Rs 400/kg in Pakistan, but sky-high prices not a problem as devotees feast on tomato dish at Kartarpur Sahib

Kamaldeep Singh Brar

Sai Das cuts vegetables

A heap of tomatoes outside Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib kitchen belied the essential vegetable’s current luxury status in markets across Pakistan. At close to (Indian) Rs 200 per kg (Pakistani Rs 400), tomato prices may have gone through the roof across the border, but thanks to devotees carrying supplies as an offering at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib, a problem of plenty ensured that a delicious tomato dish was served in langar to around 581 pilgrims who visited the historic gurdwara on Monday.

“Tomato prices are very high in Pakistan. So, we had requested a group of devotees to send tomatoes for the community kitchen. Now, we have them in abundance. Sikh devotees are not only coming with tomatoes, but they have been bringing other green vegetables as an offering too,” said Amanat, the Muslim head chef at Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib for last eighteen years.

He added: “We have no storage capacity and we feared that tomatoes will start rotting. So, we decided to make special tomato dish for devotees. I am surprised that devotees are loving it. Till now, many have asked me the recipe of this special dish. These are just tomatoes. But it is blessings of the Guru that everyone is loving it.”

The chef said that he wants to request devotees coming to Gurdwara Sahib through Kartarpur Corridor to bring material for community kitchen that can be stored for a longer period of time.

“For now we have tomatoes, ginger and garlic in abundance and we will have no shortage of these. So the devotees who have plan to visit the gurdwara in near future should come with offerings like pulses, rice, sugar, desi ghee, salt and spices instead of green vegetables,” said Amanat.

It is not uncommon for devotees to offer vegetables and other material for the gurdwara community kitchens.

Amanat, the Muslim head chef at Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib for last 18 years.

About managing the kitchen, Amanat said: “I have been here for 18 years. There was staff of six more, all Muslims, with me. We have employed 12 women and 10 more men for serving langar and washing utensils, peeling vegetables and other jobs.”

“We start working at 6 am and work for almost 12 hours in a day. We often get information about how many people are coming via the Corridor. We plan our day accordingly. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are most busy days. Around 2500 devotees came this Sunday via the corridor and it was highest number since the opening of the Corridor. On other week days, numbers of devotees remains between 500 to 1000. But numbers are increasing with every passing day,” he added.

Devotees also do sewa at the community kitchen apart from employees hired by Pakistan Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee, who are mostly Muslims.

The oldest employee at the gurdwara kitchen is Sai Das. Peeling onions, Das said: “I am aged now. I have been working here since the gurdwara was reopened. Earlier, very few Sikhs would come to the gurdwara. Sometimes no one would come in for weeks. But now, we welcome hundreds of visitors every day. I am very happy that Sikhs have opportunity to visit this gurdwara. I have seen Sikhs crying after coming here, but now there are more happy faces.”

A group of Pakistani students, meanwhile, was stopped outside langar hall. “We don’t know why students are not allowed. We should be also allowed inside Langar,” said Iqbal, a student from Narrowal.

Amanat explained: “There are some restrictions on Muslim devotees, mostly students. Muslim families are allowed and they have langar. But authorities have restricted the access of Muslim students. It is mainly because they click many pictures while sitting for langar.”

Fatima, who came with her younger sister and two children, said: “We have come from Sialkot. My children wanted to have experience of langar. Today, we had this chance and it was great spiritual experience.”

Davider Singh, who visited Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib on Monday, said: “It was sad to see that some Muslims were not allowed inside the langar hall. It hurts the purpose of langar. Its main purpose is to make everyone feel equal. Pakistan government and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee should look into it and everybody should be allowed.”