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BY MAHADEV DESAI
When I read the Senior Citizens Program (SCP) announcement of “Mata Ki Chowki” at Global Mall, I wondered if the popular daily soap about a devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi, on the Hindi channel Sahara One was being re-enacted by the seniors in Atlanta. Even if that had been the case, I would not have been surprised as the SCP is well –known for its myriad diversity of programs spanning from visit to Bollywood flicks to Valentine’s Day celebrations to Fashion Shows by the Mothers and Fathers, Picnics, and you name it. Nevertheless, this recent “Mata Ki Chowki” event though not a soap on TV screen, was even better as the Seniors were delightfully treated to spiritually uplifting Bhajans, some with popular filmi drum beats adapted to devotional songs. It was clear the New Year had arrived for over 200 Elders at this Chowki at Global Mall as they readied themselves for a plethora of 2010 activities. Kudos!
The SCP volunteers Chinti Bali; Jyoti Dama; Isha Goyal; Minesh Modi; and Aruna Patel and Raj Razdan extended a traditional welcome on behalf of the SCP to a packed hall, with New Year greetings. SCP also welcomed the seniors of the Bhutanese Families who have recently migrated to Georgia from Bhutan, and were attending Mata Ki Chowki.
Surinder Bahl, a community leader associated with the Atlanta Chowki Group explained the significance of Mata ki Chowki, and his personal immense interest and faith in “Mata Vaishno Devi”. He gave a brief background of the Chowki Group, which has been celebrating Mata ki Chowki for the past ten years. Through these Chowkis, the group preaches about Mata, sings “Jagrata”, motivates devotees all over the world pay to pay their respects through their prayers.
Atlanta Chowki Group is spearheaded by Inder Bery and has a team of dedicated, committed and selfless mellifluous and devotional singers-Inder Bery’s wife Kalpana Bery; Vinod Grover and his wife Santosh Grover; Harjeet; Kshama Kakade and Kusum Bahl. Bahl added, “Divine Mataji (Sherawali Ma) symbolizes the holy trinity of Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. All the donations received by the Atlanta Chowki Group are given away to various charitable organizations like Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation; Sankara Eye Foundation; Sanatan Mandir; Shiv Temple, etc., etc. “At the request of SCP, contributions from today’s Chowki will be donated towards the construction of the Shiv Mandir in the northeast Atlanta.”
The stage with diyas (lamps), stringed lights, fresh fruits and prasad (offerings) wore a festive look in its ornate finery with Mataji’s dazzling framed picture in the center of the Puja Mandap with colorful fresh flower garlands, all gracefully and philanthropically decorated by Atlanta’s professional wedding decorators Nita Govan who is the daughter in law of the sponsors Naranbhai and Malvikaben Govan.
The congregation initially sat in rapt attention at the beginning listening to melodious prayerful Mataji, Krishna and Shiva devotional renderings, “bhaints”, to the accompaniment of harmonium, drums and cymbals by Inder Bery and Surinder Bahl. Soon the fervor picked up at the behest of Vinod Grover with clapping and singing. Panditji Kashi Nath also led the devotees in a rousing chanting of the dhoon, Shyam milade, Radhe Radhe. Then the dancing (has to be Garba) by the Elders as soon as Versatile Kshama Kakade sang in Gujarati ‘Pankhida, Mahakali ne jaeene kahejo, garbo rame re’. This generated intense euphoria and positive transcendental vibrations in the congregation. The grand finale for this spiritual high being the “aarti” followed by prasad of Halwa, Chhole, fruits and dry fruits.
Five young girls (Kanchaks) who symbolically represent the Devi were invited near the stage and blessed with tilaks (vermilion) and prasad by the sponsors. The Elders also availed the opportunity to felicitate and bless Anu Kathuria,who will soon be tolling her wedding bells. Such is the commitment and respect of young Anu and her sister Neena for the elders, that they generously donated their first salary after starting work to the SCP, for its potential plan for a Senior Center.
For the seniors who had used up all their energy and burnt their calories in clapping, singing and even dancing, it was time to replenish! So, all present were treated to a sumptuous lunch courtesy Vrajinder and Sunanda Sharma and their team. The rich menu even included exotic yogurt “raita” prepared by ever supportive elder Mrs Swaraj Bhandari !.
All the above sponsors, including all the members of the Atlanta Chowki Group were presented flower bouquets by volunteers Arunaben Patel, Jyoti Dama, Chinti Bali, Isha Goyal, Minesh Modi. co-organizer, Inder Bery lauded Senior Citizens (SCP) for hosting the chowki. He said, “His Group felt so happy that they were willing to arrange Mata ki Chawki twice instead of once a year for the seniors in future.
“Such frequent events and undertakings do not happen without the support and hard work of all the volunteers and philanthropic support from our Volunteers,” acknowledged ebullient Raj Razdan. “Organization of this event was very meaningful as the Seniors, Bhulabhai and Sushilaben Patel; Bachubhai and Laxmiben Patel; Naranji and Malvika Govan; Jagubhai and Shantaben Patel, Hirabhai Patel ; Rohitbhai and Shardaben Patel and Ramanbhai and Shakuben Patel, themselves wanted to sponsor and organize this event with support from SCP volunteers.” She added. She expressed special thanks to ever supportive and big-hearted Shiv and his wife Anushi Agarwal for kindly allowing the use of spacious hall inside the Global Mall for the event, and also to Vinod Karia for his photography services at SCP events.
She also thanked all the Annual steadfast and enthusiastic sponsors of SCP, Rani Singh, Sandeep and Sapna Gauba, Singhal family, Prakash and Usha Desai, Surinder and Poomam Malhotra, Jayprakash and Rekha Desai, Suren and Leena Shah, Bhagu and Rupa Ahuja Chandler and Paddy Sharma, Vikas & Dolly Verma; Bina and Sanjay Patel ,to name a few.
Well, its curtains for January. Come February. SCP wants the seniors to get ready for Valentines Day Celebrations !