December 27, 2017 8:58:46 am
“KOI HISAB nai (There is no specific number),” says Gurmeet Singh Sodhi about the number of people who have stopped at the langar established by Gurdwara Jhanda Sahab near Landran.
It’s that time of the year when all roads lead to Fatehgarh Sahib, and all Fatehgarh Sahib roads lead to food. On the road from Mohali to Shaheedi Jor Mela, it is impossible not to run into a langar every few kms, offering everything from the simple dal-roti to the more exotic sarson da saag and kaju badam da kheer. As devotees gather to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the Chotta Sahibzadas, the community kitchens set up by people alongside the road are the food map of the mela.
It begins at Phase VII in Mohali and thereafter there is a continual line of residents having set up the makeshift kitchens at different spots, intermittently after 1 or 2 km right upto the gurdwaras in this town. Enthusiastic volunteers deploy themselves across both sides of the road, handing over plates of food to travellers.
The Jhanda Sahab Gurdwara has already spent Rs 6 lakh since Monday in preparing the pakodas, kheer, bread and tea to serve to the devotees who are on way to Fatehgarh Sahib. A number of vehicles, including bikes and cars, have stopped at the Landran langar, 18 km from Fategarh Sahib.
On offer were bread pakoras, rotis and gajar ki sabzi, and chai.
“We are here from 9 am to 4 am till Monday,” says Sodhi, who is supervising the preparations at community kitchen. “Everyone has contributed to this and it is a service towards the community.”
There is a brief traffic jam at every community kitchen as the young volunteers wave down motorists and others and persuade them to partake of the offerings. Amplifiers are in use at most of the kitchens, blaring out devotional hymns, names of the available food items and at some places, songs praising militant leaders of Punjab’s past.
“We have been organising the langar for past five years and it gives peace to the heart to serve the devotees travelling towards Fatehgarh Sahib,” says Jagtar Singh, who along with other residents from Hulka Banur established the community kitchen at Todar Majra on the Fatehgarh-Landran road on Tuesday.
Here, kaju-badam kheer was the chief attraction and a huge crowd of people was waiting to be served. The sewadars were serving in disposable paper cups.
At most of the langars, both women and men were making the food items in tents installed on the roadside while children as young as 10 to 12 year and people over 60 years offered plates of food and cups of kheer and tea to the devotees travelling towards Fatehgarh Sahib.
“We have been holding the langar for past 30 years. I think the number has only increased as society has advanced. It is a tradition that will continue and has continued for long,” says Gurmeet Singh Khalsa, one of the organisers at Majra bus stand.
The langars have put the dhabas out of business for this week. The dhabas were open but empty, as there was no shortage of food all along the 34-km-plus road from Mohali up to Fatehgarh Sahib.
Suneel Kumar and his NRI friend Harmeet Singh had just five months ago set up the Aussi Dhaba at Naimu Majra but looking at the enthusiasm along the road, he too has joined in the fervour and has set up a langar.
“We are offering bread pakodas and chai. All the workers of the dhaba and family members have joined in the effort,” Kumar said. “I have spent Rs 80,000 on it but the inner feeling is priceless.”
Near Chunni village, a langar is offering the food of the season — makki di roti and sarson da saag — along with chatti ki lassi. There was a huge rush of people at this stall. Trippers from Chandigarh were tucking into the traditional delicacy with gusto.
But not everyone is on the food trip. Instead of a community kitchen, Iqbal Singh has put up a roadside hoarding demanding to know why this food feat was taking place on a solemn occasion.
“Sahibzadian di shaddat naal mazaak kyun? Apne ghar vich 7 ya 9 saal de bache di maut to baad jalebian ate pakoreyan da langar kde nahi tan fer sahibzadeyan di shahadi wale din kyu (Why this joke with the martyrdom of the sahibzadas? If children of age seven or nine die at our homes, we do not hold a langar of jalebis and pakoras, then why on the martyrdom day of sahibzadas?)”
Iqbal Singh, who owns Bhura da Dhaba, added that from the next year he is planning to distribute pamphlets to make the people aware that they should not hold langars on the eve of the martyrdom. “People have made it a fashion and do not respect the sanctity of the days. I think it would change in four-five years,” Iqbal says.
But he is an exception. Devotees are continuing to march towards Fategarh Sahib and as they do that, treat their taste buds with the free food along the way.
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