At Home in the Qila at Sultanpur Lodhi
One week ago a diverse group of individuals arrived at the old fort in Sultanpur Lodhi, Punjab, India. Some were local people who were hard at work with building and restoration projects on the grounds, preparing rooms or setting up the kitchen. Four young men arrived on the train from Rajasthan carrying with them their instruments and their tradition. Cars arrived from Amritsar carrying American women who had arrived in Delhi a few days earlier and visited the Darbar Sahib before beginning the kirtanworkshop at the Qila. Buses and trains brought the remaining students from Delhi, Rome and California.
Bhai Baldeep Singh’s heart-warming welcome to each new arrival helped to take the chill off the cold and damp February air. Some of the group had visited the Qila in recent years and were impressed with the amount of restoration work that has already been done. Much care had been taken to make the Qila a home for these two weeks.
Mattresses and sheets were spread on the floor and students took their seats in our new classroom. As instruments were unpacked, the classroom was warmed by high spirits, kamaicha, khartal, dholak, pakhawaj, tanpura, taus and tabla. Bhai Baldeep sang and taught new compositions. Over the next few days, students shared freely and small groups gathered in the buildings and on the lawns to compare notes and learn from each other.
The little community of learners includes children, teenagers, young adults and elders. The group includes an architect, a veterinary doctor, a policeman, a jazz musician, Manganiar musicians, ragis, a lawyer, a school principal, yoga teachers, and a PhD candidate. Friendships have formed and the young people bring an infectious enthusiasm and playful energy. They are especially adept at overcoming any obstacles from cultural or language differences.
In addition to the students who have gathered here from around the world, the community of participants in this kirtan experience has grown to include the local residents of Sultanpur Lodhi who have extended their hospitality to all of us and their support to Bhai Baldeep Singh and the heritage tradition. They have invited us into their homes in town and in the villages and have offered us transportation, warm beds and delicious meals. The Europeans and Americans have especially enjoyed the rare treat of Punjabi specialties like parantha, saag, chai and gur which we don’t taste very often at home. We are especially grateful for the loving care and attention given to us by Dr. Harjit Singh and Raminder Kaur who have organized many of our programs. Wherever we have gone we have received warm hugs and have witnessed the loving devotion and service of the house of Bibi Nanaki.
Several local people have visited the classes to listen and learn. We look forward to the rest of our time here sharing the music, sharing the Guru’s heritage, sharing the love in the town of Sultanpur Lodhi.