Rows and rows of mats adorn the wide halls of the gurudwara. It's 11:30 pm and people have already started streaming in to offer their prayers, after which they head to the halls to receive langar (food prepared by the free kitchen). Men, women and even children are hard at work, cutting vegetables, preparing dough for chapatis, stirring huge pots of kheer, wiping the floors of the hall and more. This is seva.
Baltej Singh does seva everyday at the 'Sri Guru Singh Sabha' gurudwara, situated on the banks of the Ulsoor lake, and one of the most prominent Sikh shrines in Bangalore.
Living in Bangalore since the last three years, Baltej Singh, one of the sevadars, grew up in Rajasthan. "From the last two years, I've been doing Seva here. In the beginning, I wasn't very regular. I could only come over the weekends. But now I stay right next door, so I'm here everyday," says Baltej, who is a software engineer with Genesis and is in his mid-twenties.
Baltej's seva brings him to the gurudwara at the break of dawn, where he works in the langar. "I start from scratch. From utensil washing, to preparing food, I try and help with everything. All the food gets prepared in bulk quantity here. Almost 50 kg of rice is prepared, at least 45 kg of dal or these pulses are prepared, and then vegetables need to be cut, the sweet dish needs to be made. The list goes on really, when it comes to the amount of food that gets prepared here," explains Baltej.
On the weekdays, the gurudwara sees about 500 people coming in.
They also have children from schools coming here for lunch daily. On the weekends, there are almost 4000 people coming in to pray and for the langar, as well.
According to Baltej, seva for him is all about selflessness. "It's about working without selfishness. I think humans are the most selfish creatures. We're always looking for more. It's like when you're outside, you're always hungry for something, and everything has a value attached to it, which increases your desire for things. But when you come to the gurudwara, you can eat as much as you want, and that actually reduces your hunger. Doing seva helps keep one's ego in check," he says.
Baltej loves the environment created at the gurudwara. "Everyone's helpful and co-operative. People start coming in from 3 in the morning and are here till 11 in the night. The langar is open to everyone. It doesn't see caste, religion, gender or age," he says.