The Akand Path.
Maybe it’s all those sits at the Book – the Sikh Guru at the Gurdwara on the mountain- reading in continuous fashion; dozens of devotees, full, half or just tasting; reading, one after the other without pause. Three days it takes. Twenty-four hour days and no more if the readers are of an averagely moderate pace.
The slightest gesture communicating to the closely watching attendants; people waiting in their line, arriving minutes before, sometimes an hour before their turn. Meditating on the sound of the Nam – the whole of creation in the Sikh faith. The words of the book are the Nam. The people lie in their corner; the top of the cloth covered head or side body, but never the bottoms of the feet facing the book. They lie in meditation and wait glancing at the clock on the wall. There is always a clock on the wall. The Gurdwara is not a place for cell phones, though I suspect they have glowed their glow from time to time. Everyone cheats on their faith at some point or another.
Forty-five seconds prior to their prescribed time at the latest will they be shuffling their knees across the floor and beside the outgoing reader. The reader with finger tracing a line their last sentences to indicate where the incoming should begin. For a brief moment, perhaps three or ten words (pace dependent) both voices read aloud together as the baton is passed.
Hesitation is unholy in the Gurdwara, or so it would seem. And I’ve never once seen the reading interrupted, the chain broken. Never once has a person interjected their own words into the reading.
Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve been to a Gurdwara. Too damn long even. But it’s like being up against that fence at the NOLA St. Paddy’s parade or clopping my shiny black dress shoes down the marble floors of St. Josephs School in Lodi. I’m not there but it is in my cells. It is in my habits.
Eyes always stay on the page at the Guru. In the zone. No stopping. Awareness on the words, whether half understood or just pronounced. All is still until the new reader is heard entering the room. The only anxiety, a touch, as the blurred form of the next reader rises off the floor toward the book… Breath fuller. Tense and compensating. Like passing the the most delicate Penguin egg from one warm body to the other. Until the exchange has been safely made.