Thursday, 2 January 2014

Sai Krushna Mandir Updates



There have been some important developments in December 2013. Though it was the coldest month of the year, there was no lack of warmth in the spirits of the children, and the management.
All of us celebrate birthdays and it is associated with fun and joy. Every child looks forward to its birthday party eagerly. However, some birthdays are novel, unique and special as they touch a larger section of people very directly thereby making it all the more memorable. For joy is doubled when it is shared. One such occasion was ANVI’s first birthday celebration with all our school children on Nov 29th, 2013. 



On 29th November, 2013, all the children from Sharavathi Kannada Higher Primary school were taken for a picnic to the Bannergatta National Zoo- Park. The whole trip was organized by one of the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai University- Nikhil Koushik and his wife Ashwini – the proud parents of Anvi.  The children came neatly dressed in their uniforms and were very excited to go for the picnic. Three buses had been arranged to transport all the children, teachers and management members to the park. The picnic started off with the ‘safari’ , wherein the children were thrilled to see different animals like the lion, tiger, elephant, bear, deer, and white tiger, of  which they have normally only read in books. The safari was followed by delicious lunch for all the children arranged by Anvi’s parents.   The school students also put up a cultural programme which was appreciated by all the participants in the picnic. This was followed by the children’s visit to the zoo and taking down small notes on different animals. The children returned back to school joyously around 5 pm amidst the vociferous shouts of “Jai Bolo Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ji ki jai”. On the whole, the picnic was a beautiful fun cum learning experience and the participants convey their gratitude to the Koushik family for their unique and noble gesture.

On Dec 14th , 2013, there was another such unique celebration wherein Sai Adwaith celebrated his 3rd birthday with all the children of Sai Krushna Mandir. The SKM children were delighted to have the little one amidst them, playing with them and running about. Sai Adwaith’s parents (Swamynathan and Vidya) and grandmother arranged for the food for all the inmates. It was a fun filled special birthday and the delicacies were very tasty and home-made. 
Further updates on both of these functions are found in greater detail below. Our heartfelt thanks to both these families for sharing their joy with the children. It would be wonderful if many more among us could emulate this practice.
We look forward to all your active involvement and participation in this God given opportunity. We also welcome you to come and visit the site and participate in the activities of Sai Krushna Mandir. We pray that Swami’s grace will crown our genuine intentions and He will continue to guide and bless the children and residents to live in a happy home and grow to his ideals. 


Anvi’s Birthday
The first birthday of your child is a special occasion for more reasons than one. One, it marks a milestone of completing one year since birth, two, it gives you an opportunity to celebrate this day with near and dear ones from your family and friends circle. Typically, first year birthdays are celebrated in the form of a party where people are invited to a celebration hall.  The hall is beautifully decorated; lots of party accessories like caps, whistles etc are distributed to the children and various shows like magic show, tattoo making, face painting etc are conducted to keep the audience entertained till the cake cutting is done. At noon, a huge cake is cut while the whole gathering sings “Happy Birthday to you….” This typically is followed by an elaborate lunch. 

The party comes to an end with the parents distributing return gifts to all the children who attend the party. The whole atmosphere is made colourful and fun filled for children. In the last one year since we have had our little princess entering our lives, Ashwini, my wife, and I have attend many such parties. Though we have enjoyed each and every party we have attended, what we did notice is that everyone except the birthday kid is more joyous. The 1 year old tiny tot hardly knows what’s happening and more often than not, starts crying out of discomfort by noon. This made us wonder, how we can have a birthday party where our girl is made happy, yet we are not grossly different from what society expects from such an occasion. In the last one year that we have seen our daughter grow, we have noticed one characteristic feature in her –the sight of small children never fails to bring a smile on her face. Not just that, off late she gets excited looking at children in the age group of 3-12. She leaps from our hand to reach out to these kids, touch them and play with them. I have 2 beautiful nieces in my house and it’s a treat to see these kids play together every day. Recollecting this, Ashwini came up with this idea – why don’t we celebrate Anvi’s birthday only with kids and very few adults??? Why don’t we go to a school where there are only kids and have the similar birthday schedule as others have, so that we achieve both objectives. This was the beginning of planning for Anvi’s first year birthday. Since then, it has been an exciting journey for both Ashwini and me. 

