Punjabi by nature: Praying for peace at Patna Sahib | punjab$dont-miss | Hindustan Times
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Punjabi by nature: Praying for peace at Patna Sahib

I am not much of a pilgrimage person. Take me for lowlife junkets such as scotch or wine trails; I’ll jump on to the next gaddi without batting an eyelid.

punjab Updated: Oct 02, 2016 11:55 IST
Khushwant Singh
At the conclave, a large number of prominent Sikhs from all over the world had gathered.
At the conclave, a large number of prominent Sikhs from all over the world had gathered.(HT File Photo)

I am not much of a pilgrimage person. Take me for lowlife junkets such as scotch or wine trails; I’ll jump on to the next gaddi without batting an eyelid.

Given my preference, why I was on a flight to a dry and unexciting place like Patna in Bihar is a question that kept baffling me throughout the journey. The answer to the why lay in waiting a bit; till the landing of the Jet flight at the rundown and bumpy Patna airport.

It all started after I accepted Bihar Tourism’s invite to attend the Sikh Conclave to mark the 350th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh, even though personally I’m not a great supporter of religious conclaves by governments. I find it a waste of money, especially if they are to make political gains. Also, I knew that I did not have the required competence to comment on religious issues. “Yes, I will be there,” I said the moment the caller said that a visit to Gurdwara Patna Sahib was part of the schedule. “Welcome to Patna, sir,” said a friendly male voice at the protocol desk set up by Bihar Tourism. Though utterly confused with the sudden landing of Kulwinders, Kulwants and Khushwants, the gentleman held his cool and smile well. His words that “we have tried to make your stay very comfortable” not only comforted us but worked like magic, because in them reflected a sincere intent.

The half-an-hour journey from the airport to the hotel was to give me an idea of what was in the offing. Billboards and hoardings of Guru Gobind Singh’s picture adorned the town of Patna. It instantly revealed how revered the Guru is in Patna.

Soon, I was at the conclave where a large number of prominent Sikhs from all over the world had gathered. On the dais were Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal and the Patna Sahib Jathedar besides a battery politicians.

Sitting next to me in the crowd was musician Bhai Baldeep Singh. We lauded the efforts of Nitish Kumar, who was about to deliver his welcome address. “Bada kanta hai. I have heard him rip apart bureaucrats and even the Union agriculture minister,” I said.

Nitish didn’t disappoint as he began his speech by reprimanding some of his sycophants who had started sloganeering. “Abhe chup. Mauka to dekh liya karo, kab kya bolna hota hai.”

The takeaway from Nitish’s speech was the warm welcome and his line that it’s Guru’s kirpa that his 350th birth anniversary has fallen during his government’s tenure. It definitely came from the heart and I thought his effort would put a balm on the restive Punjabi-Bihari relationship, now so important to Punjab’s growth.

Soon, it was time for Ruby Dhalla, the glamorous former MP from Canada to take the mike. Not impressed, I stepped out of the conclave because paying obeisance at the gurdwara was of prime importance to me.

That the billboards and hoardings were just a prelude, I was to discover soon. The to and fro journey offered a fascinating insight of how much the locals revered Guru Gobind Singh. For them, he is their very own Gobind Singh Patnawaley, and they admire, respect and worship him in their own unique way. “Sahib mandir jayenge?” the driver said as he tried navigating the crowded Patna streets. “While growing up, we were told that Guru Gobind Singh was the one who ignited the passive Hindu mind to fight against tyranny,” said a local as I walked through the narrow lane towards Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib, Patna Sahib, the birthplace.

“Perfect example of Bhakti and Shakti,” said another who also appraised that Guru’s picture with a white falcon was standard in almost every household. A Punjab-cadre IAS officer from Bihar said, “In our house, pictures of Lord Rama, Guru Gobind Singh, and other gods was a common thing. In fact, as a child, I would dream of emulating Guru Gobind Singh’s signature portrait of carrying a falcon.”

With prasad in hand, I walked towards the sanctum sanctorum and bowed my head, praying to the Almighty for personal stuff, but most importantly to unite humanity because peace, progress and happiness is what it wishes. Perhaps, Patna happened for me to be able to pray for peace at a revered place.