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A Mela to Test Strength, Skill and Stamina in the Sun!

From left: Surjit Singh, Gursharan Singh, Harjit S Galhotra, Hitpal Singh, Gurnam S Sandhar, Dr. Hardam Singh Azad and Gullu Dhindsa.

From left: Surjit Singh, Gursharan Singh, Harjit S Galhotra, Hitpal Singh, Gurnam S Sandhar, Dr. Hardam Singh Azad and Gullu Dhindsa. Photos: Jaswant Singh

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Each year the grounds of the Sikh National Center are a little different, with a little more progress as this site evolves into what the original founders had first dreamt of. The Gurdwara building has finally been completed, though the façade still needs some work and the interior is yet to be done. The parking lot is paved over and the blacktop emergency road has been replaced with a concrete one. And with a note of finality, the main entrance off the southbound Sam Houston Beltway feeder road has been constructed, with a wrought iron gate and a fence between concrete columns running on one side of the front property line.

From left: Gurmeet Saini, Aman Sidhu, Bhupinder Singh, Gullu Dhindsa and Hitpal Singh

From left: Gurmeet Saini, Aman Sidhu, Bhupinder Singh, Gullu Dhindsa and Hitpal Singh

There’s been a lot of sweat and tears that went into turning this 20 acres of land that once was covered with dense brush and trees over 15 years ago. And sadly, there is even some blood on the site. In a terrible accident over a month ago, Harjinder Singh Mann was pinned down by a bulldozer and died while clearing some tall pine trees from the site. In his honor, the main school building has been named for him, as his brother Manohar Singh Mann pointed it out wistfully.

SNC-in-4

The members of the organizing committee and the people who participated in the games pose for a group picture after the Vaisakhi mela held at the Sikh National Center. 

Mann sat with other elders at the edge of the sand covered court where the volleyball teams were competing in a rugged and thrilling match for the championship of the Vaisakhi Mela 2017 with a $1,100 prize as the attraction. Off to the other side of the large clearing, kids of all ages ran races – three-legged, sack, 50 meters – followed up with a tug-of-war which even had men’s and women’s teams competing. Two commentators gave running narratives, one on the ending stretch and the other at the startline standing on a makeshift stage of a truck trailer bed under some shady trees.

The Vaisakhi mela held this past Saturday, May 13 at the SNC, which brought out several thousand people to pray, celebrate, eat langar and play sports.

The Vaisakhi mela held this past Saturday, May 13 at the SNC, which brought out several thousand people to pray, celebrate, eat langar and play sports.

Two vendor booths lined the emergency road leading to the original gurdwara building, one serving gol-gappes for a dollar-for-three. The langar was set up under one side of the pavilion, and on the other side two teams of teenagers played an exciting game of basketball. In the adjacent unfinished dirt lot, a small choo-choo train made lazy eights in the sun with its three bogeys of passengers. In the last space left with some pine trees, a children’s play area was crowded with young kids at the inflatable moonwalks and castles, a petting zoo and a cotton-candy booth.

Once again this past Saturday, May 13, it was a time to celebrate the beautiful Spring weather – sunny with low humidity – never mind that it was a month after the Vaisakhi festival. For at least the last two years, the SNC has heralded spring with a mela that has focused on athletics for young men and games for children and the young at heart. Thirty miles away across town, AsiaFest was being celebrated in the Museum district. Perhaps next year, a Sikh and Punjabi Festival could be celebrated at this large and open site.

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