Southall: The amazing grannies working from 4am to cook for vulnerable people every day at a Sikh temple in West London

A group of Southall grandmothers volunteer to make thousands of chapatis as an act of 'selfless service' for t...

Inside a bustling kitchen in West London, there is a group of women hard at work.

The women - many of whom are retired grandmothers - gather every day to make thousands of chapatis for attendees at a Sikh temple in Southall.

The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, located adjacent to Southall station, is one of many Sikh temples in the town to provide free food, known as langar ...

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...The temple, known as a Gurdwara, on Park Avenue is visited by around 5,000 worshippers every day with hundreds of volunteers both male and female involved in running the community kitchen.

The women, who are responsible for making the chapatis, work at a phenomenal speed kneading and rolling dough into perfectly thin circles before cooking them on a heated flat top stove.

The male volunteers are usually given the responsibility to make the curries and dahl (lentils).

The volunteers in the langar hall are all followers of the Sikh faith and they said it was their faith that drove them to a lifetime of service.

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Surinder Kaur attends the Gurdwara every day to make chapatis in the community kitchen.

The 71-year-old grandmother, born in India, describes the people in the Gurdwara as “family”.

“They’ve all become a family, the ladies are so nice, they’re your family”, she said. “I’m really happy at the Gurdwara.”

Surinder used to attend Gurdwaras in India with her mother before she later moved to the UK.

The grandmother, who also lives in Southall, usually walks to the Gurdwara at 8:45am and helps at the langar hall for around an hour. She then sits in the prayer hall for 10 to 15 minutes before returning home.

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“Seven days a week, God brings us here. The most important thing is God. We come to God’s home”, she said.

During the pandemic, Surinder was one of many volunteers who continued to cook food for vulnerable communities across Southall...

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...Amarjit Kaur, 62, has lived in Southall for 43 years and regularly attends the Gurdwara.

The 62-year-old is one of many women who produce food in the langar hall.

Originally from Kenya, Amarjit’s family moved to Birmingham in 1969 before she later relocated to Southall.

Amarjit fondly remembers attending Gurdwaras in Nairobi before moving to the UK.

She said: “We used to go to the Gurdwara in Africa, in Nairobi, then we went to the Gurdwara in Smethwick (Birmingham). Soon after that I got married and came to Southall.”

Amarjit described the Gurdwara as a “very important” part of her life. Due to this, Amarjit expressed how difficult it was to stay away from the temple during the pandemic.

“This sangat [congregation] is like a big family to me… [the pandemic] broke such a big link out of my life,” she explained.

"As I returned back and I saw people, it gave me a [reason] to say 'Thank you, God, you saved each and every one of us from Covid-19'".

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Another volunteer, Joginder Kaur Rehal, 70, was also unable to visit the Gurdwara during the pandemic.

Joginder added: “For three months I didn’t come, that made me very upset. I used to get up at 1:30am and have a shower, do paath (prayer) and when it’s 3:15am my heart would say ‘I want to go’ - I felt so bad.”

Joginder has attended Gurdwaras since she was seven years old.

Born in Kampala, Uganda, Joginder came to the UK in 1972 and remembers seeing her mum volunteer at Sikh temples...

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...Amarjit Deol also attends the Southall Gurdwara to volunteer in the kitchen.

The 60-year-old, who lives in Southall, usually leaves the house at 6:15am and travels to the Gurdwara every day to help make chapatis in the kitchen.

The grandmother-of-four says she attends the Gurdwara as it is "God’s will".

She said: “From the beginning, you have trust in God, they say to do seva. I enjoy myself.

“[There’s] something that brings me here, it’s Waheguru’s [God’s] will. That’s the only thing on my mind - to go to the Gurdwaras.”

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Amarjit, who was born in Wolverhampton, described how the food from the kitchen helps to support people in the local community.

“People who don’t have a place to eat, mainly going to jobs and can’t cook in the morning - men and boys mostly from India - they can come and take food. It’s good for them and it’s help given from the Gurdwara.”...

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