Monday, 26 December 2011

The Morning After

It is the morning after the end of the Malaysian Samelan 2011.
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Here I sit, perfectly clean, with my sun-dried hair, heels scrubbed to baby pinkness, bits of grass stuck between my toes, clothes sorted into neat laundry piles, a mountain of fruit consumed, and without much to do, except wonder at where the last week went.
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A Samelan (Sikh Camp) is made up of so many things, over such a long period, that it is difficult to comprehend how quickly it is over. First we review the past Samelans, and then we start to plan. And we plan, plan, and plan. And if that isn't enough, then we have meetings, and plan again, and meet and revisit and plan some more. We *cough* respectfully disagree several times during this phase. Then we put together all the things we need logistically, from materials to food to utensils to stationery to bedding. Hopefully by this time we have a location, if not that gets added on too. Then come the people – participants, visitors, more Sevadars (thankfully!). Add, add, add, mix ‘em all up, and voila! A Samelan is created.
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7 days later, just like that, it ends. Too fast, much to fast.
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How does one fully honour the past week?
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I choose to honour Moments.
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The ingredients of a Samelan are fairly standard. What really makes a Samelan a Samelan are the unexpected and random Moments that appear and disappear without warning. In a state of sleep-deprivation it is easy to miss them, and no doubt I have missed many, but here are the ones I noticed, and remember.
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Day 0 minus 1
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The Moment of Panic. I walk into the grounds on Saturday, see that too little has been done in the Darbar. Head-scratch with Amrit and Ajeet S on how to speed things up. Leave it in their capable hands to witness a 360-degree transformation the next day. Team, you are amazing.
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The Moment of Innocent Joy. Amrit announces that we have a new seva: watering plants! The gentleman from the nursery tells us that we need to water the flowers in front of Guru Ji twice a day to keep them fresh and alive :)
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Day 0
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The Moment of But, I’m a Girl. Ajeet S tries to educate me on the electricals in the Darbar. I learn about distribution boxes, plugs, switches and lights. Start to pray furiously that nothing will come up while he is not around!
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The Moment of Tickled Insides. Overhear some girls in the dorm: “This Samelan is amazing! It’s the first Samelan I’ve been to where the bathrooms have doors!”
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The Moment of Fullness. After all the madness of many weeks, I watch as Guru Ji arrives in the Darbar. Tears fill up in the water tank of my heart. This room was empty and soulless before. Now He is here, and we are complete. All systems go!
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Day 1
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The Moment of Beauty. Amrit leads Japji on Day 1. How I wish I had recorded it so that she could accompany me every day.
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The Moment of Amusement. During our station game, the punishment is a fictional prison sentence. Team X remains unfazed by their ever-increasing prison sentence and refuses to confess. I plead with the girls and remind them that the bathrooms in prison would be pretty awful. The reply comes, “Phenji, prison is like Samelan. We’ve been to Samelan, we’ll be fine! Imagine going to Samelan for 30 years – AWESOME!!” The whole Team cheers :p
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The Moment of Invisibility. I watch as the team of Burmese helpers heads to the dorms. They are helping us keep the washrooms clean this week. They work in the background, quietly moving in and out, without recognition or acknowledgement, while we are busy in our sessions. The bathrooms are squeaky clean. There is no dust on the floor of my dorm. I have never been this comfortable in a Samelan.
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The Moment of Relief. Ajeet S and Baljit spotted in the Darbar after a day's absence due to work commitments. Oh how thankful Amrit, Premdeep and I are. Not having them around is a near-death experience :p
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The Moment of Exhaustion. Arrive at the dorms at night, remember that I STILL have not picked up my mattress. Too tired to worry about it now, the sleeping bag will just have to do. Not like there is enough sleep time for my back to get sore, anyway :)
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The Moment of Celebration, O Yea! The opening of SoulNation, to be experienced 3 times over the week. Each one soul-stirring! I love how we are evolving our choice of instruments and still living, and loving our Sikhi. As Hargobind said on Day 2, it's not where the instrument comes from, it's where it takes you. Start quoting! :)
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Day 2
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The Moment of Fragrance. Premdeep walks into the Darbar with the Parshaad. Inhale, sigh.
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The Moment of Annoyance. Forced to skip lunch, only to realise later in the day that tauhu sambal had been on the menu. Naturally, there is none left over. Geram!!!
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The Moment of Pure Happiness. Hargobind arrives at the Samelan, having answered my pleas to please, pretty please, bring along a fruit basket as I was wilting without fruit. My hero went to the grocery store and picked out a bag full of goodies. Legend!
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The Moment of Love. Pa Tony relates a story about a girl, around 12 years of age, carrying her little brother up the mountain to Hemkunt. When asked how it is that she can carry so much weight being so young herself, she replies, “Eh paar nahi, eh pyaar hai (It is not Weight that I carry, it is Love).” I’m not sure if Hargobind looked at the fruit basket in the same way :p
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The Moment of Annoyance (part II). Forced to skip dinner, only to realise later that some other tauhu dish had been on the menu. Miss tauhu twice in the same day. Geram (part II)!!!
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The Moment of Family. Sing Sagal Dwaar with my ANHAD brothers at SoulNation. Feel the presence of my beautiful Manji with us. The family is spread around the world, but at this moment, we share group tears, group hug.
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Day 3
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The Moment of (un)Pinkness. On Tropic Thunder morning, I try to convince participant after participant that my suit was peach, NOT pink (a clue for one of the Checkpoints). Those ‘ankhon key ishaarey’ are not going to get you anywhere. Shoo! Go look for a real Gatekeeper to the Song of the Soul Checkpoint!
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The Moment of Betrayal. I have to taste 6 cups of tea in one morning during Tropic Thunder (tea-making is one of the challenges at our Checkpoint). Tea is usually a huge no-no for me, but how can I say no when a group of boys comes and says, ‘Phenji, this is the best cha you will ever have!” They carry the one cup all the way from the Langgar Hall to present to us for tasting. By the way, boys, our fictional Giani Ji did not survive all the sugar you added in the cha!
