22 Aug Pitching in at the Golden Temple
Posted at 18:55h in South AsiaWritten by Teevin Fournier and April Vanderwal, 2016 India: Gender and Religion During the late summer India: Gender and Religion program, participants visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Here, two participants reflect on their experiences pitching in on the temple’s daily tasks.
Part One: Teevin Fournier
The main attraction in Amritsar is the Golden Temple. This temple is the most historic religious centre in Sikhism, and while it is a pilgrimage site, it is neither a mandatory place of pilgrimage nor worship. The temple is open to everyone regardless of social standing, gender, or religion, as Sikhs believe that everyone prays to the same God. Free meals are served to thousands of people everyday at the temple complex. Upon finishing a modest meal, one has the opportunity to provide community service in the form of chopping vegetables or doing the dishes. When leaving the eating hall, the sound of clashing tin plates, bowls, and spoons bombards the senses. After standing stunned for a moment, the choice must be made: straight for dishes, or right for chopping? Straight for the dishes. I may not love washing dishes at home, but being squished between two women and plunging my hands into a trough of water to grab a dish before sudsing it up with the soap-filled cloth has a certain kind of charm.
Finishing my chai, I got up to place it in the trough. This time, one of the women I stood between noticed I had no soap, and handed me a soap filled cloth seemingly out of thin air. I then joined in the rhythm of the clanking and banging and splashing. For probably the next hour or so, I did my best to stick to the rhythm (clumsy as I was) and make sure I paid with my time for the delicious chai I was given.
Part Two: April Vanderwal
Part Two: April Vanderwal
When I first walked up to the women chopping vegetables, I was a little intimidated. I stood around for a second, not sure what to do or where to go, while all the women sitting around a pile of potatoes, chopping away, eyed me curiously. I sat down between two women who quickly made space for me and mimicked a chopping motion with my hands, to show I needed a knife. Someone across the circle quickly passed me a knife, and the women next to me pushed potatoes into my hands, showing me how to chop them like they were.Once I was settled in, the women began chatting away to me in Hindi, laughing and smiling at me when I didn’t understand. Even though we had this language barrier, and I couldn’t chop vegetables nearly as fast as they could, these amazing women immediately accepted me into their group and always made sure I had everything I needed. It felt like I was part of this amazing community, all working towards a common goal of demolishing this mountain of potatoes. As simple as chopping vegetables sounds, it was awesome to have the opportunity to work alongside some of the strong, hardworking women of India.