A Great Day for Lovers of Punjabi, Big and Small!

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From left: Major donors for the construction of the Punjabi School at the Gurdwara Sahib of Southwest Houston at the grand opening; (from left) architect Hardeepak Munday, Paul and Manmeet Likhari
and Nandika and Preshant Mehta with their son.




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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Language is the key to a person’s culture and rootedness, and in this multi-cultured city – one would venture to say country even – raising a child to be comfortable in two, and maybe more cultures, can be challenging at best if the subtle nuances can’t be transmitted.

The task got a little easier for an enthusiastic and dedicated bunch of Punjabi speakers as the Gulf Coast’s first Punjabi school opened its building this past Sunday, April 19, to coincide with the area wide celebration of Baisakhi.

Located adjacent the Gurdwara Sahib of Southwest Houston, the 2,700 sf, single-story building was designed in six months by the same architect. Hardeepak “Harry” Munday, who did the main Gurdwara and is in the same clean, functional and contemporary lines. The school building was built in four months at a cost of $350,000 but that is not the eventual place of the school.

“This building is designed and built to eventually become a sarai or visitor’s quarters,” explained Munday of the traditional way of attaching such facilities for wayward travelers to temples and gurdwaras in India. “We just bought the large tract of land to the south (abutting Beechnut) and intend to build a larger 15,000 sf school there when we raise the funds.” Accordingly, each classroom has a full bathroom attached to it.

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Ambitious as it may seem, the need is clearly there as the gurudwara draws 350 to 400 worshippers each day of the weekend, besides other activities during the week. And with a fundraising committee (headed by GSSWH Trustee Chair Paul Likhari) that is focused on the expanded scope, the entire site will also include a matching 2,700 sf building on the east side to house the families of the two resident Bhais or priests of the gurudwara.

“We emphasized amenities, functionality and providing services instead of simply building prayer space,” said Munday as he gave a tour to the group of people who came for the dedication and opening ceremony. Gurdwara Board Trustee Dr. Tejendra Singh Gill and Joint Secretary Amarjit Singh echoed the sentiments, adding that the facility had to be multipurpose to be used for weddings and socio-religious occasions.

The entire student body of about 35 kids and their teachers attended the opening dressed in some form of saffron color – scarves, head coverings and turbans overflowed – contrasting against the white of the pajama kurtas as they lined up between the water feature and the new building to sing devotional and inspiring songs. Bhai Bhupinder Singh Paras gave the benediction and prayer before the doors were opened to the stream of excited visitors.