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The Moment of Buckling Knees. Lack of sleep and food, starts to catch up with me now.
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The Moment of Thankfulness. Keeping hydrated is a challenge when you are always on your feet. I am so thankful to the Sevadars manning the Water Stations all around the grounds. And to my sister Manmeet for filling up our water bottle every night! One gulp and I am back to life.
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The Moment of Banana-lovin'. I make 3 people extremely happy with the simple act of banana distribution from my fruit basket. That little girl from the Mighties has such a precious smile. Pearljeet elevates me to Goddess-hood. Ashvin looks blissfully through me, for she is in banana-la-la-land and will not be disturbed :p
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The Moment of Shared Laughs. A friend relates an exchange with a Mighty Khalsa Singh. Mr Singh: Phenji, married already ah? Phenji: No, not yet. Mr Singh: Find boy already or not? Phenji: *what the h*** this kid is like 10 years old!!!* So cute :)
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The Moment of Anger. Come out of the Darbar, to realise that someone has nicked my flip-flops. By this point I am so tired anything will bring on a meltdown. Why me? Why my flip-flops? Don’t they see how much I am doing here? What more do they want from me argh!!!
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The Moment of Pointless and Misdirected Revenge. Oh look. Someone’s flip-flops hidden here under the bushes. Everyone is in bed. Can’t belong to anyone. Just take ‘em.
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Day 4
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The Moment of Poetic Justice. The flip-flops I stole were stolen from me! The Samelan is a cruel, cruel, place.
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The Moment of The-World-Makes-Sense-Again. Oh, but look here! Original flip-flops found. YES.
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The Moment of Squealing. My sister Trishvin arrives from Auckland! Scream squeal jump jump! Why not in a public place so that any suspicions of my sanity are quelled.
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The Moment of Pain. Being at the receiving end of a wonderful shoulder massage. Painful, but effective. Identity of the masseuse is kept a secret to spare him the queue of people that may line up in future Samelans :) I am seriously considering recommending this as an actual seva next year!
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The Moment of Almost-Weakness. I just about crawl to the Langgar Hall and sit down with my cup of Milo, when the Team on duty starts to usher everyone out. As a participant approaches to get us to move again, I am oh-so tempted to flash my pink Sevadar name tag and say, “Do you know who I am?” Thankfully the moment passes and remains as a joke between friends. And yes, we dutifully leave the Langgar Hall, as instructed. The same rules apply to all :)
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The Moment of Disbelief. It is the end of the 5th day and I have yet to see a single cockroach. Miracle of miracles.
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Day 5
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The Moment of Being Somewhere Else. Uncle Dya Singh leads Asa Ki Vaar. I am no longer at the Samelan. Instead, I sit in Box 28 at my beloved Golden Temple, wrapped in my shawl, listening to the Raagis sing, as I gaze at GT through the December smog. I am home.
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The Moment of Falling down the Rabbit Hole. We run out of envelopes and I need to dash to the store. I leave the Samelan grounds and walk into Jaya Jusco. It is unnerving to be a part of this strange, outside, consumer world. All I want to do is hang on to my name tag and guard my flip-flops (the two most important things at a Samelan). As I am about to pay, I realise I’ve left my bag in the car and have no money on me. You see, in the world I just came from, money is of no use. You get much, much further with just a pink name tag (Sevadar) and an extra pair of flip-flops (then everyone will be your friend). Take me back to the Samelan grounds, where things make sense!
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The Moment of Weightlessness. When challenges crop up, we talk to Ajeet K. And then we stop worrying about them, because they are in good, capable hands.
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The Moment of Unexpected Melody. It’s evening shower time, and from another stall I hear a voice slowly picking up volume, singing Thakur, Gaiey, Gaiey, Gaiey, Atam Rangg. She sings alone for a few lines, and is then joined by another voice. I can’t help myself, and join in too. Before long, anyone walking in and out of the bathroom is singing with us. In the end there are two voices left, mine and the original singer’s. We bump into each other on the way out, and share a sheepish smile. Maybe this is what He meant by Angg Sangg.
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The Moment of Stillness. WOW Night. Standing before my Guru, pledge in hand, making my commitment for 2012. Guru Ram Das, protect and keep me.
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The Moment of Confusion. Seconds before the Panj Pyarey arrive at the Darbar, escorting the new Amritdharis, a girl is thrust towards me, and there she is to stay, sobbing uncontrollably, into my hip bone, wailing, “I don’t want to go home!” I look up, the Panj are coming closer. I look down, the sobbing is getting louder. Oh dear. “Phenji, I don’t want to go home today! I haven’t said goodbye to my friends.” Sigh. There seem to be enough people taking care of the Panj and their needs. Let me look after this little broken heart instead.
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The Moment of Abuse. While explaining to the Team on duty the clean-up required in the Darbar, a broom slips from my hand, falls forward, and knocks a young participant squarely on the head. I am accused of all sorts of horrible things :p
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Day 6
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The Moment of Vah. It’s the last morning of Samelan, and I see this young participant, arrived early in the Darbar, sitting quietly, making notes from a Gutka. At the end of the divaan, he approaches Guru Ji, stands slightly to the left, and reads from his book. Later I ask him how he is, if there is anything we can help him with. No, he says, all is well. We talk some more. This is his 9th Samelan. Why do you keep coming back? Because sometimes in the year, I don’t get a chance to do my paath and pray to God. But this one week in the Samelan, I can make the most of it and spend as much time with Guru Ji as I like. That is why I come to Samelan.
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The Moment of Gratitude. I think of the amazing seva performed by the Logistics, Utilities, Langgar, Security, Secretariat and Medical Bay teams. They work behind the scenes, but round the clock. I could not do what they do. Thank you.
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The Moment of Emptiness. The Samelan comes to a close. Guru Ji leaves, taking many tears with him. This last week, my existence has been defined by serving this one space, the throne room of my Guru. Now the magic is gone. The Darbar is nothing but a room with walls and windows. It is hollow in here; it is hollow in our hearts.
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Until Samelan 2012, that is.
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Only 360 days to go. Sigh.

