Survival Guide: Gurdwara and Children

Survival Guide: Gurdwara and Children

We took the kids to the Gurdwara as usual at the weekend and everything was ok until about 5 minutes after we sat down in the Divaan. That’s when toddler decides she wants to run around and baby wants to play with toys the kids in front were playing with, must be the Prashaad effect. After numerous quiet attempts to settle toddler we shift to the Langhar hall. Now the Langhar hall is a big open space and kids love open spaces so as soon as you enter there is no stopping’ em. As we enter our toddler takes a big excited sprint into the middle of nowhere, turns to look at my unimpressed face whilst ushering them to come back but of course she just laughs and goes for another sprint followed by spins, more sprints and dodging all the sangat doing seva and having Langhar. Yep Prashaad gives you wings!

Finally DaddySingh (the husband) sits down to have his Langhar but toddler with ants in her pants can’t sit down so bops around whilst taking bites of roti. I come along with my Langhar to sit down and baby dives her hand in to the dhaal. DaddySingh grabs the arm whilst I dive for wet wipes and clean her hands before she gets a Mirchy mouth (now that would have been a nightmare). Before you know it toddlers up and about again and my husbands reminding her to be careful and just for a split second looks the other way to say hi to a friend when suddenly,

Crash! Cling-Clang!  Waaaaaa!

As i turn quickly I see our toddler on the floor crying with Langhar all over her and the floor and then baby had reached my Langhar and was going for the subji but I managed to quickly swipe her away, give her a bit of roti to keep her occupied and grab the wipes from my bag with out even looking for it to clean up the mess (mummy skills *lifts arm to show non existent biceps).

Whilst the Sangat looked over with a mixture of expressions we calmly addressed the issue and settled down our toddler. DaddySingh then took toddler out of the Langhar hall and I was left with the responsibility of eating all the left over Langhar (…no comment).

This happens to many of us, whether you go to the Gurdwara with the kids regularly or even just when invited to a wedding, all is going as well as can be expected and suddenly the kids go crazy but what do you do and how do you avoid these disasters? Well unfortunately toddlers and babies are unpredictable and don’t come with an off/mute button so there is no 100% guarantee they won’t play up in some sort of way, especially if you’re going to be at the Gurdwara for a while. However here are my tips on how to make it easier along the way:

Plan and Time
Try and plan ahead for when you are going as this will help you get everything organised in advance and minimise the craziness. 

Determine how you are going to get there because the journey is just as important. Stressed out, upset and tired children is not an ideal way to arrive at any event. 

Finally work out what time you will be going and arriving, will it be nap time, lunch time, do they need to go potty? All these add to the possibilities of a tantrum or misbehaviour.

Pack Snacks and a Drink
Whether you are going for a quick visit or an all day function, it’s always a good idea to have some good healthy snacks your children can have either on the journey or at the Gurdwara. Now there will always be Langhar, however children have a mind of their own so may play up and refuse the roti. There is always the situation where you’re in the middle of a prayer and the kids want food, if you have the snacks they can get away with having them and plus it’ll hopefully make them sit quietly, for a little bit longer anyway.

Take a quiet toy/activity 
This one is great for the younger children. Toddlers do have a short attention span and naturally have bags of energy and therefore unable to sit still for too long. So taking some toys or favourite activity with you can help them stay calm and sitting for a bit longer. Do makes sure these are quiet toys as you don’t want to interrupt the prayers or keertan.

Pack spare clothes
There will always be messy disasters so you can’t go wrong with having a spare outfit, doesn’t have to be the whole wardrobe and you can always leave it in the car or to one side until you actually need it.

Have Langhar early
Especially if you’re at a wedding or a prayer with a lot of Sangat, children can get tired and over stimulated and often we mistake this for misbehaviour. Sitting still is hard work for children, especially when they are very young so taking them to have Langhar or stretch out their legs is a great idea to help them stay calm.

