The Skies Clear Up Just Enough for SNC’s Vaisakhi Mela

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By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: All week long it had poured; two days earlier some parts of the city were flooded by an intense downpour with 80 mph winds that resembled a tropical storm more than the line of squalls that passed across the area. Organizers of the Sikh National Center’s Vaisakhi Mela were anxiously worried about the upcoming event and even pulled ads thinking it would have to be cancelled. It even rained in parts of the city the night before.

But the organizing committee took a chance, as if they had a premonition of good weather in the offing and decided to go forward. They were rewarded with a window of great sunny weather that blessed the Vaisakhi celebrations all day long on Sunday, April 19 till right after they ended around 7pm, when the skies once again roared into thunderous action.

Needless to say, the grounds of the huge SNC’s tract of land off Beltway 8 between Gessner and Fairbanks-North Houston were soaked and the much planned sports competitions like the tug-of-war, volleyball and races that took place last year just didn’t materialize this year, much to the disappointment of many of the nearly 2,500 people who came to take part in the annual mela. But the little kids did get to enjoy the air mattress playground and slides and a few pony rides.

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This year, the organizers planned for a concert by touring Indian Punjabi religious singer Surinder Shinda and his team, who entertained the crowd that was assembled under the large open-sided basketball pavilion on makeshift chairs and benches. He sang for nearly 3 hours, while many of the younger set played basketball to one side. Religious bhajans in the morning were led by the SNC Jatha of Bhai Nitendar Singh and a Guest Jatha of Bhai Gurden Singh. The sound system was by Desi Entertainment DJs: DJ Geo – DJ Saini.

Across from the pavilion was a new item added this year: a covered area where food and a couple of service booths had been set up, although all the food was free to the public. The langar was held in the ante-rooms to the Darbar Sahib, which is still nestled in a temporary building, and the Langar Seva was hosted by Bawa Jewellers and Monty Bawa Remax. Special guest of the mela was Indian Consul (Passport & OCI) N. P. S. Saini.

The 20-acre SNC 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 Gurudwara as well as a boarding school, auditorium, museum, library, pavilion and residence for priests. Posters informed the public that $6 million has so far been raised through donations and spent and another $5 million is needed to complete the work.

The main Gurudwara building has slowly taken shape and is now it is almost shelled in, with its imposing presence visible from the feeder road. According to Harjit Galhotra, Secretary of the SNC, the outside stucco and stone work will be completed through a $1 million loan from Comerica Bank. The inside fit-out and finishes will only be undertaken once more money is raised.

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The event committee – composed of Hitpal Singh, Harjit Singh Galhotra, Manohar Singh Mann, Gursharan Singh, Gurbir Singh Boparai, Satbir Singh Rana, Bhupinder Singh, Aman Singh Sidhu, Daljit Singh, Gurminder Singh Padda, Gurcharan Sooch and Sarabjit Singh Mann – was ecstatic about the turnout and donations  The Chairman of the SNC is Dr. Hardam Singh Azad.