A few of us students along with our professors are walking through the crowded streets by the Y, heading towards a Sikh gurdwara. We’re trying to make it there in time for the book-moving ceremony that we heard from Surekha is incredible and lasts for about two hours! We’re walking at a rather brisk pace when suddenly it hits me that I forgot my headscarf in my room. A wave of stupidity and irresponsibility overwhelms me. I placed it on my bed for the sole reason of taking it with me to the gurdwara and somehow I still managed to forget it. We’re almost to our destination when I notice some stalls clustered together. Waves of greens, reds, blues and violets hang above me as I ask how much one scarf costs. “100 rupees,” answers one man with an orange turban tied ever so flawlessly atop his head. I’m thinking of purchasing one to wear inside the gurdwara but then decide to take the chance that I can find some sort of garment to function as a veil once I get there. We reach the bottom of the marble steps leading to the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and are taken aback by the magnificence and splendor of the structure before us. We first walk downstairs to an area designated for shoe storage.
Removing our shoes I hear my professor request a head covering for me and in turn, she receives a bright orange bandana. Having second thoughts about buying one of the scarves, I struggle to tie it around the back of my head until our staff assistant steps over and rescues me from fumbling with the cloth any longer. We make our way up the steps barefoot stepping into water and the hypochondriac within me cannot help but think about how many others had stepped in the same water before us. As we reach the entrance and walk through the main doorways, off of the tile floor and onto the damp carpet, the sound of men singing becomes more audible. We are able to hear the words clearly but unable to understand their meaning. We take our seats in the middle of the carpeted area, among other Sikhs listening attentively and singing along.
As I sit there with all my senses heightened, I become mesmerized by the Sikh faith: the huge canopy where the Guru Granth Sahib lay, the sounds of music and vocals harmonized brilliantly and the phrase “holy book” taken to a different level of understanding. I am in India, in a Sikh gurdwara, watching devotees come and go as they perform their part in this nightly ritual as presumably, they have done countless times in their lifespan. Only this time, I am present to witness it all occur. Wow. The six of us shift some spaces over to get a better view of everything happening just a few feet away from us. Moments later, we stand, mimicking the others around us jumping to their feet.
The moving of the book was beginning. I hear a loud, startling beat of a drum followed by another bang. If I wasn’t alert before, I certainly am now. The singing becomes immensely passionate and fervent as the book is covered and carefully walked down a red carpet to its resting place for the night. Everyone is standing, their eyes on the book. A crowd gathers at the doors of the book’s bed to see it be placed inside but we stay where we are, comfortable in our positions, observing all of the hustle and bustle. One man with a selfie stick catches my attention. Odd, I think to myself but ignore it as I focus my attention back to the swarm of people dressed in saris and paghs of all sorts of colors. The singing is so loud it would make a rock concert sound like a poetry slam. As it gradually dies down, we turn to walk out the backside of the gurdwara. Feeling exhilarated, I feel a shiver travel down my spine as I attempt to process what I had just seen and heard. The last thought of the night I have is, ‘I wish I could have taken a picture’.