The Christmas season always brings an opportunity for Hamilton businesses to give back to the community through various social initiatives. Nearly every day in the month of the, throughout the city, you can visit a food or toy drive, an auction, fundraiser, or party with a social bend. ‘Tis the season to give back and Hamilton’s business community embraces the spirit. Many stop short of keeping their doors open Christmas day. After all, they have families and traditions of their own that they want to keep and as 70% of businesses in Hamilton are small, operated by 1 – 10 employees, most choose to close for the big day.
Luckily, Narula’s Express on James St. South and Young St. decided that they would keep their doors open and, not only that, they would offer a free meal to whoever wanted, or needed one.
“Langar” is a Sikh term that means community kitchen. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries and Narula’s Express and Banquet Hall are bringing it to Hamilton. On December 25th,
Narula’s hosted their first Sunday Langar at their brand new Express location at 2 Young St. For two hours, from 12 to 2 in the afternoon, anyone and everyone was welcome to come in and enjoy a fresh vegetarian meal prepared by the head chef of Narula’s Express – Sunny Narula. They plan to continue hosting Langar at Narula’s Express on the last Sunday of every month.
A Langar opens its doors to the community to offer free meals to all visitors, regardless of their faith, religion or background. The practice was started in the 13th century by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru. He wanted to create caring communities that looked past the rigorous caste system that limited people from communing together in a meaningful way. In a traditional Langar, everyone sits on the floor to eat a simple meal. Regardless of your status in society, at a Langar everyone is treated as equals in the same pangat (“row”). You get an opportunity to eat with, to speak with, to rub shoulders with all members of your society.
While Canada is a land of equality, we still live in communities that can become silos when there are not enough opportunities to experience other cultures. These days opportunities are needed more than ever to bring different cultures in the community together. One of the ways that we can fight anxiety and isolationism is to gather together in community setting. What better way to do that than through a hearty meal?
Rosy and Sunny Narula opened Narula’s Banquet Hall on Barton St. East four years ago. The space was previously known as the Olympia and it’s seen it’s fair share of changes to the community since that time. When they took ownership, the Center was still just plain old Center Mall. Hamilton’s business community was still struggling to get back onto its legs after years of mourning the death of the manufacturing industry. It needed people like the Narula’s to have faith that this community could be a good place to build their business.
“Hamilton’s business community embraces you,” Rosy Narula explains. “Even the smallest effort that you put in to giving back [to the community] is returned to you.”
The Barton Street hall began originally as both a banquet hall and a restaurant, but this proved to be logistically difficult for the family. So they closed the restaurant portion of the business to focus on the banquet hall.
Of course, it was too difficult to keep the chef out of the kitchen so in December 2016 Sunny and Rosy opened their Express location where they offer takeout, delivery and dine-in. And now, of course, another opportunity to help the community.
Community support is what reminds Rosy Narula of who she is. “It’s a part of me and my family,” she explains. “Without giving back I would not feel human.”
Since opening their doors on New Year’s Eve 2013, Narula’s Banquet Hall has been a host to some of the most diverse events in the city. Their goals to be known as an inclusive community gathering space and a business that provides more than just economic benefits to the city. They look for ways to provide social assistance as well through events like the monthly Langar and partnerships with non-profits like Erich’s Cupboard that host events popular fundraisers in the east end banquet hall such as the recent Unity One Faces of Change fashion show this past November.
There are many international families in the city and they all want to celebrate their own cultural traditions – Narula’s Banquet Hall strives to provide them the space to do that. Families can hire their own caterers and entertainment to provide the food and feel of their own culture.
If there’s one thing Hamilton stands to benefit from with this recent economic renaissance, it’s from businesses like Narula’s that proves that profit is only one part of the business – community-building is just as important.