Sankranti and Lohri
Churnjeet: Today is Sankranti and Lohri. We went to see Pal Singh Mann, or Mann Sahib as I’ll call him, who showed us around a Hockey Nursery for school kids run by the Mehar Baba Charitable Trust. The kids are provided with food, extra nutrition, equipment, clothes and some are even selected for the national team. This provides kids from underprivileged backgrounds a route into gaining scholarships for education and finding a means of independence. It was nice to see a male and female team (the female team looked meaner). It was at this meeting we learnt about the trust’s work with water in the area. Ground water in Punjab is contaminated with high levels of nitrates which can cause serious damage to children as well as adults. Learning about the kind of contaminants found in the water was shocking, especially when you realise that everyone was drinking this water, and even the food we were eating had been cooked in it. In the afternoon I met Captain Mann and there were long conversations about how tourism could change Sirhind and how it could be an important stop off for tourists on their way to Amritsar. As a place that used to be one of the primary stops on the GT Rd, its fall from grace has also been accompanied by an erasure of cultural significance and visibility of its sites and monuments.
Ioanna: In the meantime, Simran and I made a stop at the Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib for the Sankranti (celebration of the first day of the month). We observed the food preparations of the Langar, the communal kitchen that offers food at no cost to anyone attending, 24/7, 7 days a week. This non-stop kitchen works solely with volunteers and due to the day being extra special following the Lohri cellebrations (1st day of the Sikh year) it was quite busy. Men sat by the fire were making rotis at a frantic pace, dal and saag pots were transported left and right in the open air eating space, dirty plates were stacking up by the washing team, into the soap buckets, quickly rinsed off and out again…
The Gurdwara F-S is the largest in the town, built on the site where the suns of Guru Gobing Sing were walled alive in 1705 by the then governor of Sirhind, Wazin Khan as a punishment for the Guru’s resistance to convert to Islam. The retaliations that followed were equally fierce, marking the end of the Mughal rule of the city. As a result of these events a large part of the existing Mughal architecture in the area is suffering from considerable neglect and has become target of vandalism during the annual re-enactment of the killing of the two boys and the celebration of Jor Mela (Show of Strength) that commemorates these events. Changing stances on these highly charged monuments is a pretty hard task but we have been ‘playing’ with the idea of designing an interactive experience that could potentially trigger different associations and relationships with place.
Simran: At night we went to a Lohri celebration in a local village. A fire, throwing in peanuts for a good crop to come, dancing, food, talking, sweets, everything was laid on for us. Our first Lori ever and my first attempt to Punjabi dancing (Gidda), it was fun! Our hosts were warm welcoming people, Mr. Singh told us about his numerous stories and adventures as a taxi driver around the world. His wife the lady of the house was a big hearted woman who invited us in her house, fed us great Punjabi food and played the perfect Punjabi host and hugged us tight.