REPORT & PHOTOS BY MAHADEV DESAI
Atlanta, GA, December 6, 2018: The Senior Citizen Program (SCP) got in the swing to celebrate their annual Diwali with great joy and enthusiasm at the Garden Plaza, Norcross, Georgia on Sunday, November 11, 2018. The celebrations were graced by the holy presence of learned Pujya Swami Adhyatmanandaji, President of Sivananda Ashram, Ahmedabad, and a distinguished yoga teacher, who this year is on an extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada. He was accompanied by Atlanta host and India Tribune’s Bureau Chief and journalist Ravi Ponangi.
Volunteers Arunaben Patel, Shashi Sidhaye, Isha Goyal, Chinti Bali and Minesh Modi had elegantly decorated the stage with fresh flowers, diyas, and framed picture of Goddess Laxmi.
Executive Director Raj Razdan recognized and thanked the members for their loyalty and especially acknowledged the sponsors Vikas and Dolly Verma, lauding them for their unflinching financial support every year since the inception of SCP in the mid-nineties; thus helping directly with its phenomenal growth.
Raj invited Swamiji to light the diya and then address the gathering. Swamiji’s brief remarks interspersed with humor, were delivered in Hindi and Gujarati and were aptly about the festival of Diwali.
“The day reminds one to control one’s speech,” he said. “One should speak the truth and use sweet and soothing words avoiding bitter words and taunts. The following day is Dhanteras when one performs Laxmi pooja. In life one needs money but money is only a means to an end. Swamiji said that his Guru used to say ‘Spend, spend, spend’ and ‘He (God) will send, send, send. ‘Use money for deserving causes. Be compassionate. Be philanthropic. Dhanteras is a symbol of annual renewal, cleansing and an auspicious beginning for the next year.”
“During the festival, cleaning, renovating, and decorating homes and workplaces is important but more important is getting rid of the negativity from one’s mind. Perform seva (service), protect the environment, be self-reliant, entertain positive thoughts. Light up your inner selves. Then everyday will be a Diwali for you,” he said.
The volunteers Arunaben Patel and Minesh Modi felicitated Swamiji and Ravi Ponangi with flower bouquets.
The program was emceed by noted artist, shayar and shairi singer Ujjagar Singh and Janu Wassan. Singh recited a few of his favorite shairis.
While the attendees were relishing appetizers, Ramesh Shah, Kokilaben, Chandan Ghambhir, Srikanth Parikh, Kishore Chavda, Monali Thakur, Nirupama Masse and Anita Parikh took turns to entertain them with a medley of vintage Bollywood hits of yesteryears, and with a rich mix of uplifting bhajan, shairis, poems and jokes.
Raj informed the audience that the long time dedicated and committed volunteer member of SCP Inc. Minesh Modi was back after missing a few past events as he with his family was taking care of his beloved mother who sadly passed away. Raj led the audience in observing a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for her.
Pallaviben Patel, a well-known composer of Gujarati poetry inAtlantaand a talented dancer first read her poem ‘Murli veran thai’ and then teamed up with her proficient student Hina Ferrell to regale the audience with a scintillating jugalbandi dance to the song ‘Murli bairan bhai’. Both were presented with flower bouquets in appreciation of their performance.
Isha Goyal, a Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation’s representative provided a brief overview of EVF and its Atlanta Chapter’s upcoming fund-raiser ‘Sanskriti-A Bollywood Journey’ on December I, 2018 at the Berkmar High School,Lilburn,GA. They urged the membership to avail the discounted- tickets especially for the seniors in support of the worthy cause.
All eagerly awaited the cheerful cake cutting ceremony to mark the birthdays of all those members born in the month of November. Raj recognized Dhirubhai Naik who was celebrating his 95th Birthday!
Naik thanked all and recalled that SCP Inc.had celebrated his 90th Birthday too! “On the previous occasion your blessings gave me a push to reach 95, so I seek your blessings again to reach 100,” he said, to applause. “I am overjoyed because my son Kamlesh and my daughter Meena are present here with me. In the past my birthdays have been celebrated in Ahmedabad, inDetroit, etc.but nothing compares to celebrations by Raj’s Senior Citizens Inc.in Atlanta.”
The gathering cheerfully sang ‘Tum jeeyo hazaron saal’ as a cake was cut to mark the birthdays of Sharad Shah, Harshad Shah, Ashwin Patel, Bhulabhai Patel, and Naresh Modi. This was followed with a second cake-cutting ceremony to mark the birthdays of Meena Patel, Aruna Patel, Suman Parikh, and Khema Ganju.
Raj thanked long-time dedicated and amiable volunteer Arunaben and her daughter Bhargavi and granddaughter Shivani. All applauded as Bhargavi and Shivani stood next to Arunaben and gave her a bite of the cake. After thanking Bhargavi and Shivani for volunteering, Raj presented flower bouquets to them.
The joyous program ended with a delicious Diwali lunch. In keeping with the tradition started by Vikas and Dolly Sharma, all the seniors were presented Rajbhog Sweet’s mouthwatering ladoos to mark the Diwali festival.
Razdan recognized SCP volunteers Arunaben Patel, Minesh Mody, Shashi Sidhaye, Isha Goyal, Chinti Bali and many others for their commitment and devotion in service of the elders of the Georgia community.
The Senior Citizen Program (SCP), provides a forum for the exchange of knowledge, camaraderie and fraternity free to the seniors. The monthly events include picnics, movie shows, celebrations of Valentine Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, India’s Independence Day, religious events like Mata ki Chowki, etc., etc. SCP’s devotion and service to the community is highly commendable and indeed appreciated! The journey continues with high spirits and undiminished resolve!
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