At 5:50 PM, i took off from gaduli on cycle (after having some vada pavs and dhabelis). I still had 20 Kms to go to reach Lakhpat fort. As i rode alone through the highway on my cycle towards Lakhpat, I could see the brilliant sun set to my left. It changed from golden yellow to red. After the sun set, there was a faint thin pink line left behind on the horizon and that, combined with the blue of the night mixed together to form a riot of colors that was a sight to behold.
As I reached Lakhpat fort, it was nearing total darkness. There was a chai stall just outside the fort and I approached it. I asked the guy standing behind the stall about finding acco for the night and to my utter surprise, he said there were no lodges in this area and my only chance of finding shelter for the night would be the gurudwara inside the fort. He asked me to hurry up as the fort’s gates would be closed in few minutes.
So, I got into the fort and took a few minutes to guess the way to the gurudwara. Near the gurudwara, I parked my bike outside it’s gate and stepped inside.
The keeper of the temple was sitting at his desk near the entrance and I went to him. With a totally embrassed expression, I asked him if i could get a place to stay for the night. I told him I was supposed to have reached this place much earlier but, due to unforeseen circumstances, had overshot my schedule.
He looked at me and held up his hand and said, “yeh gurudwara hai, yahaan har kisi ko rehne ke liye jagah aur langar uplabd hai. Hum kabhi kisi ki jaat nahi dekhte. Bas, ID card hona chahiye kyun ki yeh border area hai.”
(This is a gurudwara. Here, shelter and food is guaranteed to people of all backgrounds. We don’t see anybody’s religion before offering food or shelter. But, we do require an ID card since this is the border area. )
“Bas, hamari ek hi nivedan hai ki aap jabtak gurudwara ke andar rahenge, tab tak, sar ko dhak ke rakhna hai. Kapda hum de denge”
(Our only request is, keep your hair covered till you are in the gurudwara premises. We’ll provide the cloth for it.)
I was stunned and humbled by the straightforwardness and conviction with which he spoke. I produced my ID card and minutes later, was allocated a room near the top of the gurudwara. He asked me to get to the kitchen by 9 PM for the langar (food).
I went into the temple to pay my respects and came out and read some history about the fort and the gurudwara and then headed straight to my room, desperate to get a change of clothes and a shower. (The bathroom/toilet was shared)
The langar was sumptuous but simple fare (langar basically means, the food served by the gurudwara is considered as a form of prasad)
As I headed back to my room, I found myself out of words again. I was served food without any sort of judgment and was provided with shelter for the night without any questions.
All sort of questions popped out in my head. Why are these guys so humble?? Why did they serve me food??? Don’t they know i am an arrogant atheist?? What makes them so compassionate and empathetic??
For all the ridicule i had shown towards religion and “gods”, by all rights, I deserved to sleep in the open in the cold night. But no, I was served food with genuine warmth and I had a bed waiting in my own room.
“What if I am wrong?” I asked myself…but I had no answers…I threw the question into the night towards the salt desert which was visible in the distance but it did not answer back.