Friday, January 7, 2011

1st Vali (Parents) Meeting

How can one explain the feeling felt when a deep longing joy within a child is shared with their parents. Well, that and much more, happened today, all within the span of 2 hours.
Over three months ago Bharat and I met with all the kids’ parents at each and everyone of their slum houses. This is when we had 26 kids selected and we were looking to narrow down to 18. Some kids lived very far and most others were within 2-8 kilometers proximity. Going to each home has gave us an opportunity to learn more about our kids, their families, their family and home environments, economic conditions, etc.  Each of those meetings were primarily to begin the process of developing a relationship, gain an understanding and verbal commitment from the parents that they were willing to support us and their kids through this project. Their support really means, supporting their children emotionally and mentally. Making sure the kids are studying at home and be willing to have their kids come to practice daily and come back home late.
Three months later, we had our first Vali Meeting (parents meeting)here at Manav Sadhna, Gandhi Ashram. It was truly powerful!
We had been telling the kids all week to tell both of their parents to arrive at 4pm on Friday, January 9th, 2011. I even pseudo-threatened the kids that if both parents don’t come out, then we’ll assume that they are not supporting you in this project and we may have to take you out. In these types of meetings, it is usually always the case that the fathers do not come. Mainly because they are either working (many labor workers) who cannot take time off their job due to obvious financial reasons, or they are drinkers, which makes it difficult for them to come. For example, yesterday, I went to the Shankarbhuvan Slum area to talk to the kids’ parents, because Vicky, Vishal and Dharmaji all said that their fathers would not make it. As I met with their fathers I found out, Vicky’s father was half drunk, Vishal’s father was sick and Dharmaji’s father said he has to work tomorrow. Through some good conversation, I was able to convince Vicky’s father not to drink tomorrow and come and Dharmaji’s father to skip work for 2 hours to join. Wow, I thought, that wasn’t too hard….Come today, the fathers did not show up. All the mom’s showed up, and about half the fathers showed up, which I hear is still a really good turnout.
So the parents show up. We have them sit outside and fill out a form with all their information and confirmation that they support our kids for the project and even if we have to take the kids out of the city, state or country. Our eventual objective with the actual production of the show is to tour, so everyone should be prepared well in advance to support the idea of their kids going to other parts of the country or world if that ends up being the case. The parents tend to be very supportive, they almost see us as their kids’ second parents. The only thing they are truly concerned about is their childrens’ safety.

Once we reached around 430pm, Jayeshbhai and Virenbhai (our founders and soul and spirit of Manav Sadhna) came inside, as well as our kids. We gave our kids one white rose each and 2 beautiful hand-crafted puffy heart pins. They made two lines facing each other at the entrance of the door and then Jagatbhai started playing the dholak live. The parents were invited into the Manav Sadhna home and we welcomed them with love. Bharat and I were at the front door. The parents would walk by us first so we would bow down and touch their feet with love and respect. Many of these parents are actually younger than me, but to know they are the parents of these children, I treat them like my parents. Then as they walk by the row of our children, each of our kids bowed down and touch the feet of another kids’ parents and then pinned the heart onto their chest and handed them a white rose with lots of love.

This is a small seed planting activity for our kids in Oneness, but very important – that each kid bows down to the feet of another kids’ parents and gives a rose to another kids’ parent. All while Jagat bhai is continually playing the dholak live. The kids were so excited to welcome their parents and you can feel the love the parents felt in entering in the MS home. A beautiful and powerful interaction. Love and bonds are built in these ways – you can see it happening.
As the welcome was complete, all 45 of us, sat in prayer and then in silence. Even Dipmala's 3 year old sister, Surya, closed her eyes and prayed with us.

The words “Jai Jagat” (“Hail to the whole world”) awakened the silence and then we proceeded to introduce all the kids and parents to each other. One of our kids would raise their hand, then the respective parents would raise their hands. It was a family getting to know each other.
I then talked for a little while in my limited Gujarati, thanking the parents for coming. Explaining what this project means to all of us, where we all come from-the roots of EKATVA and Manav Sadhna –Ishwar Dada, Jayeshbhai, Virenbhai, Anar Didi. And really sharing the energy and commitment that we all have towards these kids.
Jayeshbhai then spoke very powerfully, bringing truth, light, love and strength to the parent’s hearts and eyes.

Bharat continued thereafter sharing his thoughts on how we all need to work together, parents included, to pull off this type of project. He compared this process to the likes of building a house. The engineer, carpenter, architect, laborers, etc. all have to work in unison for this to bloom like rose.
And lastly Virenbhai shared his powerful love and wisdom towards the parents, once again deepening their trust and connection to the EKATVA experiment.
Then the parents shared their loving thoughts and growth that they have seen in their children since they have been involved with the EKATVA project. They also voiced a few concerns, mainly to do with timing and transportation for the kids.
Lastly, we had a surprise act: the kids performing for the parents, what they have learned to date at Darpana Academy. Prior to performing, each kid got on the mic and expressed what this EKATVA journey has meant to them. That was truly beautiful and powerful, to see the confidence with which they expressed themselves and the gratitude they shared.
The kids performance was beautiful! Beautiful because they were as excited as if they were performing a real show. They did a good job for their first performance, everyone loved it!

Kamaraben made some beautiful mint chai for all the family members.

We all loudly and in unison chanted “Hum Sub EK He!!!”, three times (“We are all ONE”!). And then in beautiful prayer and silence we finally ended our meeting.

The children, for the first time, departed back home from the Ashram not by themselves, but with their parents in hand.
EKATVA. The journey begins, continues and is ongoing.


  1. This was so beautiful to read...feel like I was there. These kids are going to take away such life-long lessons from this experience. :-)

  2. Having a parent's love, support, encouragement and validation as one's going through a transformational process can be a powerful force. I'm happy to hear that you were able to incorporate the parents throughout the process (visiting them at their homes, getting their verbal commitments & organizing this meeting).

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about this journey (and seeing snippets of the performance in time).

    Much love and thanks for sharing.

  3. You are doing God's work...we are so moved to hear the developments. Let us know if there is anything we can do from here to help. Love, Laban & Nitu

  4. Your sharings are lessons for all of us, thank you for being so open with the journey of the group.

  5. Nimo ... Thank you for always sharing your experiences and this beautiful journey with us. You and your journey have become such an inspiration to myself and others. These children and parents are so Blessed to have people like you surrounding them. May God continue to Bless You on this journey. Lots of Love, JSJKJB. rina

  6. Nimo. Everytime I get your email updates I get excited about your journey. Can't answer what thoughts are going through your being but I know they will have a resounding impact on all people connected to you and around you. May god give you the strength and direction of all the endevours you want to fulfill.


  7. Wonderful journey! We hope to see the kids in action in South India too.

  8. Nimo, just catching up with your blog now, but love the beauty with which you pull in the involvement of the families. I'm moved from this far away, I'm sure they were rocked in-person :-)


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