Thai Sikh Langar -a story of sharing, love, respect and tradition
The unofficial ambassador of the Sikhs -Harjinder Singh Kukreja, during a holiday in Thailand, participates in the Thai Sikh Langar Sewa for the homeless and needy in Bangkok and brings out tales of Thai Sikhs which will make us proud.
The Thai Sikh Langar is a story of sharing by Sikhs in Thailand drawing upon the Sikh tradition of Free Community Kitchen -the Langar. It is the tale of the unmitigated love and respect by Thai Sikhs for the erstwhile King of Siam -His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand (King Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty), who was a source of inspiration and had immense kindness and love for all his subjects.
I have always loved Thailand and the Sikh presence there. My major interactions with Thai Sikhs happened throughout my schooling in Hampton Court, Mussoorie until I completed high school from St. George’s, Mussoorie.
The current visit, though personal turned out to be an interaction with the who’s who of Thailand and their immense contribution to the industry, commerce and social service. It is a treat to listen to Sikhs speaking flawless Thai, perhaps some sounding even better than the Thais themselves, clearly showing the total integration of Sikhs into Thai society. A Sikh scholar Dildar Singh has even translated Sukhmani Sahib into the Thai language.
It was heart-warming to see close to a thousand homeless and needy people line up every Wednesday outside the Hualamphong -one of the main railway stations in Thailand, waiting for young Sikh volunteers to serve a proper Thai meal as part of their weekly Thai Langar Sewa, something which they have been doing with clockwise precision for the last two years.
When I participated in the Langar with my son, it was a Sikh homecoming, as doing the Langar Sewa whether in a mosque in Ludhiana or providing a wholesome meal to Sikligar Sikhs in my restaurant, has always been given me great joy. This is one aspect of the practical side of the Sikh way of life, which Sikhs enjoy as it gives us blessings and a chance to do humanitarian work.
“It was heart-warming to see close to a thousand homeless and needy people line up every Wednesday outside the Hualamphong -one of the main railway stations in Thailand, waiting for young Sikh volunteers to serve a proper Thai meal as part of their weekly Thai Langar Sewa, something which they have been doing with clockwise precision for the last two years”
My son -Rehras Singh and I were thrilled to participate in the Thai Langar Sewa. It was so soul-satisfying to see happiness in the eyes of the elderly when they partook Langar. I have always wondered as to why this world is so unequal, “why the world community, with all its progress, cannot guarantee a roof over the head and a simple wholesome meal to all world citizens.” It is quite disturbing to see homeless people in developing and developed countries too. Something is wrong with the distribution and sharing systems in developing as well as developed countries. I am thankful to my Gurus for giving us the tradition of Langar.
Pawan Singh told me that, “As such serving rice on the streets is not allowed in Thailand but because of the reputation of the Sikhs, there is no objection. Mr Pavin is really helpful and cooperative as going into railway stations is not easy.”
“The Sikh tradition is that when they start Langar, they make an announcement that “Langar is ready. Please do come and partake it.” I was delighted to see the senior-most official at the Bangkok railway station Mr Pavin making such an announcement in the Thai language, praising the Sikhs and urging those who were eating to be grateful God and the Sikhs.”
The Sikh tradition is that when they start Langar, they make an announcement that “Langar is ready. Please do come and partake it.” I was delighted to see the senior-most official at the Bangkok railway station Mr Pavin making such an announcement in the Thai language, praising the Sikhs and urging those who were eating to be grateful God and the Sikhs.
Pioneered by Awtar Singh Sachdev and Rinku Singh Chhabra, the weekly Thai Langar movement gained momentum after young Thai Sikh volunteers led by Pawan Singh have taken it to a new level. Of the many volunteers, I saw Pawan Singh, Amornjit Singh, Aviruth Singh, Varin Singh, Dusit Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Avtar Singh.
Interestingly, to spread awareness about the Sikh religion, the young Sikhs have developed a Thai Sikh water bottle which is distributed along with the food. With support from Sikhs from across Thailand, the Thai Langar Sewa in Bangkok will grow to reach out to more needy people. So, next time you are in Thailand and there is a Wednesday in your itinerary, join the Thai Sikh Langar Sewa at the Bangkok railway station and share happiness and joy.
Another significant Langar Sewa is being done by this group of the Thai Sikhs, wherein since the last 10 years, they have been providing food to immigrants who have been stuck in Thailand waiting to be sent back for want of proper documentation.
This is not all. In a tribute to the former King, the Sikh community in Thailand has committed to construct 72 school buildings in rural Thailand, out of which 29 buildings have already been completed and handed over to the authorities with each building to bear the nomenclature, “With the Blessings of Guru Nanak”. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the ceremony when the latest building in Sakorn Nakorn was inaugurated. The school building project sees the contribution and participation of leading Sikh personalities like Mohinder Singh Kumar, Darshan Singh Sachdev and Pinderpal Singh Madan and others.
My journey into the hearts and homes of Thai Sikhs continues.