“Pavan Guru Paani Pita, Maata Dhart Mahat …”
Air is our Teacher, Water our Father And the Earth our Mother ~ Guru Nanak Dev JI
Nov 8 – On Tuesday, a post appeared on the Social Education Facebook page from a wonderful and giving community member, Rosy Narula. The cause? To celebrate the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji by kicking off a tree plantation drive, an ambitious effort to plant 550 trees over the next 5 years.
I didn’t know what to expect but wanted to attend so come Thursday, I made my way down to City Hall where the event was taking place.
As I made my way through City Hall from the rear parking lot, I asked someone where the evening’s festivities were taking place. I was directed outside, so I followed the crowd out to the forecourt where stood a tall, leafless potted tree.
Everyone gathered to take pictures around the tree, and I stepped to the side not wanting to insert myself in their celebrations as I was merely there to support Rosy and her community, and curious about a culture I knew very little about.
I was pulled in to a few pictures by many gesturing smiles, and took a few snapshots for them as well. Everyone then made their way to the Hamilton sign where I was once again motioned over, so I found a spot at the back where a gentlemen put his arm around me and engaged in some light conversation while a hundred photos from different camera’s were snapped. Then, as the crowd grew larger and everyone gathered for one last photo, he pulled me to the back top centre with a big smile.
After our cheese’s were done, I was invited inside for music, celebration, and some food.
I would guess there were some 50 people in attendance, including other familiar faces like Councilor Nrinder Nann, our new City Manager Janette Smith, and Dr. Jaswinder Bedi. The inside part of the ceremony began with some speeches in both Punjabi and English, followed by an unveiling of what the bronze plaque will look like when the Oak tree is officially planted in the spring.
At this time, we were then treated to some mesmerizing traditional Sikh music. 5 musicians sat cross-legged on a carpet in front of the seated and standing audience just outside the Mayor’s office, with these remarkably crafted instruments like nothing I have seen before. I’ve done my best to Google images and names based on what I remember from Thursday evening, but I believe the four instruments were 1 Rebab, 1 Taus, and 3 Dilruba’s. Either way the craftsmanship, shape, and design of these instruments are fascinating. The Taus and Dilruba’s were played like a Cello, and the Rebab like a guitar.
The instruments were quite soft in tone, and a gentleman and woman in the front shared the vocal leads, with all 5 joining in throughout as we were encouraged to close our eyes and feel the music.
Between songs, the gentleman on the left described the instruments, before one last song was played and the room was brought to prayer.
Afterwards, I was thanked by so many for coming, and encouraged to grab food and refreshments before I left. With trays full of one of my favorite treats, Narula’s samosa’s, and these addictive timbit-like creations that had been soaked in something sweet and covered in coconut (Nariyal Balls perhaps?), my lips were the last sensation to be positively touched by what was a very welcoming, peaceful, and enlightening evenings.
Thank you Rosy and everyone who made me feel so welcome, and for sharing your wonderful history and traditions with us. It’s an evening I won’t soon forget, and an experience I look forward to enjoying again.
“Manas ki jaat, sabhe eke pehchanbo.”
(Recognize all human beings as one)