When you’re five years old, your priorities in life are simple: 1) wreak havoc, and 2) eat sugar. While my parents were generally wary of my consuming obscene amounts of sugar, they conveniently turned a blind eye when it came to the holy karah prasad—a staple dish for Sikhs in places of worship and made at home as well. In my childhood, it was an enabler of sugar-induced frenzies. In this regard, our family’s monthly trips to the gurdwara to offer prayers were a combination of dread (two young children high on sugar, what could go wrong?) and delight.
The gurdwara (literally meaning “God’s gates”) is characterized by its wide, open halls; the Paathi, whose sole duty is to read from the scripture Guru Granth Sahib; and the sweet offering of the karah prasad made at the end of the ardas, or the prayer service. As a child, this dish was my only incentive to put on a kurta-pajama, cover my head with a scarf, and wear the garb (both literally and figuratively) of understanding religion for an hour. While my parents devoted their time and energy to the service, I daydreamed about the forthcoming sweetmeat, a symphony of tabla and harmonium scoring my reverie.