The day of the storm in the UK, well not really a storm where I was but the sky turned an orange red colour, I was visiting London, I spent the morning at the SAATCHI (free art gallery near Sloane Square) and planned to go to do Seva at the Gurdwara at Shepards Bush in the afternoon that is being refurbished. That’s the great thing about the Saatchi, it doesn’t take all day to go around, is relaxing and inspiring, the shop is great too. Though I often wonder, what next when I come out, I was pleased to actually have somewhere to go other than my usual routine of sitting in Holland Park (beautiful gardens).
It was eerie as I came out of the tube station to Shepards Bush, I realised I was alone in an unfamiliar area on a day where trees could actually fall, they didn’t. I walked up steps and through a subway and saw the Gurdwara was right in front of me, google maps off. I’ve been appreciating lately that I notice the Nishan (flag) before the building itself, especially helpful when driving.
I walked up, the sky still orange and the wind had picked up, messaging one of the Singhs about Seva to confirm, I got a yes. I got there and spoke to construction workers who were working outside. ‘I’m here to do seva..’ Cue confused expressions and words I don’t understand. ‘Come back Saturday’. Oh ge, today is my Saturday, I’m working Saturday, this is what happens when you work shifts… I thought.
I explained I was messaging H.Singh and he just said yes, his face changed. Don’t trick a tricker.
‘He’s not here now’ he said ‘Ok, sure, no worries’ and I walked away.
I walked back, getting turned away for Seva has to be a new low, I mean I’ve had some lows and rock bottoms in my time but this was right up there… I wasn’t sure what to do next, it meant an opportunity for an evening in but I didn’t really want to do that. I could message the Singh and explain but that seemed silly. I was trying to called another Singh but it wouldn’t connect. Wahe guru just walk slow Wahe guru…
‘Excuse me….’ Says the man in a high vis jacket ‘You can come back…we were concerned you might have come from far…We finish at 4 but after that others will be in soon’.
I thanked the man for taking time out to follow me up the path, it was lovely of him and explained I was in London anyway and had come from Nottinghill. I got there and spoke again of the Singhs I didn’t know personally but just knew there names.
‘I will do some Seva, anything!’ I said as we walked up the steps (any other place I would have just volunteered myself for cleaning the toilets, theres no shame in that, I do it in my job, though luckily the toilet block was still being built’.)
The contraction workers offered me some spray job or something but another helpful Singh said there was some scraping to do. Finally my hours of DIY in the past will be of use.
It was wonderful, I scraped glue off these decorative metal shapes in the quiet. No one asked my name, where I was from, why I had come today. I was just left to be, sitting under the giant beautiful chandelier with the door open so I could see the orange sky and wind blowing the trees. The weather seemed strange though I felt I was in the safest place.
The helpful Singh left and told me to finish the last few shapes and close the door on the way out. No pressure to go or stay, wonderful. I sat and sang Wahe Guru slowly, though the work I was doing it should have been more like – Wah Guroo Wah Guroo! I was singing along and felt a presence at the back of the room, I turned and a construction worker had stopped to listen as he was wondering where it came from ‘Only me singing’.
I finished and got him to let me out, as I had stopped singing, he said I was quieter than anyone else and forgot I was there. I love how I can be literally locked in but so free.