Go freestyle
This is arguably the best option and I see many Penji’s and Aunty Ji’s do this all the time. You just go to the Gurdwara and not take anything with you, this will mean your children have no choice but to get stuck in to Gurdwara etiquette but if you don’t want to take the risk or you just know your kids won’t settle then not taking anything with you may not be an option.

Stay calm
Above all stay calm Mummys and Daddy’s, we all know it can be hard work and frustrating running around children and trying to get them to follow what we need to do at Gurdwara. If it gets all too much, take a second and grab some water and of course start again.

Of course regular visits will result in kids learning gurdwara etiquette quickly but don’t worry all parents go through it and all children get there eventually!

I hope you enjoyed my post and found my tips helpful. If you have any more tips to help all the Mummys and Daddy’s out there, please do share them below.

Disclaimer: Prashaad is the BEST!

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Lohri; Celebrating our very own Indian Robin Hood. Part 1

Lohri; Celebrating our very own Indian Robin Hood. Part 1

Lohri has been celebrated for thousands of years, however no one really knows when it started although there are many stories.

Astrologically, this is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Capricorn and moves towards the North meaning the chill of winter wades off making the earth warmer. In other words it’s the end of winter and beginning of spring.

For thousands of years India has been symbolically celebrating this by lighting bonfires and gathering around singing, dancing and of course there’s food! Yum!
Furthermore the fire represented life and death just like water which symbolises transformation and regeneration, of crops and also newborns that survived their first winter. It also symbolises the sun or the Suns Rays, which stimulate growth of cornfields and wellbeing of man and animals. The sun also supplied light and heat and was seen as an image of energy and spiritual strength. This is why the Lohri fire was sanctified and venerated like a deity by offering peanuts, popcorn, sweets made of til-chirva, gajak, revri to appease the sun god.  

Hindus all over India celebrate Lohri in different variations and have different names for it.
Nowadays It’s not just Hindus, Punjabi Sikhs also celebrate Lohri and have done for many years.

One of the popular legends that you will hear is of Dulla Bhatti. During the Reign of Mughal King Akbar, Dulla Bhati was born in to a Muslim family who lived near Faisalbaad in Punjab which now comes under Pakistan. 

Following the foot steps of his father and grandfather Dulla Bhatti became known as a rebellion against King Akbars reign and famously robbed from the riches and distributed the goods to the poor. He also helped children and rescued girls from prostitution and helped them get married. Eventually he was deceitfully captured by King Akbars Army and hanged to death. Dulla Bhatti became a legend for these reasons and that’s why people of Punjab remember him on Lohri. 

Lohri is celebrated all over the world by Indians now, when there is a newly married couple or newborn (in many communities emphasised by the birth of a baby boy, but that’s a discussion of its own) and the rituals can vary by family but are generally similar. This year my family are celebrating Lohri as we have a new baby girl (my daughter) and my nephew who was born a few weeks earlier. There are also other relatives celebrating on the birth of their babies too. These celebrations don’t all happen on the same day nor necessarily on Lohri day it self, simply because it’s impractical to be everywhere at once.

How does Lohri get celebrated?

Typically, a bonfire is lit in the evening at the home of the person celebrating or in a large open area. People get together throw peanuts, popcorn, sweets made of til-chirva, gajak and revri to the fire, whilst newly weds and new borns are walked around the fire and appear to be praying towards the fire.This is then followed by a traditional meal of Saag (cooked spinach) and Makki di roti (corn flour roti) accompanied by white radishes, whole green chillis, rice pudding and plenty of Indian sweets.Families also sing songs whilst around the fire and dance to express their joy and happiness.

What does this have to do with Sikhi?

Simple answer, nothing!

Religiously there is absolutely no significance of celebrating Lohri. I mean our Guru Ji’s made it easy for us to live with out meaningless rituals and materialism such as, walking around and praying to fire, but Punjabis just can’t help it, we love having a reason to celebrate, dance, sing and in some not all cases be merry. Even if we don’t really know why we do it or if we do know, we do it anyway, because we are being told to and that’s better than arguing or upsetting our elders, right? Don’t get me wrong some people actually do want to celebrate Lohri and that’s fine but letting go of our egos for Sikhi, I guess seems harder than ever. Or is it?

