It had been a long time that we wanted to go the Sikh temple in northeast side of the City. I had been to the neighbourhood a few times but not inside the temple, which is called Gurdwara although I knew I could go there but not knowing the tradition and everything I waited for my East Indian fellas to be free so I could go with them although none of them are followers of Sikhism!
So here we are at the temple which is called Deshmesh Sahib. Sahib which is an Urdu/Arabic word means Sir. So Deshmesh Sahib is probably the name of the Punjabi/Sikh spiritual leader whose name is used to call the temple. We get in and there where we have to remove our shoes and get a headband. There's a sink and tab there so I guess it's a custom to also wash hands and face. Quite similar to Muslim's tradition when they enter a mosque unless they don't have to cover their heads. We can hear the instruments and people singing in a very strong voice and it's a nice and pleasing song. We get through the main door and I see that the hallway is separated to tow sections, one on the left for women and one on the right for men. In the middle there's this old gentleman with a long beard and turban who is moving a some sort of fan. Photography I had been told that was not allowed so I can describe the inside environment better. We bow and then kneel on the ground and in this way we show our respect. My buddies each throw a little money down the apparatus, I would call it, which is designed for that purpose and then we stay in a short line behind a few women and kids. I realize that there's an old gentleman in the same dress code (Turban, long beard, traditional dress) who takes a small piece of Halva with his hand and hands it to you. he smiles and I thank him in English after getting it in a knelled position.
We go back and sit at men's section and listen to the music and singing. It is really nice to my ears goes on for a few minutes. Everyone's sitting and listening. There are people from different age group in the hallway, both men and women but the majority of elderly. The music ends and one of the singers gives a little speech which sounds like a prayer because people say something and that is when my buddies nudge at me to leave. I didn't know where we were going for lunch but I guess they knew because we went to the basement which was a huge hallway similar to the main floor. Lunch was similar to a self-service restaurant unless you do not have choices. We pick out trays and walked toward the serving area. There were 5 or 6 old guys all for a station. We got Ruti at the first (3 of them) and 3 other dishes at 3 other station, each one ladle and then a ladle of what we call it in Persian Sheer-Berenj and it looks and tastes the exact same thing which is a combination of milk, rice, sugar and rose water. You could get a little salad but I skipped that. We went and sat on the floor but there are picnic benches for the elderly or whoever cannot sit on the floor.
I do not eat white flour bread but the Rutis where so tasty that I finished all three. The good thing about their bread is they don't use sugar or salt but I guess they use butter. The other two dishes where tasty as well, two with different beans and one with meat.
We finish the food and the guys suggest to get some Indian tea. I know Indian tea is served with milk and lots of sugar and I deny that. We all return our trays to the old guy who is responsible for collecting dirty dishes. We wash up and get out shoes and leave after taking the headbands off.
I heard then that the 98% of the people who work in the temple are volunteers. It's not surprising because they are mostly elderly men and women. It keeps them busy and most importantly they serve the religion the believe in. I also heard that Sikhs donate a considerable amount of their income to the temple. It's understandable that it should be this way otherwise a huge temple like that cannot be up and running. I didn't see any non-East-Indian in the entire temple but me! People were curious but didn't see any bad reaction from them. One of them even helped me to find a spot when I was removing my shoes although he never said anything to me but he was trying to use sign language. Overall it was a good experience to see how people are close to their religion. I think it's almost the same with other ethnic groups in Canada. They all have either their community hall or gathering points and at times ceremonies and get-together. Whether they are as strong as Sikhs, I don't know for sure. I know the Chinese have a huge cultural center in Downtown and other groups their own but have not tried them yet.
(Photo: Deshmesh Sahib Sikh temple from it's western parking lot)