We started researching on available options of schools which was best suited for this purpose. We spoke to a lot of friends who are closely associated with NGOs running schools for different sorts of children. This is when I remembered Vinod and Sai Krushna Mandir. Ashwini and I were both excited about making this work with Vinod. When I called Vinod to discuss this with him, it seemed like we had come to the exact place what we were looking for in our very first conversation. Everything seemed to match our expectation – The school permits such activities, student number was exactly what we were looking for, the demographic details of the children was exactly like what we had hoped for and to top it all, school was also having Sathya Sai component in it. What more could I ask for?? Ashwini and I decided to visit Sai Krushna Mandir and Sharavathi Kannada Higher Primary school to see the premises and have further discussions on this with Vinod. We initially decided to host a sports day for the school where we will conduct various sports competition for these children and distribute prizes for them. However, as we pondered on this, we realised that we need to do something more fun for children and not just have a tight agenda filled day. This is when we realised that the children had never gone out for a picnic. This idea seemed very exciting for all of us. Vinod said “The children will love it. They have never gone out”. Suddenly we plunged into memories of our school days. Picnics were more exciting than any festival – first of all no carrying or looking into books the whole day, add to that sitting in a bus and going somewhere which could be more than an hour’s drive. Added to that is lot of shouting, cheering, singing with all friends and most importantly, lot of good food!! Oh! What joy!! So, we decided, PICNIC it shall be. From then on, Ashwini and I have had numerous conversations around planning this event – Where should we go to? How many students should we take, should it be for all classes or only some classes? What should we do about the food? We decided to go to Bannerghatta National Park, which is about 22 Km south of Bangalore. Vinod, Poornima and Ashwini had multiple discussions regarding all aspects of this exciting event. Poornima, Vinod and his parents ensured perfect arrangements from school front while Ashwini made meticulous planning from our side. All party accessories which the children love – party caps, wrist bands, colourful buntings, balloons, masks, party poppers etc were purchased for distribution. Cake, chocolates ice creams were ordered. All of us awaited the day


The day arrived
The children were asked to be ready in school uniform by 8.30 am in their school premises. They arrived at Bannergatta National park by 10 am in 3 safari buses arranged by the National Park management. All the children eagerly awaited the arrival of the birthday girl, Anvi. As soon as Anvi arrived, she was taken into each bus separately where the children of that bus sang “Happy Birthday to you” to her in unison. Anvi was excited to see so many children glaring at her and singing something for her. Soon after, all of us left for wildlife safari in Bannergatta. 

Getting Ready for the exciting Outing
The trip was worth every bit as the children got to see variety of wild animals in close proximity but in safe surroundings. We spotted bears, tigers, white tigers, lions and elephants. The children got an opportunity to see the animals in real life, something which they read about in their textbooks.  The safari lasted for a good one hour before we all assembled at the Bannergatta zoo entrance. Then something very moving took place. Each class had 2-3 student representatives walk upto Anvi to present her Birthday gift!! Each class had made separate greeting cards and paper bouquets which they presented to Anvi for her birthday. The scene was worth capturing for the love of these students to their new found friend was matchless. The next agenda for the day was cake cutting for Anvi. The excitement reached crescendo as all the 120 odd students gathered around the table where the cake was kept. All the party accessories that we had brought were distributed to everyone. The whole arena looked so colourful and was filled with celebration mood. 

