Amritsar is a holy city for Sikh religion. To accommodate for 80,000 pilgrims coming into the city every day, the Golden Temple has a few ‘Niwas’, free accommodation for pilgrims coming in from all over India. They also have ‘Langar’ to feed these hungry people. These langars are open 24/7, completely free of charge, regardless of your religion, gender, ethnicity, or caste. People donate money or their time in return, but it’s not compulsory.
I stayed in one of the niwas called Sarai Shri Guru Ramdas Ji. Staying here, and submerging myself into the religious rituals made me feel really humble for the pure love and generosity I was getting from these complete strangers. These strangers were cleaning the bathrooms I used, washing the dishes I used, feeding me with wholesome meal whenever I was hungry, cleaning the floors of the temple I was walking barefoot, smiling as I walk past with a headscarf around my head, and a camera around my neck.
All meals were eaten on the floor. As I walked into the main langar hall, one volunteer would hand me a metal plate, another one will give out spoons, and another one will give out a bowl for drinking water. Then I’ll walk into the hall, which is a huge empty room with marble floor and a few long stretch of linen material for people to sit on. Once I sat down on the floor, one guy will come around with a big bucket of porridge, another with curry, another with water. Then the highlight of all, chapati. Chapati is similar to naan bread, but a lot more floury, I found most of the northern Indian regions eat their curry with chapati instead of rice or naan.
Back to chapati. The correct way to receive chapati is to hold out both your hands and the guy handing them out will sort of slap it onto your two hands. At first, I didn’t know, so I held out one hand, then he shook his head, so I went to grab one from his basket, which was even worse. This old lady sitting next to me showed me how to correctly receive chapati. It was such a humbling experience eating the same food on the floor, using no cutlery but my right hand, surrounded by old Sikh gurus with their extravagant outfit, an old lady with faded floral saree, a young mum hand-feeding chapati with curry to her two little kids. I love this place.