There was no launch, no whirring of DSLR cameras, or incandescent spotlights for camcorders.
No posed photos while stirring the wok; nothing that screamed “Hey, look at me… I’m working here.”
Just a group of men and women who quickly sprang into action as soon as they learnt that large swathes of Selangor and the Klang Valley had been inundated, following three straight days of heavy rainfall last weekend.
The volunteers at the Petaling Jaya Gurdwara Sahib had anticipated the need to feed thousands of flood victims, rescue workers and volunteers. So, they began cooking.
The crowd there began to swell as more people found out about their noble deed and wanted to contribute. Malaysians from all walks of life, race, creed, and colour – respectfully covered their heads before entering the langar (dining) hall.
Some volunteered to cut vegetables and prepare ingredients. Others turned into master chefs, cooking for a village, using extra-large utensils, common in gurdwara kitchens.
The same sight was seen at other gurdwaras nationwide including Gurdwara Sahib Guru Nanak in Shah Alam, Gurdwara Sahib Seremban, Gurdwara Sahib Mentakab and Gurdwara Sahib Raub.
This is nothing new.
Gurdwaras worldwide, and in Malaysia, have been at the forefront when it comes to providing assistance in times of calamity.
In fact, the langar hall at the Sri Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, is regarded as the largest community kitchen in the world.
The concept of the gurdwara itself is basically a place where one can seek refuge. The tall flagpole with the triangle yellow flag (known as the Nishan Sahib), which can be seen from miles away, is a sign of home and comfort.
The doors of the gurdwara are open to all. You will never be turned away.
Those who think that it’s a way to get more followers to embrace its faith, need not worry. Sikhism forbids proselytisation or forced conversions.
In fact, the gurdwaras here have dedicated special rooms for Muslims helping out in preparing food for the flood victims, to pray.
It’s just the Sikh way of life – appreciating and celebrating humanity through oneness and equality.
However, these efforts by Malaysians to help their fellow Malaysians were marred when some cast doubt as to the status of the food being prepared and served in the gurdwaras.
Thankfully, those who were more enlightened reminded them that food served in gurdwaras are strictly vegetarian.
The vegetables are bought from markets or hypermarkets, the very same places every other Malaysian buys his or her raw ingredients.
Hygiene is of the utmost importance. Before entering gurdwaras, one must wash his, or her hands and feet. The same goes during the preparation of food. Those who have been involved in cooking at gurdwaras can attest to this; it’s the same in any place of worship.
The core principles that Sikhs have held on to for more than 500 years – equality, oneness, and social justice – remain relevant to this day. It’s all about humanity.
It is about celebrating oneness and equality. Those values are good enough for me.
Tucking into a plate of food – be it from a mosque, temple, wat, or church – is a blessing.
In fact, Masjid Bandar Bukit Raja which was only expected to be fully operational next year, served as a temporary relief centre for the area’s 1,000-odd residents – regardless of their religious beliefs.
The Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur also organised a flood relief project.
A big thank you to those who helped out the flood victims – whether at the gurdwaras, mosques, temples or out in the field.
As Emirati content creator Khalid Al Ameri said, during his recent visit to the Sri Harmandir Sahib:
“I was welcomed with open arms and to be a part of this community. I think we can all take a great lesson from that – to welcome people with open arms, live side by side with you, to learn.
“And it is only when you build those bridges of love that you conquer anything that can divide us.”