Anvi cut her first birthday cake in the company of these lovely children as her grandparents and the entire gathering sang “Happy Birthday to you”. She looked lovely in her new ghagra dress. This was followed by lunch. I will fail in my duty if I don’t make a mention about the discipline of these students during lunchtime. We served food class-wise and all students were made to wait for their turn. We dint see a single instance of restlessness from any student at any point of time. All the Class I and II students were made to sit in large circles and were served food at their place so that they can comfortably sit and eat. The older students walked with their plates in their hands at each counter where the food was served. I must mention that we could not have done this in such an organized way without the support of the teachers and a few volunteers. They relentlessly helped us in every single arrangement and made it look very easy. The food was typical south Indian cuisine and was served hot. All of us relished it till the last morsel. The children played around for a while all the adults finished lunch. The best part of the day was yet to arrive. We were asked by the teachers of the school to assemble together. A group about 10 students from class VI and VII presented a dance performance for a song on Lord Krishna. The dance was extremely well choreographed and the students’ performance was impeccable. They danced gracefully with a smiling face and never seemed nervous even for a moment. It was then the turn of the boys to showcase their talent. Close to about 15 boys of Class VI and VII did some jaw dropping stunts as they formed a human pyramid which touched anywhere between 15-20 feet high. 

The icing on the cake was the boys standing on top of the pyramids held the tri-colour with pride and joy and waved it to the whole crowd which cheered them in awe. These two performances were of such standard that not just our group but all tourists around that area joined to witness them and enjoyed every bit of it. What was even more commendable was that both these performances were taught to the students by the same teacher Smt. KS Mamata. I was told that these two performances were an act of gratitude expressed by the students in return to the picnic they got to enjoy. I must thank and appreciate the school teachers and school management for instilling such values in these children. The children then left for a short tour around the zoo to see various kinds of animals like crocodiles, cheetah, snakes, birds etc. 


I must say the zoo is very well maintained with wide variety of animals to see. Once the children re-assembled, we wanted to thank each child for making this a memorable day for us. 

Ashwini had carefully planned this by selecting appropriate gifts for children of each age group. She had ensured the gifts are relevant for each child – she selected crayons for class I and II, geometry set for III and IV, puzzles for V and VI, and sketch books for class VII. We thanked the teachers for their constant support by gifting sarees for ladies and shirt pieces for gents. It was almost 4 pm and we had reached the end of an exciting day, something which was very new and fulfilling for us. The children reluctantly boarded the bus to return to their homes while we saw them off with moist eyes. We heard loud sounds of “Bye-Bye” as they waved their palms at us. As the buses moved, we heard the fainting sound of bhajans sung in the bus by these children of god. Anvi’s first year birthday was overwhelming to us in more ways than one. Special thanks to our dearest friends and family for all the support in organizing the entire event.


  Sai Adwaith’s Birthday
14th December happened to be one of the most memorable day for us. My son Sai Adwaith turned 3 on Dec 9th and my family and I were intending to celebrate this occasion with Sai's little friends at SKM. Though little late, we wanted to make it much more eventful in a family-like environment. We conveyed our intention to SKM and we started organizing the celebration event.
My wife and my mother happily walked through the market and shops to get the best of items for this long awaited event. We decided to cook potato onion curry, pulav, sambhar and our SKM friends shared the remaining cook. Our day started at 4:30 am and by SWAMI's grace all the plans were getting executed fine as planned. We started from our place around 12 noon and reached SKM at 1 PM. There SKM folks were awaiting us with cute birthday decoration across the place.
As soon as we arrived, the little SKM-ers came running towards Sai and his excitement knew no bounds seeing them. He was absolutely elated and started playing with his friends over there. After having a chat, we decided to cut the cake for Sai in the pooja room at SKM. Little SKM-ers surprised Sai with numerous gifts and we cut cake  and shared happily with everyone. The lunch session succeeded the cake cutting event and everyone of us enjoyed the lunch prepared by both the teams. We clicked a couple of photos, and we stayed there until early in the evening with light-hearted chats with other brothers and sisters who visited SKM on that day, followed by a discussion on other activities that were on our plate.
We left SKM around 4 PM. Each one of us had to depart half-heartedly from SKM. While driving back - the kind of happiness that we had got in SKM could have been replaced by nothing had we celebrated his birthday else where. The amount of love and greetings we had received from SKMites and other volunteer cheered our heart so
much, especially Sai, on whom the positive impact was seen for a long time. I thank SWAMI and SKM for such a great opportunity.
 

 
 
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