WoMENA: Bubbles Kandhari, Managing World’s Most Modern Sikh Temple
It is not a far cry to say that Bubbles Kandhari, Vice-Chairperson of Guru Nanak Darbar, Dubai (the Gulf region’s largest and world’s most modern Gurudwara) resonates to the T with pioneering American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. She too completely stands by what he once said when setting the standard for giving back: “No man becomes rich unless he enriches others.”
And for her, giving back comes naturally. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Bubbles was the eldest daughter of a highly educated family, enjoying distinct adulation of her parents. Her position in the family, however, did not in any way hamper her grounded upbringing. Her parents, Kuldeep Singh Chadha and Harvinder Chadha took care of striking a balance between discipline and freedom. And she is eternally grateful for living up to the traditional values and progressive approach that her parents brought her up with.
Every day, Bubbles Kandhari makes sure to do at least one good karma, demonstrating the inner perfectionism in her character.
In fact, she credits her grandfather Gopal Singh Chadha for encouraging her to learn the teachings of Guru Nanak Devji (Gurbanis). Bubbles shares that she follows the guiding principle of the Mool Mantra – the words first spoken by the spiritual master after enlightenment. In everything that she does and in facing everyday challenges, it is with uncompromised passion and faith. It reminds her to be better, sensitive, compassionate and dedicated towards others.
Every day, she makes sure to do at least one good karma, demonstrating the inner perfectionism in her character. Her mantra being, “one beautiful thought in the morning to help bring a smile on someone’s face frames her entire day into the most meaningful one.”
Coming from a privileged family and happily married to a successful businessman, Bubbles lives her life beyond material wealth and actively serves as vice chairperson at the Guru Nanak Darbar Dubai – The Gulf region’s largest and world’s most modern Sikh Temple established by her and her husband Surender Singh Kandhari. In fact, the Sikh temple (Gurudwara) boasts to be the only place of worship in the world that is an ISO – 4 certified.
“It was, but a dream in 2004, to build a centre in Dubai where individuals of varied nationalities, communities, faith, religion and class, could come together to experience what community living is all about. At the time of its conception, we did not know how an AED70 million project will be financed or get approvals from the UAE government, as this was a novel concept and no regulations existed for the same,” she reminiscences. With persistence and determination to realise the plan, they finally got the nod from the UAE government in 2008. Battling recession, the Gurudwara structure stood at 120,000 square feet, opening its doors in 2012 and the Sikh temple stands independent of any ownership today.
And right from its inauguration date, every day, the massive five-star industrial kitchen of the temple cooks more than 1,000 kgs of rice, 1,500 kgs of wheat flour and 300 kgs of ghee (clarified butter) to serve thousands of worshippers and visitors. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to estimate that around 15,000 vegetarian meals known as Guru ka Langar (community meals) are served every Friday, which are given free not only to Sikhs, but to visitors of every faith and nationality.
To efficiently manage and run the daily functions of the temple, Bubbles relies on her prowess, extensive business experience and management skills. She has been the creative and intellectual brain behind the various activities at the temple aimed for the children, aged five years and above. Teaching them the Punjabi language, harnessing with cultural insight by learning Gurbani (hymns from Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh community), the harmonium and the tabla (Indian percussion instrument), Bubbles is dedicated to help make this centre a place of learning and growth.
To efficiently manage and run the daily functions of the temple, Bubbles relies on her prowess, extensive business experience and management skills.
Adding another feature to the growing popularity of the gurudwara amongst blue collar workers, the humanitarian has initiated various outreach and welfare events. She has hired teachers to provide English language lessons for her staff, delivers food for the needy, stages blood donation drives, provides airline tickets for the underprivileged and initiates campaigns against women abuse by serving as an honorary member on the Women Welfare Board of the Indian Embassy, Dubai.
And while, one would anticipate sweat beads tiring the 65 plus year old, she chooses to surprisingly disappoint you. She is very proud of her annually celebrated Woman’s Day celebrations. “It is this one day that we women completely take over the planning, execution and running of the gurudwara. From shoe-collection at the entrance to delivering the sermons, cooking in the kitchen and (wo)manning the service stations; we are the engine behind the machine for this one day.”
One can be sure that these activities are more than enough to keep one occupied the entire day, yet Bubbles manages to spearhead another passion project for the elderly people – The Young Hearts Group. This group provides a platform for senior citizens to ease off their loneliness by connecting them with each other. Inspired and encouraged by Punjab Kesari newspaper’s Kiran Chopra, Bubbles set up this platform in 2015, and today the forum consists of some 50 members between the ages of 60 and 92, and helped run by 20 volunteers.
The 66-year old humanitarian, author and poet’s enthusiasm and zest for life determines how much of a difference she has made in her life and in the lives of others. One is compelled to brand her as an empowered woman of compassion when she insists that the most rewarding way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Listening to people, Yasmeen Maqbool acquaints herself to their life’s feature. What inspires and encourages, she’s always on the lookout for ‘passionistas’ and weaves their stories to bring to you the movers and shakers of today! Her only other true indulgence is spending quality time with her green fingers while listening to Jagjit Singh ‘ghazals’.