Source: The New York Times
The groaning, clattering machines never stop, transforming 12 tons of whole wheat flour every day into nearly a quarter-million discs of flatbread called roti. These purpose-built contraptions, each 20 feet long, extrude the dough, roll it flat, then send it down a gas-fired conveyor belt, spitting out a never-ending stream of hot, floppy, perfectly round bread.
Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies.
It is lunchtime at what may be the world’s largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city’s glimmering Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion. Everything is ready for the big rush. Thousands of volunteers have scrubbed the floors, chopped onions, shelled peas and peeled garlic. At least 40,000 metal plates, bowls and spoons have been washed, stacked and are ready to go.
Anyone can eat for free here, and many, many people do. On a weekday, about 80,000 come. On weekends, almost twice as many people visit. Each visitor gets a wholesome vegetarian meal, served by volunteers who embody India’s religious and ethnic mosaic.