Dr Tom Mulholland says 94-year-old Sikh Manga Singh in Papatoetoe, Auckland was in 'pristine health'.


Dr Tom Mulholland says 94-year-old Sikh Manga Singh in Papatoetoe, Auckland was in 'pristine health'.


The rhythm of the music in the temple matched that of the diabetes machines and blood pressure cuffs. Having missed the Golden Temple in Punjab while I was working in India, my team and I had the golden opportunity to visit a Sikh temple in Papatoetoe recently. What a pleasure and a privilege to be invited to set up our mobile clinic there.

After removing our shoes and being introduced by Raju from Healthy Families Manakau, we were welcomed inside the temple. To find a waiting room of people dressed in brightly coloured turbans and saris who were interested in their blood results was heartening. 

We were told smoking and alcohol is prohibited in the Sikh religion. This was a stark contrast to a cement factory we ran test the day before: there, 90 per cent of workers smoked.

However, for Sikhs, sugar is prevalent in their chai tea so pre-diabetes is more common. High cholesterol is also a problem reinforcing that everyone is at risk, including vegetarians, because of genetic factors and the fact we make our own cholesterol. 

One of the many highlights of running tests in the Sikh temple was meeting a 94-year-old man on a bike. His blood tests and blood pressure were pristine, and fitting of an 18-year-old. He had a cheeky grin and a twinkle in his eye. My Punjabi is very limited, so we learnt through interpreters that he visits the temple every day and collects the leftover food. He then loads it up on his bicycle, and pushes it to the park to feed the birds. I tried to help him by lifting his bike but it was a big effort, given  it was loaded with numerous bags filled with food. 

A key driver for happiness is having a sense of purpose. Whether you are aged 18 or 94, you need something to spin your wheels. Being connected and giving your time to others are two crucial ingredients to the wellbeing mix. Having perfect blood results and an adorable attitude at 94 is something we can all aspire to. However, why wait until you get to 94 years old to improve your attitude? A sense of purpose is something we can begin to work on from any day we choose. In fact, the sooner the better!

What amazed me about the Sikh temple (and also the Hindu temple we visited in Papakura) was the openness and acceptance offered to everybody. The temples are a place of prayer and peace, and they offer a sense of connection for anybody who wishes to open their minds and their hearts to this beautiful culture. As for the community, they receive free food and pastoral care. Volunteers staff the kitchens, and the food is donated, which provides  sustenance. It is an integral part of the Indian community. 

As humbled by our work of delivering preventative health care as they were, I was deeply moved by the family vibe and spirituality I found in both temples. 

So if you are ever lonely, lost or just keen to learn more, I suggest you drop into your local temple for a great experience. The people of these humbling and spiritually nurturing locations offer a sense of friendliness, acceptance and love, which very much what the world needs now. It was enlightening, and gave me a better understanding of the multicultural heartbeat of our nation, which is well and good. 

Dr Tom Mulholland is an Emergency Department doctor and GP with over 25 years' experience in New Zealand. He's currently on a mission, tackling health missions around the world.

 SOURCE - Stuff

Back to the Blog