By Aminta Kilawan Narine, Esq.
This past week, my husband Rohan and I had the honor of co-hosting the Trimurti Youth Convention. Children ranging from 5 years old all the way to 18, made their way to the Shri Trimurti Bhavan, sometimes as early as 7:30 in the morning. We welcomed over 60 eager and excited youth into the temple’s doors. Many still opening their tired eyes, the youth began each morning with mantras (prayers) dedicated to various deities and sweet bhajans conducted by the youth themselves. They proceeded to participate in a host of planned activities, ranging from yoga and meditation, to arts and crafts, to learning verses from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, to practicing their storytelling skills, to exploring ideas for future careers, to learning kathak and kirtan, to developing an understanding of puja. As the youth were learning, so was I. Here are some of my major takeaways from the week:
“Many hands make work light.”
A few weeks before the convention, we issued a public request for teenagers over the age of 15 to join us as youth leaders. We didn’t have to ask twice: Jagdesh Churaman, Kala Gayadin, Savrana Gayadin, Yogini Gayadin, Kayla Holiprosad, Uma Paras, Varun Paras, and Nadiya Rampersaud stepped up to the plate. These proficient teenagers wore many hats throughout the week. In addition to being team leaders, they also helped staff the kitchen for breakfast and lunch, arguably the kids’ favorite time of day. Other youth volunteers also came to help throughout the week, including Hemma Kilawan, Sharas Shankar, Sashi Singh and Arun Singh.
“Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.”
We had no shortage of positive role models at the convention. At the end of every fun yet rigorous yoga session, instructor Maggie Tiwarie had all the kids look at one another and say “I love your beautiful face.” With giggles, the kids complied. Maggie taught them kindness in its simplest form. Heather Feather, a NYC art teacher, shared with the youth the therapeutic power of making mandalas, which the youth created with acrylic paints on canvass. Indar Jankie encouraged many to take the microphone and sing, ridding youth of stage fright. Pandit Vishnu Rampersaud surrounded by inquisitive youth at the mandir’s altar, encouraged them to ask questions about the steps in puja. With grace and simplicity, Kathak dancer Ambika Persaud made every move achievable by even those who might at first have been averse to dancing in public. Val Singh brought in fresh orchids for the youth to make their own malas, a skill that they will likely carry well into their old age.
“Art is a catalyst for change.”
Kids are not tainted as we adults often are. Give a kid a paintbrush, for instance, and their creativity has no boundaries. This much was clear during every arts and crafts exercise. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the youth were exposed to art from all around the world. Each of three private tours ended at the museum’s ancient India exhibit, where the kids saw the very same pantheon of deities as they did at the temple, except this time, they were being viewed by world travelers and visitors who weren’t just Hindus.
As a tour guide described details of a bronze Shiva Nataraja, some of the youth raised their hands and taught her more about Shiva than she already knew!
“Wisdom doesn’t always come with age.”
When the bus driver only had a CD of 2018 soca music, the youth began fearlessly singing bhajans collectively on the bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During Career Day, when we were joined by Dr. Kamini Doobay, a physician, Pt. Mohan Narine, a research scientist, Arun Singh, an aspiring aviator, Detective Andy Narayan of the NYPD, and teacher Shivika Rajkisore, one youth indicated she’d like to be the President of the United States when she grows up. Another asked “What’s a justice court,” nearly baffling the lawyer in me.
“Don’t be afraid of the answers. Be afraid of not asking the questions.” The convention would not have been possible without the help of kind donors who responded affirmatively to our humble request to contribute. Shanti Ammar of Remax 2000, Jennifer Persaud, Vinod (Avinash) Siwlal, and Sharon Mohan donated in-kind donations that fed the kids wholesome breakfast every day ranging from fresh fruit and yogurt, to cereal of all sorts, to sandwiches. Lunch was provided by Farida Hakim, The Nest Restaurant, Babita Rampersaud, Rajesh and Amrita Mahadeo, Sadhana Sookai and Judy Budhu. Additional donors, who helped to fund the trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the grand prize for the Storytelling competition, and other miscellaneous costs, included Narharry Ghaness of H & N Insurance, Mortgage Broker Frank Singh, Barbara Raj, Nyran Ramprashad, Officer Dewan Persaud, Chirag Shah, Richard S. David, Kimberly Harrichand, Annie Persaud, Krishna Mohanlall, Rozanna Beaumont, Dr. Dhanpaul Narine, Pandit Ganeshwar Ramsahai, and Valia Rupan. Mendra Singh gifted keepsake murthis to the youth and volunteers on Graduation Day and the Ramjeawan Family donated the second place prize for the Storytelling Competition: an iPad Pro.
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who believed in our cause, from those who conducted sessions, to those who staffed the convention, to the youth who participated, and last, but certainly not least, to the parents who entrusted us with your children for the entire week of festivities.