Interview of Bubbles Kandhari: vice chair-person of the Sikh temple, Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara located in Dubai-UAE.

Interview of Bubbles Kandhari: vice chair-person of the Sikh temple, Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara located in Dubai-UAE.


Educational Qualifications: Completed Schooling at Hill Grange School, Mumbai-India.  Graduated in the Combined Degree of Economics, Statistics and Politics from Elphinstone College, Mumbai-India.


The United Arab Emirates is acclaimed for uniting people of different faiths – the proof of the pudding lies in the fact that over 201 nationalities are living here in the most peaceful manner.  Among the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the second largest emirate by land area.  Acceptance, tolerance, respect for interfaith principles have contributed in building an extra-special, multi-faceted society within this region.


H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, who is also the vice-president and prime minister of UAE is a man of clear vision; he sees the value of harmony.  Thus, Dubai is the abode of diverse religions – mosques, churches and temples stand side by side in tranquility.  Out of this concept, similarly, a very elegant house of worship was built for the Sikh community in the year 2012.  The land has been donated by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, decisively, filling a spiritual void of the Sikh community. 

The Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple is located in the outer skirts of Dubai, and it warmly welcomes people, irrespective of caste or creed.  Each time I enter the gurudwara, my glances mingling in a warm embrace of faith give me an enormous feeling of contentment.  Following the customary ritual, I take off my footwear, wash my hands, cover my head, before I offer obeisance at the main sanctum where the holy book – Sri Guru Grant Sahib is preserved.  The sublime aura of the place is perennial, leaving me in pure reverence and awe, always. 


As I finish with my prayers, soon after, a gentleman from the temple’s office hurries to my side to take me to the upper level of the building to meet Bubbles Kandhari – she is expecting me. 


That morning, I was taken by Bubbles for an extensive trip of Guru Nanak Darbar.  But first of all, my questions arrived for Bubbles as we sat in a room from where she conducts her daily duties for the holy shrine.  In the answers to my questions rested the journey of Bubbles and her spouse, Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Guru Nanak Darbar, and chairman of Al Dobowi Group which forms his global business enterprise. 


Obviously, the Guru Nanak Darbar project from the time of its inception has been colossal and quite unique in nature; the original concept of getting approvals for the temple, and the construction of the building required stamina for a very thorough study.   Eventually, the whole idea of it became a dream come true for Surender and Bubbles; now, even more than before, Bubbles is equally a prominent part of this blessed reality.


‘I was only nineteen when I got married, and the results of my graduation came later. Look what I am doing now! Who was to tell?’ Bubbles pronounces happily.  She reminisces her early years of arrival.  ‘When we came to Dubai from India, this place was village like in atmosphere with a sense of warmth.  I missed India, but there was excitement for the new life.’


When the Kandharis arrived in Dubai in 1975, there was a specific aim.  The purpose was to extend their family business of tyres.  By now they had two sons, Jasjeev and Harjeev.


Bubbles explained, ‘The business of Hyderabad was brought into Dubai as an extension by Surender.  I was busy raising our kids who after the seventh grade went for schooling to London.’   


With the mention of kids and schools, I asked Bubbles how her general routine was in those years.  Two things stood out.  Radio and TV Shows came her way quite easily – Dastaan was the first Hindi serial to be shot in Dubai; it was popular and she played the ‘Doctor Role’ in it. 


She added, ‘I joined Radio Asia – as a host, I compered the show  for ten years.  Scripting those programs required specific topics played with songs.  South Hall in London was an attractive point for me to collect latest Punjabi songs!’


Importantly, during these years, Bubbles was attending to their office – the Al Dobowi Group was growing and she kept a vigilant eye on the expenditures and the receivables.  By achieving a first class in her combined degree in Economics, Statistics and Politics, her competence was bound to shine with its usefulness. 


In the midst of our conversation, a staff member from the cuisine department of the gurudwara came seeking Bubbles’ guidance for certain events that were going to take place in the coming month.  Marriages are solemnized, birthdays and other religious ceremonies are celebrated here by families; there are several details to be discussed on such matters, and right now advice was being taken from Bubbles for the daily Langar menu, too. 


While their conversation was going on, a small tray of snacks along with piping hot tea arrived for me.  Both were out of this world in their flavor. The taste said it all!


