Epitome of Community Service
Society and faith always go hand in hand. Where there is a society, religion will always bear the medal of its identity. The social events more or less are of some religious or traditional origin. However, same cannot be said for social and societal uplifting, and religious awareness. In the minds of a common man, service to God is supreme…service to man can come later. To toss this popular idiocy high into the air, Gurudwara Alambagh has been constantly progressive to preach that service to man is the greatest service to God.
The Kendriya Singh Sabha Lucknow Gurudwara Alambagh, commonly and rather popularly known as Gurudwara Alambagh was established in 1952. Its construction began in the year 1952 under the flagship of Late Sant Baba Mohan Singh Ji Kanpur Wale, and during the same year the gurudwara was opened for public gathering and prayers. The guidance of Gurudwara Alambagh fell in the hands of Late Sardar Amar Singh, who became its first President.
The proprietorship of the gurudwara is vested with the Kendriya Singh Sabha Lucknow, which is a committee comprising of, and representing all the factions of the Sikh community. The committee has a net strength of a staggering 175 members. A very interesting fact about Gurudwara Alambagh’s committee is that it is the only Sikh workforce with members from all over the city, something not usually seen in other committees that hold localized membership. The notable ‘Pradhan’ or committee head include names like Late Asha Singh, Late Sardar Hukum Singh, Late Sardar Kartar Singh, Sardar Charan Singh and Sardar Baldev Singh. Presently, the committee is presided over by Sardar Joginder Singh.
The Gurudwara Alambagh committee is also adorned with various eminent personalities from across the city like Mr. Nirmal Singh, working President of the committee; Mr Karamjit Singh, General Secretary of the committee; Sardar Balvinder Singh Siaan, Chaiman of the committee; Sardar Arvinder Singh Kohli, owner of the famous J. J. Bakers in Lucknow; Sardar Charanjit Singh Sahni, founder of Jyoti Envirotech, which is a prominent solid waste management and disposal agency in Lucknow; Sandeep Singh Anant; Sardar Jaspal Singh; Sarabjit Singh; Manjeet Singh Talwar; Baljeet Singh ‘Tony’; Harminder Singh etc.
The gurudwara has seen its fair share of ups and down. While the silver side of the coin was up at the very early stages of its establishment, it was soon flipped to a shady side in the years to come. “The alley leading to the gurudwara was very narrow” tells Sardar Joginder Singh Ji, an ancient yet sturdy man with a stoic demeanor, “The alley made the gurudwara pretty indistinct. To cope with the problem, the people around the gurudwara happily gave away their homes for demolition, and today that alley is 10ft wide”. While on one hand the institution had such an overwhelming support, there have been equally big resistances it had to face. President Nirmal Singh gives the account of one of the most remarkable feud in the history of the gurudwara, “The land on which we made the gurudwara belonged to the people. After the idea of a gurudwara was conceived, lands were bought from the people and unified as a single premise. However, few railways men objected and raised the issue of encroachment. And before we knew it, a barrage of Goons came charging in and damaged the structure. They broke down a couple of walls here”. He goes on to describe the event, “We sat in dharna pradarshan against this abusive assault. When the dust settled and talks were held it turned out that we had been wronged by the railways goons. The DRM at that time, I cant recall his name, came here himself and apologized, and his men took up the task to reconstruct the walls and undo the damages”.
Even in the present, Gurudwara Alambagh is not completely relieved of its predicaments. Kendriya Singh Sabha Lucknow Gurudwara Alambagh has over 65000 sq. ft. of land to its name, and it withholds a school, a hospital and an old age home besides the praying area. However, 21035 sq. ft. is under dispute. According to Nirmal Singh the land is being eyed by certain land mafiyas and thus, has become the subject of contention for the gurudwara. Recently the court’s verdict has fallen in favor of the gurudwara and it will be allowed to utilize the land for further project. “They want to win the land with the power of gun. We have our gun too, though it may look small. We call it courage, we call it hope”, says Sardar Joginder Singh as he gives out a hearty laugh.
