Our Brooklyn Bala Vihar class this morning was extra-special because it falls on Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama. It is a gorgeous spring day in New York, and we took our class outdoors. We took time to notice and enjoy the warmth of the sun, the blue of the sky and the feeling of cool breezes on our skin. We remembered that Bhumi Devi, Mother Earth, is the mother of all beings in the world and loves all people equally.
Then we had our regular Skype meeting with our young pen pals in Mazar-E-Sharif, Afghanistan. Our Bala Vihar kids started by singing and translating our usual opening prayer:
Om Sahana Vavatu
Saha Viryam Karavavahai
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
Oh God, may you protect us, nourish us, make us strong, give us wisdom, and help us learn together without fights and disagreements. Peace, peace, peace.
Our Bal Vihar took turns introducing themselves and explaining about what Brooklyn Bala Vihar teaches them about seva (community service). They also shared about their favorite Hindu festivals of Diwali, Holi, and Raksha Bandan. The Afghan kids already knew about all these festivals because they love Bollywood movies!
We had heard that our Afghan friends had a scary incident recently. A few weeks ago, there was fighting in Mazar-E-Sharif and a stray bullet hit the window of their classroom. Our kids in New York expressed concern and asked how the Afghan kids were doing. The Afghan kids spoke about how scary it had been, but reassured us all that they were safe. They said they were happy that they had friends in New York who cared about them.
We learned from our Afghan friends about Nowruz, the Afghan new year which was recently celebrated. They told us that they ate a feast during Nowruz, and were given new clothes. Their favorite Nowruz dishes are samanak and bulani. Families visit each other, go for picnics, and light fireworks. Since this is the start of the new year, and since they had such a scare recently, this Nowruz, they prayed ardently for peace.
We ended by greeting each other with “Shanti” and “Salaam,” both words that mean peace.