As a woman to woman, I could relate very easily with Bubbles.  By that, I mean, I can very well apprehend her job profile in the gurudwara.  Overall, her responsibilities are huge and non-stop!  I will tell you how… by giving the example of the Langar meals, alone.  Records show that right round the year, the crowds are flocking in very large numbers. During weekends and festivals, it serves 10,000 vegetarian meals every Friday, and about 1,000 daily meals, during the week to people who visit the Gurudwara regardless of their religion or race.


At the 546th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev (Founder of the Sikh religion, and the first of the ten Gurus), 30,000 visitors gathered on the 3 days of celebrations – from November 25th to November 27th in the year of 2015. 


Anyone can imagine the logistics of the Langar meals which stretch from hour to hour. Without fail, every visitor can eat and enjoy as much food he desires. Except during the Ramadan time, people even carry food parcels on departure from the gurudwara with precautionary stickers on their hampers stating the safe hours of consumption.


The tradition of Langar is carried worldwide by all gurudwaras, and began in the early days of Sikhism. The act of “giving” is the core principle in the Sikh religion. Sharing is caring – be it in the form of one’s wealth, time or skill. Preparing and serving Langar meals spell the essence of Sikhism, and at the root of these humanitarian actions are the ideas of Seva and Vand Chhako concept which eventually percolates to unite public for community welfare. Starting from the year 1469, these are the guidelines which have been supported staunchly by all the Sikh Gurus. The meaning of Langar has a very deep thought; apart from nourishing the community, it establishes a sense of equality between all people, regardless of religion, gender, social status, caste, color or creed. 


Obviously, since the Guru Nanak Darbar’s kitchen is operating constantly, and where the consumption of grains, vegetables, sugar, weighs up to hundreds of kilos – everything, including, spices and oils have to be very fresh in content.  This is where Bubbles plays a very critical role to maintain the highest standards in serving palatable, healthy meals to one and all.  I have savored the Prasad, meaning, the Langar food, and can vouch for the experience.  When I give Bubbles the credit for these massive efforts, she is quick to say, ‘There is an attraction, and energy in this place.  I give credit to my team and volunteers who make all this happen.  There is positive energy – even when I am sick, I feel better coming here.  I have learnt tolerance, compassion.  This place keeps me grounded to the realities of life.’ 


It seems apparent to me that the lady has taken a quantum leap in her life; she tells me that socializing at the ‘party-scene’ has taken a back seat.


‘Somehow, I have found a newer, better, more purposeful life,’ she expresses very confidently in a soft tone.    


Talking about the values of standards, Guru Nanak Darbar-Dubai is the first gurudwara in the world to receive the following ISO certifications for: Quality Management System, Environment Management, Occupational Health and Safety Management, Food Safety Management, Intertek, and UKAS Management Systems.  To top it all, the  Sikh temple has entered the Guinness Book of Records for most nationalities (101 nationalities)  having a continental breakfast celebrating diversity in 2017, and distribution of 2000 plant saplings at Delhi Private School at Jebel Ali in 2018.


It was time to take a round trip of the gurudwara. 


As we toured, my attention was keenly absorbing the details of the radiating environment.  The kirtan music was soul touching; besides, the internationally reputed Dubai based architect firm Holford Associates has surely excelled… the marble, the chandlers, the ornate canopies, the staircase, the kitchen, the stores, the general facilities for parking vehicles say it all, and the quiet efficiency of the staff added to the extra bonuses.  


Bubbles’ dialogue expanded on the numerous activities of the gurudwara. ‘We conduct classes and programs for kids and senior citizens. Actually, our programs cover all ages. I feel lucky that this platform has been given to me.  With the present time, children are maturing before their time. Interaction with family is lessening, due to stress of studies, too,’ she said with a sense of concern.

This has definitely been my concern, as well.


She continued, ‘Parents have to be conscious of this problem.  Spirituality is lacking and everything is mechanical.  Our initiatives are on the basis of fusing this gap.’ 


