Tribune News Service
Amritsar, June 24
Getting up as early as 3.30 am, bathing and then heading to participate in ‘sewa’ at the Golden Temple, the 16 undergrad students from Michigan University, USA, are trying to study one of the most efficient and largest community-kitchen programmes of the world. For them, this has become a ‘routine’ for the past 20 days of their Amritsar tour. Getting involved in all aspects of ‘langar sewa’ at the holiest of Sikh shrines, they participate in cooking, cleaning, going to the farmers' market to get produce and all this while, studying the essence of the community service.
The team of students headed by Jasprit Singh, professor at the College of Engineering, Michigan University, is on a study tour in the city, understanding the concept of ‘langar’ and sustainable nourishment. “We have a programme in the university on the impact of food on ecology and economy and food systems around the world. These studnets are here to learn and understand how different communities work and what motivates them to perform ‘sewa’, how we can transfer these values in our social system. Most of these students have noticed how there is almost zero wastage even when food is being prepared with fresh produce for over 50,000 people every day,” informs Jasprit. Overcoming the language barriers and initial discomfort to the city’s lifestyle, the students have now found their ‘zone’ and are exploring every nook and corner of Amritsar.
“When we first arrived, the city was overwhelming. But now we can just hop on to a rickshaw and move about, finding the hidden treasures in Amritsar,” says Zoe Kanterman, one of the students. They are also highly impressed by the dedication with which the ‘sewa’ is carried out. “It’s just amazing how people from different backgrounds find a common sense of belonging and follow tradition with langar sewa. It’s more like a heritage for them,” shares Lucy Zhao.
With all work and more fun, the students are also trying to understand another cultural heritage; this one comes with lots of 'dhol' beats. Learning bhangra and Punjabi folk-dance forms, the students are dedicating one hour every day with choreographers Pankaj and Preeti. “We do have a bhangra team of our university and perform during youth festivals,” says Jasprit. Struggling to not miss a beat and get the moves right, the team sure has fun, the Punjabi way. “None of us has managed to get the steps right, we are still on basics. But we are enjoying every bit of it. It's so vibrant and colourful that you feel elated,” says Zoe.
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