10 comments:

Balvinder Singh said...

Nice...Have take the liberty of sharing this on Samelan 2011 page...

Anonymous said...

A beautiful review.... :) Thank you for bringing back those moments simply with words. Thank you harkiren. It really was an awesome samelan this year. ;)

Salprith Kaur said...

Gosh reading this brings back so many memories... Thank you for sharing this...

Rumta said...

Beautiful. You are a great writer Harkiren. Thanks so much for sharing ..x x

Ranjit Kaur said...

Beautiful review of the Samelan from a beautiful person...Well Done Harkiren...

Susheel said...

You should write a book!!!! I´ll buy them all ;-) You are a good writer dearest. Love reading what you wrote!!

It brings back memories of all the samelans I have attended. There is nothing quite like our samelans in Malaysia!! The best with the best sewadars!!

Never change,
x

GKaur said...

Deeply moving Harkiran. Thanks for making it so personal for some of us who missed out this year!

rengwir said...

Thanks so much for the sharing . Get flooded with all the " I miss samelan ... Boo hoo hoo ... Sob sob ...." instantaneously...... We just have another year to wait for ....

Personally it's the Sangat .......we get to live in a self sustaining world for a week , a little world of our own .. Where we really don't need whatever u need to keep going daily ..... Just sewa n smiles n fatehs n loads of hugs make the world go round .......
Syabas to the entire organising crew for an amazing job done ! Hope u enjoyed every moment of it - pain n pleasure .....

Dalip Singh said...

And now i learn to appreciate the finer things in life. Lesson number 2998. Thanks Phenji :)

Harkiren Kaur said...

Aww thank you, everyone, for reading, commenting, and most importantly, sharing and living those moments with the rest of us who were there. Only those who have been to Samelan get it, huh? :)

Rengwir Phenji, you are so right - it IS about the sanggat and that self-sustaining environment.

A short disclaimer, that the post is fluid, I've added 'moments' since the original post as they've popped into my mind, now that the sleep deprivation has been battled! :)

Tva Prasaad,
H