By Purvi Gajjar
On December 5th, a run-of-the-mill Friday evening, at a run-of-the-mill Indian Restaurant, a very special event took place as 50 community members gathered for a Peace Vigil in memory of the recent attacks in Mumbai. The vigil was held at Swagat Restaurant in Milpitas and was hosted by the Art of Living Foundation, a non-profit, humanitarian organization, in association with its sister concern, the International Association of Human Values (IAHV).
In the light of India’s 26/11, the foundation has resolved to strengthen the spirit of Mumbai, not just within the city, but also across the globe. In one such effort, Art of Living’s Milpitas chapter dedicated the evening for peace and prayer in honor of the brave souls who lost their lives, as much as for the heroic survivors of the gruesome 60 hours of terror in the life of Mumbai.
“When nothing works, prayer works,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, upon hearing of the recent Mumbai terror attacks. In a statement, Sri Sri called for solidarity among people and said, “In this situation, religious and political leaders need to show the country that we stand together against terrorism.”
At Swagat, the banquet room’s entrance was adorned with smiling volunteers, and beautifully decorated with tea-light candles in the shape of ‘PEACE’. Symbols of peace were made on either side, followed by a petition on the wall calling out to world leaders to end global terrorism. Each one, as they entered, lighted a candle to bring the word PEACE to life, and gradually it shone brighter and fuller, denoting the strength of unison.
Rekha Kodialbail, Art of Living instructor and volunteer in the Milpitas area, who organized the Vigil, said, “This evening stands as a reminder that we are not just a man or a woman, an Indian, American or a Chinese, rich or poor, engineer or doctor, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers; these are simply the roles we play. First, we are human beings and our innate quality is humanness.” Her voice resonated for several minutes, like an echo, and radiated the warmth and sense of belonging that connected with every person in that room.
Among others who joined to pledge their support was Easan Katir, representative of Hinduism Today, a publication of the Kauai Hindu Monastery. He shared the importance of spirituality in today’s world, and said that just like one has set rules for one’s life, the community should also have a set of rules to maintain discipline and peace among all. Manisha Verma, another member from the community said that ever since she heard about the massacre, she has been feeling sad and angry. The Peace Vigil lifted her spirits and she said that she was happy to be a part of the solution, rather than grumble about the problem.
The Peace Vigil was about collectively putting attention and intention to the human values of love, compassion, trust, enthusiasm, responsibility, and commitment. “The time has come for us to experience these qualities in our lives on a day-to-day basis and reach out to fellow members of the community,” Rekha said. Supporting her and the Art of Living was Milpitas’ Mayor Bob Livengood, who said that India and America are the greatest democracies of the world and they stand for freedom, wisdom, and peace. “We cannot let anyone take that away from us,” he added.
Many people shared stories of losing their friends and family that dreadful night in Mumbai. Most of them had tears rolling down their face, as they narrated the incidents. Aparna Atmaram, an engineer by profession, who attended the Vigil, said, “I cannot empathize, I cannot understand; is shedding a few tears all that I am capable of?” She was deeply thankful to the Art of Living Foundation and IAHV for hosting the vigil, as “it exemplifies that peace has a voice and it will be heard loud and clear,” she stated.
The foundation has already initiated free trauma relief workshops all over Mumbai. These sessions are being offered on a continuous basis, and are open to all. For more information, please visit www.traumacareformumbai.com.
Purvi Gajjar has been a freelance journalist and writer from Bombay for the last 5 years. Her work has been published in prestigious publications, including Femina and Marwar magazines.She has extensively written about the Art of Living Foundation, their service projects and numerous programs and workshops across the globe.
A version of this article was also published in “What’s Happening, the TriCity Newspaper.