A Bright Sunny Day Belongs to the Kids That Play

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  On most Sundays at the Sikh National Center’s 20-acre site north of Beltway 8 between Gessner and Fairbanks-North Houston, a hundred or so kids of all ages come out of religious classes, visit the gurdwara next door and though some may linger, most head back home.

This past Sunday was a bit different and they had something else to look forward to, as the SNC celebrated a Khed Mela (Sports Day) and an estimated 1,000 people came to attend the event organized by the Committee headed by Hitpal Singh; and want to make part of the SNC’s annual calendar. Last year Sports Day was held in April, in conjunction with Vaisakhi, but this year the event is a precursor to the larger Sports Day which is planned for on later this year at the Racetrack across the tollroad from the SNC site. Gurcharan Singh, who was busy helping the kids’ teams, is working on the SNC float that will be in the Thanksgiving Parade through downtown Houston on November 25.

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Last year in June, the newly formed Punjab Sports and Culture Club organized a huge entertainment event, free to the public, at the Sam Houston Racetrack, featuring five out-of-town performers, dinner and several exhibit booths and this year, more of the same is planned.

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And it was in the large open grassy area to one side that the activities were held this Sunday for kids young and old, all the way to people in their 50s and 60s. To one side was an inflatable moonwalk and slide for the young kids; to the other side, there were three-legged and spoon and lemon races and pony rides, with an area cleared for volleyball in the center. As an enthusiastic announcer gave almost-live commentary and announcements, different teams went through the races then the first, second and third place winners took their place on the winner’s podium.

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On the other end of the field, many young people played basketball in the covered, open-sided court, half of which was lined with seated spectators and an unending supply of pizza, gol gape, jalebis, pakoras and ice cones in addition to the langar after the religious services.

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The 20-acre site has been the focus of most of the Sikh community’s efforts for the past 15 years as a master-planned center that would house a Gurdwara as well as a boarding school, auditorium, museum, library, pavilion and residence for priests. During this time, through the dedicated efforts of a core, determined committee, the Sikh community has been able to raise money for the project through annual events at the site and donation drives. And slowly, the main gurdwara building is taking shape, with most of the exterior construction finished and the gray two-story shell visible from the tollroad.