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Dubai Gurdwara offers timely service even in pandemic times

Dubai Gurdwara offers timely service even in pandemic times

Dubai: The Gurunanak Darbar Gurdwara wears a forlorn look on a Wednesday morning as the UAE government's strict Covid-19 guidelines ordered that people can only come in for half-hour 'paaths' in the morning and evening.

The Gurunanak Darbar community kitchen, or langar, which fed almost 1,500 people on a usual day and up to 50,000 on special days, has been stopped ever since the country went into the first lockdown in April 2020.

But there has been no rest for Surender Singh Kandhari, and his men at the gurudwara. if the devotees can't come to the gurdwara, the gurdwara will go to the devotees, he suggested.

"When the first lockdown in the UAE was announced and we could not have our langar, we went to labour camps in different Emirates and distributed 150,000 kilos of raw food. There were many blue-collared workers desperate to get back, so we organised 15 chartered flights to India free of cost," says the 78-year-old Kandhari, a resident of Dubai since 1976.

"When vaccination started, we managed to source it and conducted a camp in February this year to inoculate 5,000 people. This was inclusive and open to all: people from all religions and social strata were vaccinated free of charge."

The gurdwara became even more active when the deadly second wave hit India.

"We wanted to do something useful, and everyone told us that we should do something with oxygen, given the paucity back home. Using my business connections in China, we managed to procure a total of 770 concentrators and shipped them to various parts of India. We sent them to Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand," adds Kandhari.

Kandhari, who now has a sprawling business empire of tyres and batteries in over 65 countries, has slowly handed over the reins to his two sons, and spends a majority of time in his capacity as chairman of the gurdwara. His wife of 53 years, Bubbles, is the vice-chairman and equally involved in social work.

"I always saw this place as a centre of humanity and not just as a temple for the Sikh. I was guided by the one thought of Guru Nanak Dev ji that we need to promote humanity. We can only be the best Sikh, or Hindu, or Muslim if we are the best human being," says Kandhari, who has also been a popular member of various UAE government delegates in promoting inter-faith harmony and tolerance in conferences around the world.

Every year since it was established in 2012, to 2019, the gurdwara has hosted iftar throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

"We put up separate partitions for men and women inside the gurdwara. We have a Maulvi and hundreds of people break their fast after he leads the prayers. We could not do it the last two Ramadans because of the pandemic and so many people wrote to me how much they missed it," adds Kandhari.

The land for the gurdwara is given free by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The total construction area is 120,000 square feet, spread over a 25,400 square feet plot in Jebel Ali. When completed, the total cost was 65 million dirhams (Rs 13.23 crore).

"We have been extremely blessed with the generosity of people. Now, we are just trying to pay it forward" said Kandhari.

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TAGS:Dubai gurdwara Covid 19 Langar 
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