The committee intends to utilize the land for the welfare of the entire committee, not that there has been any lack of community service before. To begin with, Gurudwara Alambagh contains Dashmesh Public School. This school is the gurudwara’s primary initiative to cultivate education in the coming generations. There are over 500 students receiving formal education in this school. The school was established in 2007 and is affiliated to CBSE Board. In the same building adjacent to the prayer hall, is Dashmesh Medical Charitable Centre. The Medicare unit has fully functional dental facility, X-ray machine, physiotherapy wing, ECGs, eyecare unit, homeopathic facility, and a pathology. Both the public school and the Medicare facility are established keeping in mind the availability of top provisions to the needy. While the Medical Centre charges a nominal fee of Rs. 40 for the slip (along with medicines for 2 days), the public school, too, has pretty normal fee for all the students and it even provides free education for the financially weaker sections.
While explaining the different works of the gurudwara, Mr. Nirmal says, ìWe have to come to a conclusion or a realization that the purpose of gurudwaras, mosques, temples, churches etc. is not to introduce the people to a power that shall frighten them but instead, to a power that shall uplift and improve them- intellectually, physically, emotionally, economically or in any way possible. That’s why we indulge ourselves in a myriad of social causes so that we can be the medium of that uplifting power. For instance, there is a high emblem called ‘Nishan Sahib’ at the top of the gurudwara so that the needy can see it from a distance and know that all his requirements will be fulfilled here’. The various selfless acts of kindness, that are a rare sight in today’s world, stand the testimony of these words.
Gurudwara Alambagh have been involved in numerous relief projects, the most notable of these being the ones during the Uttarakhand flood, The Saryu flood and Faizullah flood. In the Faizullah flood relief program, the workers carried the supplies on boats.
The foray of social initiatives doesn’t stop here. The members of the gurudwara conduct blood donation camps in association with SGPGI, in which common people from every corner of the society participate and take a step forward towards being heroes and saving lives. Gurudwara Alambagh also distributed free dustbin in the entire Alambagh market under Prime Minister Clean India Campaign. Another camp held by them is for the application and issuance of the Voter ID cards, Ration cards, Aadhar cards and minority’s scholarship form, in absolute coordination with concerned officers. The aim of these camps is to provide an easy access of his rights to an individual. Speaking of rights, the gurudwara also took out a procession in protest of the captivity of the supporters of Gurudwara Singh Khalsa in Mohali, who were on hunger strike. The supporters were held captive for a duration which was much more than ordered. Gurudwara Alambagh took out a protest march from Alambagh to the Gandhi Statue.
Apart from these outgoing campaigns, Gurudwara Alambagh has also created setups for community service within its own premises. It has an ongoing process of an old-age/retirement home for the elderly who do not have a place to belong to. Mr. Nirmal tells about the inspiration for this project, “I once saw an old man crouching by the steps. I went over to him and asked why he was not a part of the evening prayer, to which I got the reply that he had high fever for the past couple of days. I asked him to go to our hospital; the slip would be worth Rs.10. He refused and said, he had no money at all; his family barely managed to eat once a day. ‘I’ll stay hungry for two days and everything will get better”, he said. I put myself in his shoes and was shaken to my core to think of myself so helpless that hunger becomes an option for cure”. The old age home has provision for 22-24 bed with regular food, water and electricity supply. In the upper chambers of the building of the old age home is a guesthouse of equal capacity. The idea is to provide lodgings to travellers at very low rates. In the scheme of things is also a marriage hall that provides a seating of nearly 200 people at a cost of Rs.15000. The gurudwara has recently introduced the facility of air conditioned chambers for the carriage of the bodies of the deceased. This, along with the hearses sent out by them, is an attempt to be of service even during the last moments of one’s being, or whatever of it is left behind.
Gurdwara Alambagh has recently shown exemplary sense of help, something that is worthy of a special mention. The gurudwara has taken the responsibility of paying the bills for a physically challenged man who was to be provided with prosthetic limbs. The man, as told by the committee members, was in no position to pay for the charge and came to the gurudwara for help. Without delay, the committee members to take up the task at hand and help him. As of today, the limbs have been installed and the man is in the hospital complexes adapting to his new legs.
Mother Teresa once said, ìHoliness is not the luxury of the few, it is a simple duty, for you and for meÖî. With the same feeling of installing holiness anywhere and everywhere Gurudwara Alambagh has taken up service as its weapon and shall continue its charge with an even greater zeal and rigour. The example it has set for the society has clearly given out a message that community is made up of peoples first not a religion.
Writer is a student. Reading and writing are his passion.
(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 16, Dated 05 July 2015)