Performers Without Borders came to perform their magical and optical illusions at Kiran Center. This is an international group of performers that captivated their young audience with their tricks and maneuvers with hula-hoops, juggling, fire poles, and acrobatic ways.
Republic Day of India is their National holiday to commemorate their Constitution of India on January 26th, 1950. People gather together with patriotic speeches, singing and dance numbers. Sixteen of our 3rd-5th standard students performed a dance number which was choreographed by Bharat about their love of India. It made me ponder on my patriotism and love of America amidst the fireworks, barbecues, and parades. The children are taught to take patriotism seriously at a young age in a military fashion. The celebration was at the Community Center where most people wore white as the symbol of unity and peace for their mother country.
I have lived 33 years, now beginning my 34th year as people say in India. One of my family-friends reminded me that this was my first birthday back in my birth country. I don’t know if many of you know but I was born either in or near Kolkata, India. I was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata when I was nearly 3 years old. Either the hospital or the orphanage predicted my birthday. It is such a serene reminder to have a birthday in the country I was born in. I was concerned about being homesick and my first birthday without my grandma. Despite these emotions, I was enveloped with love and celebrated my day of being “born” with my family away from family, with my family at Kiran Center and with Manava Sadhna family. I celebrated with another volunteer who had her birthday a few days before mine. We decided to do a joint party for all of Manav Sadhna at Seva Café. My Kiran Center family surprised me with decorations, Dhokla, singing, and dancing. Turned out I celebrated my birthday with 3 students who also shared their birthdays. So, I brought loads of chocolate cake to share with them. Then the volunteers and I went to Barbecue Nation and indulged in eating a bit of meat and desserts. Such a special way to acknowledge one’s life.
Another group from DMU gave 2 very important trainings to all the teachers at Manav Sadhna on child abuse and mental health issues. These issues are already sensitive but more so in India as they are not talked about. I did have some feedback to offer such as not to compare statistics in England to India. I also think it is a very important stepping stone to find local government resources and training programs to connect Manav Sadhna with to learn more about safeguard procedures and free or reduced cost resources that these families can access. At least the staff and teachers have a safe place to be further enlightened and they can now grow in these trainings.
Manav Sadhna has begun another project in reaching more people by feeding the homeless and in need of a hot meal in various parts of Ahmedabad. The project is titled “Hari Har Ram” which serves hot khichdi and khadi. A Maheshbhai who happens to have one arm bicycles the rickshaw to various parts of Ahmedabad to volunteer with other Manav Sadhna’s volunteers in the evenings to serve the homeless. The opening night was on February 7th holding a ceremony of bhujans, honoring the father that passed away who left a contribution for this project to happen, honoring Hindu Gods, wishing positive spirits and abundance, and cracking the coconut on the side of the rickshaw cart like smashing a champagne bottle along the side of a boat as a celebration.
I have been busy teaching phonics at Kiran Center, Tekro (Community Center), and Manav Gulzar to standards 3rd, 4th, and 5th standards. Falguniben at Manav Gulzar taught the first phonics lesson and it went very well. There is discussion on how to make phonics lessons more applicable to the Indian culture and increasing teaching time and frequency for English class for the next school year. But the education coordinators have been liking this type of teaching of hands on and engaging approach. I have been asked to start teaching my phonics curriculum at Manav Seva now which I am excited for. I am excited to start training the 4 teachers that will be in charge of teaching English at their centers come June for the next school year.
February 13th is a Hindu celebration called Puja also known as Maha Shivratri. Virenbhai invited all the volunteers, staff, teachers, and students to his home to honor Lord Shiva marrying Goddess Parvati. We made an almond milk based with medicinal herbs as an offering to Lord Shiva for everyone to taste as part of the rituals. We also packed 500 bags with different goodies for everyone to take home. He started by telling some stories about Shiva and some other gods, including Parvati (also Shiva's wife), Ram, and other gods. Their stories are all intertwined in some ways that he explained. Now I think he's explaining why we say the prayers we say, what each of the words mean and how they have power. A gentleman wore all orange because he is a swam. You have to spend your whole life practicing religious devotion to become a swami. Virenbhai also mentioned at the beginning that he is very well known in Gujarati/Indian government for the things he says and does. His name is Svantantratha Swami, and his name literally means independent/independence. This bhajan is saying all the different names of Shiva! Rameshwar, Kaleshwar, Ishwar, and others. And generally praising Shiva by saying "om namah Shivai.” We had 2 processions in the streets for people to dance to the drums and Hindu music. Indian people have such high energy for dancing and singing. They are definitely a culture known for their celebrations.