On a recent afternoon at the gurudwara and its grounds, some men sprawled on charpoys, beds made of ropes, under a java plum tree. Others sat in an outdoor enclosure in the complex, where they prayed, listened to Punjabi songs and discussed their personal problems, buoyed by endless rounds of chai.
“We come here because of our loneliness,” said Baldev Singh, 74, a frail man who retired as a sergeant in the Indian Army. “Nobody listens to the old man in the house,” Mr. Singh added. “These days, young boys get a motorcycle and a mobile phone as soon as they grow up. We went to school in our underwear!”
In a washing area with a row of sinks, older women took turns scrubbing steel plates, spoons and a giant pot as part of “seva,” or selfless service, a tenet of Sikhism that seeks to promote oneness and love among all.
“If I don’t come here, I can’t digest my rotis,” said Lakhwinder Kaur, 72, who performs a daily ritual of service at the gurudwara. “We work, we talk and we pray,” she said, while enjoying a spoonful of rice pudding on her break. “What else do we need?”
There are roughly the same number of men and women at the gurudwara, but they tend to gather separately and adhere to traditional gender roles, with the women more often taking on cooking and cleaning tasks while men chat over chai. But both have found a sense of community.
For Jasbeer Kaur, 70, who has been volunteering at the gurudwara for four decades, and other women in her group, their roles were clear. “I tell them, ‘Take the god’s name and contribute service,’ not gossip,” she said.
Nearby, a group of women discussed their sons and daughters-in-law in muffled voices inside the latticed hall of the gurudwara, some lying on the carpeted floor. “They say, ‘What do you know? You’re so old,’” Ninder Kaur, 62, a widow, explained.