I understood from Bubbles that the gurudwara is connected with: Young Hearts and Senior Citizens Programs in Dubai.  She says, ‘Kiran Chopra from India who is connected with her family business of running Punjab Kesari Publications, has inspired me with some of the proposals. Surender also came up with ideas.  At the beginning, it all looked overwhelming but now it is happening,’ she conveys with an expression of contentment. 


From nature walks to picnics to music, computer, fitness classes to senior sports activities to medical camps – Bubbles shared information on how initiatives have evolved in good measures, and at good speed.  Our final halt at the Sikh Museum was another source of learning.  Tejinder Pal Singh, the general manager of the gurudwara told me that it was inaugurated in the year 2017 at the celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh’s 350th birth anniversary.   All the quick knowledge one wants to acquire on Sikhism is shared by the Sikh Museum.  The Sikh spirituality is centered to understand and experience God through our actions, and the Sikh Gurus through their own case in point taught their flock how to succeed.  The evolution of Sikhism, beginning from the times gone by are accounted in the Sikh Museum.


In our discussion, I asked Bubbles on her another known aspect which exhilarates her.  It is poetry writing.  She allocates her interest to the time of her teens.
‘I have been writing poems from my school days, I am a nationalist at heart, and I write on different topics following my heart.’


It is appropriate to add in this interview, a couple of opening verses of her poem, dedicated to her spouse in his autobiographical book: The Temple of My Dreams, recently published by Motivate Publishing


For my husband during his difficult times


Do not feel let down
When some people betray
To their own plots some days
They will eventually fall prey.


If they did not discover you
The loss is all theirs.
You are one in a million
And for those people, who cares?


Do not waste the precious pearls from your eyes,
All the pain within do try to disguise.


You are the rarest gem
Whose value not all can realize
Who will treasure it
But the sage and the wise.


Undoubtedly, the verses capture varied and experienced emotions in a nut-shell.


It was time for one more thing, and that was to place my comments in the special gurudwara directory; a swift browse through those pages displayed numberless dignitaries (both local and international) who have expressed their praises for the sacred place.  Undoubtedly, Guru Nanak Darbar has received excellent and consistent reviews from visitors and media. In fact, it is the only religious institution in the world to get all 4 levels of ISO Certification. Tripadvisor website,

recognizes Guru Nanak Darbar as an awardee of “Certificate of Excellence for Superior Service,” and makes it the most photographed gurudwara in the world.  Moreover, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing have included Guru Nanak Darbar in its list of attractions and establishments found in Dubai. Guru Nanak Darbar is also featured in the Dubai Tourism website.


Today, the legacy of the Guru Nanak Darbar has already been written in a golden chapter of the history of mankind – the Sikh temple in Dubai stands tall reaching the skies and the oceans… it is a commendable reminder to the world that Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Buddhist communities are enjoying bonds of friendship and cooperation in the UAE.  The sands of Dubai will continue to sing songs of interfaith harmony.  The benevolent gesture from H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has proven one more time that the truest concept of pleasing the Almighty remains in understanding and practicing: peace and solidarity. 


Meanwhile, I don’t have to remind myself that there is ONLY ONE GOD, and the quality of my life depends on the deeds I perform.


Q 1.  What has been the turning point of your life?
A.    I strongly believe that my involvement in the building of Dubai’s only Gurudwara has been the biggest turning point of my life. The temple, near Jebel Ali Hospital and the Jebel Ali Equestrian Club, opened in 2012 with the blessings of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who agreed to donate the land for building the Gurudwara. Today, Guru Nanak Darbar has become the symbol of Sikh religious worship in the UAE. Thousands of pilgrims as well as people from other religions from across the UAE visit the Gurudwara. It has also become a must-visit tourist place for tour groups from India and UK.


Q 2.  If you could go back in time, what would you want to do?
A.    I have had a good, happy and fulfilled life. I have been very content with what road God had paved for me. Whatever I had even secretly wished for – had and has always been fulfilled by the Lord Almighty, and if that did not happen, it was also for my good. So I would not want to go back in time and change anything.


Q 3.  What are your future dreams?
A.   To make this Gurudwara into an even bigger and better place where people get comfort, peace and serenity; a place for every person belonging to any community or religion to enjoy.  It is my dream that this Gurudwara becomes a model that rises beyond all religions into divinity and spirituality. The only religion to be recognized would be serving humanity.


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