Jalsa Salana has always been an event at which as well as sitting and listening I have also volunteered, especially since living on the Surrey Hants border means I’m local and so it is easier to work longer hours. Although exhausting, I wouldn’t have it any other way because there’s just so much reward to be had.
When Jalsa moved to Alton we saw golf buggies for the first time whizzing past full of guests; a couple of years later I found myself as part of the first dedicated buggy team. We worked from Thursday to Monday transporting guests and actually those two non-Jalsa days were my favourite days in terms of helping and assisting people that needed it.
On the Thursday before Jalsa, families arrive to check in to the accommodation area and we greet and help them to the marquees in which they are staying. In this way I get to meet people from the UK and all over the world who are excitedly looking forward to the Jalsa weekend. I recall driving some elderly ladies from Rabwah and instantly feeling a connection with them as they reminded me of my aunts who were also from there. Also a family from Japan who, it turned out in conversation, knew my in-laws in Japan very well. We are all one big family in this Jalsa world.
One long Thursday sticks in my mind; a warm, sunny day with guests continuing to arrive late into the night. Of course, however warm the day, once the sun set I discovered just how freezing it can get when you are driving an open buggy with the wind chilling your bones. While I tried to continue my work as normal the guests I was driving realised how cold it was and I was offered so many prayers and wishes that they had gloves or socks to give me.
When I think about Jalsa and guests I think of brothers and sisters from around the world getting together under a common faith, giving the gift of love and prayers and looking out for each other.
This leads me to a memory from last year when I was in the bazaar on Sunday evening to buy food for the team I was working with. The stalls were crowded and the queues long. An African sister asked for three bags of chips for her small children and they began to eat them before she discovered she had left her wallet behind in the accommodation marquee. As her children had already begun to eat she tried to apologise to the stall holder and said she’d have to return with the money. The stall holder realised what she was saying as did some other customers and at the same time she waved away the payment, four customers called out “I’ll pay for her”. This was such a small incident but at the end of a long Jalsa weekend so heart-warming and symbolic that we are indeed one big family.
And that is what makes Jalsa Salana so special – the coming together of diverse people from all over the world as part of one big family.
By Sameea Jonnud