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December 10, 2008 > With Love, Milpitas to Mumbai

With Love, Milpitas to Mumbai

By Purvi Gajjar
Photos By Dustin Findley

In the midst of a busy Friday evening on December 5, over 50 community members gathered at a Peace Vigil 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) at Swagat Restaurant in Milpitas.

"When nothing works, prayer works," said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, world humanitarian leader, and founder 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."

In the light of India's November 26, the foundation has resolved to strengthen the spirit of Mumbai, not just within the city, but also from 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 appalling 60 hours of terror in the life of Mumbai.

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, lit 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 echoed for several minutes, radiating warmth and belongingness that connected with every person in that room.

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.

Among others who joined to pledge their support was Easan Katir, representative of the Kauai Hindu Temple, which has published Hinduism Today for 30 years. He shared the importance of spirituality in today's world, and said, "Even if those who kill say that they want 'peace,' what they really mean is that gruesome silence after they have slaughtered those they hate." He said that it was heartening to see all the wonderful work that Art of Living was carrying out for Mumbai victims' families. Going further, he added, "There is one practical thing each one of us can do to promote world peace, and that is," he said, "create peace within our home. What use is it to participate in meetings like this, then go home and smack the kids, or argue with one's spouse? Peace starts at home."

Manisha Verma, another member of 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.

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.

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