How do you balance this in a family of religious and non religious people? 

Some people just don’t celebrate Lohri but as families grow and integrate there are mixture of opinions. Some want to celebrate Lohri for newly weds and/or newborns and others don’t. My in laws don’t celebrate the festival as such but my family does so by communicating with each other and understanding each other’s way of life a mutual decision can be made. In our case we had a huge family meal with out the bonfire, which allowed the family to come together but without possibly encouraging praying to fire and that’s a fair compromise I think. 
It is great though, that we have our very own Robin Hood legend. He is an example that reminds us that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, it is your actions that matter the most. Therefore if legends like Dulla Bhatti encourage us to come together regardless of our backgrounds and create harmony across communities, (and by that I mean Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus etc) Lohri can hold a deeper relevance in today’s modern Indian society. Balle Balle to Robin Hood.

Invited to Birthday party

I mean my toddler was. She was invited to her first Birthday party just before xmas and I think I was more excited than her! 

As a child I was never allowed to go to my school friends birthday parties, I remember being invited to one at primary school but mum said no, what r u going to do there?  Come home and study…she did agree to get her a gift and equipped me with ‘we have a family function to go to’ excuse.  Although my school friend was none the wiser, I however, felt it was unfair and tried to find ways to get her to change her mind all week with no success. 

My parents had their reasons and did what they thought was best. It wasn’t right in there belief to interact with school friends outside of school. It was always show your appreciation, say thank you and tell them you can’t come as you have a family function or something along those lines.

My parents generation feared that their children would forget/rebel against their traditional backgrounds. Coming from India, they were brought up with high values, respecting elders and a huge family support system. The west challenged many of these beliefs for our parents as they adjusted to life here and as WE were the first generation to be born and bred in the west they had to figure out how to balance the east and west for their children as well as themselves.
My parents had obviously seen this rebelling happen in the community and admittedly many of my older cousins did rebel; sex, drugs, rock n roll, boy/girl friends, baby out of wed lock, marriage with different ethnic backgrounds, you name it it was all done before I reached secondary school. Maybe they felt they had a duty to ensure I didn’t do the same? 

My husband and I however, differ in that not only do we have and understand the values of our elders but also have the ‘western culture’ side kinda’ sorted through experience of living in the west since birth and so have no problem with taking our toddler to the Birthday event.

As I was clearing my toddlers bag at the end of the week, out came an envelope and it was an invite to a birthday party! I was really looking forward to it as I don’t really know many of the mums yet and well I never say no to cake (hehe). The following week I went and purchased a gift for the Birthday boy and wrapped it all up ready to go. 

The party itself was in a play barn with a reasonably sized soft play maze and there were about 20 children in the end plus their parents of course.  Most of the mums and dads were really pleasant to talk to but I did notice a group of parents comfortably chatting away in their own circle and definitely didn’t want to interact, you know the ‘snobby parents’. This reminded me of all those ‘types of parents you see at parties’ blogs I’ve read and are so true, I can definitely relate! 

Snobby parents spotted!

Must have done well though as the following day I received another invite to another birthday party, woohoo!

It’s 2016

A Happy New year to you all, we are definitely hitting the ground running this year with plenty of exciting things I’m looking forward to sharing with you all; Birthdays, weddings, parties, religious events and cultural festivals.

January is a busy month for me and my family as its Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Gurpurab as well as poornmassi.

Culturally we will be celebrating Lohri this year as we had 2 new born babies in the family, one of which is my baby girl. What is Lohri? How and why do we celebrate this and how do I balance this between culture and Sikhi as well as the issues around Gender bias.

In the mean time we have abandoned potty training resulting from a crazy week and also I’ll be sharing my breast feeding journey with you guys this month.

Enjoy your first week back everyone!