’ and “satnam waheguru…” I didn’t want that moment to end. By the time it was 9am, we had made 600 “Roti rolls”, half-way done but we only had a few more hours.
Wait! Do you hear that? ‘Baba ji (being respectful to his age) ahgahey”. All dressed in white, it’s Fauja Singh! The cameras come flying out and the flashes go crazy. The bibis elbow any one in their way, the bhajis slide their hands on their pughs before posing next to the superstar. Everyone is fighting for time with this inspiration, who walks in with his hands folded. He’s no academic or prodigy, in fact he can’t read or write, yet he has inspired so many people by living simply. The seva slows down for a bit as we take turns wanting to spend time with Fauja Singh. We want him to know we gathered, not for the Olympics, but because we are proud he’s chosen to run part of the Relay holding the Olympic torch. He’s the perfect one to represent a GurSikh. He’s Sabat Soorat, alert, talkative, optimistic, inspiring AND he’s 101 years old. Unbelievable he is!
A quick visit by Fauja Singh and it’s back to the seva with full force. More and more sangat joined, more assembly lines were formed and we did it. If only every sangat gathering could be this united, this motivated, imagine what we could accomplish. It’s 11am and we gather to get into our yellow “Langaar 2012” volunteer t-shirts, pack up the cars and head out to Relay Route. Along the Relay route our volunteers stood distinguished by the yellow t-shirts and dastaars. In all there were over 10,000 roti rolls made, served and devoured by spectators of the Olympic Relay route.
Then there was the moment, at 1:50pm, the Sevadars, spectators, and sports fans line up along the street waiting for the moment Fauja Singh will carry the Olympic torch. Of course the press is there and Singhs spot them to make sure they are noticed, videotaped and perhaps interviewed. But no one steals the show like Fauja Singh. There he is surrounded by security in grey uniforms, in the middle a beam of white light, Fauja Singh runs with the torch.
Langaar 2012 was splendid, spectacular and once in a life time moment. Thank you UNITED SIKHS, UK for uniting us to honor a legend and serve langaar and thank you UNITED SIKHS, USA for letting me experience a moment of peace, unity, and compassion.
UNITED SIKHS – USA volunteer