In the wake of the nationwide lockdown as a result of the Novel Corona Virus pandemic, the Gurdwara Management Committee of Fancy Bazar and Lalmati, Guwahati, has been organising Langar that feeds hundreds of needy people in collaboration with Assam police every day. This has been organised in order to ease the hardships being faced by the common people, especially the daily wage labourers.
On the occasion of Rangali Bihu, a group of Muslim women contributed and sponsored a langar. The Sikh Pratinidhi Board Eastern Zone, Dhubri Saheb, the apex representative and decision making and body of the Sikhs living in Northeast India lauded this gesture by their Muslim sisters. The Board also manages the historical Gurudwara Shri Guru Teg Bahadur Saheb Ji, Dhubri Saheb. Gurpreet Singh Uppal, the legal advisor of the Dhubri Gurudwara Committee said, “It’s a noble gesture by these women especially when the people are giving a communal colour to the pandemic. It sends out a strong message to defeat the negative forces and reinforces the idea that love is stronger than hatred.”
Originally, a Persian word, “Langar” literally means ‘an almshouse’ or ‘a place for the poor and needy.’ The community kitchen in the Sikh tradition ensures that nobody goes home in an empty stomach. They provide food to everyone in need of food, irrespective of their caste, class, religion and gender. Historian and author Rana Safvi explains, “When Sufi saints came to the sub-continent, they had established open house in their khanqahs and free langar or food for all. This was especially useful for travellers not only on the path of spirituality who came to hear their discourses by the saints but also commercial travellers. It was this ‘river-like generosity, sun-like bounty and earth-like hospitality’ as emphasized by Khwaja Muinuddin Chisti of Ajmer that popularised the Sufi langar. Even today, daily langar function in Ajmer Sharif dargah. Baba Farid’s langar in Ajodhan were famous, not for the quality of food which was very sparse but for the love and inclusiveness. This influenced Guru Nanak Dev ji too and today gurudwaras are famous for their langar. Sufi dargahs also continue with this tradition.”
Safvi added, “All Gurudwaras serve only vegetarian food. This is mostly to prevent ostentatious behaviour and to be able to serve maximum people. And that’s how the khanqahs served too.” People from all walks of life have come forward to support the Gurudwara in their endeavour. Appreciating this gesture of this group of Muslim women, L P Singh, senior advisor, Greater Guwahati Sikh Samaj, Fancy Bazar Gurudwara Prabandak Committee said, “It is a praiseworthy gesture. We are all praying for that we win the battle against the invisible and unknown enemy ie the virus, and our community leaders are appreciating the fact that these women have come forward to contribute to the cause.”
A busy Guwahati-based psychiatrist Nahid Islam said, “In these trying times the whole world is going through, there are always those kind and beautiful souls who never hesitate to lend a helping hand to people in need. I have always had great respect and admiration for the Sikh Gurudwaras who have been through all tough times untiringly helped the distressed and the needy. It was indeed a fulfilling experience for me to be a part of this endeavour.”
Apart from lunches, the Gurudwara is now planning to provide dinner as well to the needy people. They are providing food for upto 2500 people everyday. Shabnam Choudhury, a dental surgeon said, “We are glad that we could make this happen. Hope we can see a light at the end of the tunnel soon and together we can all overcome the crisis. Anthropologist Farzana Begum added, “Our contribution is a small effort in trying to bring succour to the needy people in this difficult time.” The other women who contributed to the langar included Farida Ahmed Haque, a banker, Dr Shabnam Ahmed, a Pathologist, Tinat Atifa Masood, a socio-political activist and writer, Dr Monsumee Alam, a microbiologist, Taanishi Inam, an entrepreneur, Teresa Rehman, a journalist, Zahida Islam Ahmed, a teacher, Sajeeda Islam Rashid, a beauracrat, Mahmuda Islam, homemaker and Dr Swabera Islam, an economist.