Date: August 22, 2019 Venue: Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry
On the morning of August 22, 2019, Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC), Sri Aurobindo Society, had the great privilege to welcome the Hon’ble Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, Dr. Kiran Bedi at the Society House. Dr. Bedi was the Chief Guest for the valedictory ceremony of Unmeṣa: Explore, Evolve, Realise – a 25-day residential study camp which concluded on that day.
This study camp which started on July 28, 2019 and included 15 children, ages 13-18 from various parts of the USA, was designed by SAFIC in collaboration with Agastya Gurukulam. It was designed in the spirit of the educational vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The primary learning goal was to initiate the young Indian-American learners in a lifelong study of Indian knowledge systems and cultural heritage, and provide them a strong orientation via study of selected age-appropriate topics, especially in the areas of Sanskrit, Mathematics and Science, and Indian Cultural and Civilizational Studies.
A full report of the camp can be accessed HERE.
Dr. Kiran Bedi was received at Sri Aurobindo Society by Shri Pradeep Narang, Chairman, Shri Vijay Poddar, Member Executive, Dr. Sampadananda Mishra, Director, SAFIC and Mr. Sree Balaji and Mr. Mittal Monani from Agastya Gurukulam.
The programme opened with a Sanskrit song ‘Priyam Bharatam’ which the participants had learned during the camp. Dr. Sampadananda Mishra welcomed the Chief Guest, other dignitaries, parents of Unmesa participants, and all the members present at the valedictory ceremony. He reminded the audience that one of the key works taken up by Sri Aurobindo Society through its various verticals such as SAFIC is to prepare the young minds for a future world, and it was in this spirit that Unmesa program was conceived.
Mr. Balaji honoured the Chief Guest with a bouquet of flowers and gave brief remarks highlighting the significance of bringing insights from Indian knowledge systems to the children of Indian diaspora.
Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Associate, SAFIC summarised the entire 25-day programme in her report highlighting the rich variety of topics covered and diverse learning activities which made the camp experience richer for the learners. The contributions of all who made this programme happen – in their different capacities – were also acknowledged. She highlighted that the real stars of the programme were the learners who came with open hearts and open minds to experience India and Indian Culture in all its richness and diversity.
Ms. Sangeeta Bahri from Agastya Gurukulam briefly spoke on the significance of such a programme for Indian-American children especially when it comes to navigating their bicultural identities. Each of the Unmeṣa participants then gave a quick feedback on their experience in the camp.
Some children spoke about their favourite sessions from the programme, while others found the field trips to be most interesting ways to learn. Some mentioned that while they were initially hesitant to attend their camp and did so only on their parents’ insistence, they were now really glad that they came and attended. One child mentioned that there is no word in the whole world which could describe the experience he had. All children expressed how much more they knew about India after 25 days of this camp, and also that how much more there is which they don’t know and hope to learn and experience in the years to come.
All the participants received their certificates from the Chief Guest, after which she was kindly invited to address the gathering.
Dr. Bedi expressed her happiness to be part of the concluding event of Unmeṣa and congratulated the organisers for putting together such an intense and innovative educational programme. Addressing the children, she said that the Unmesa experience will serve as a seed for the young Indian-American learners which will gradually grow into a tree of knowledge – knowledge about their Indian identities and their mother culture. She said that Indian family includes not only the 1.3 billion people living in India but the entire Indian diaspora, and in that sense, we are all connected to our motherland and Indian culture.
Dr. Bedi inspired the audience, particularly the young learners, by pointing out a few key life-lessons. She said that we must learn how to make every day count in our effort toward our real progress and growth in life, thereby making the world a better place. She emphasised that by developing self-confidence and integrity we can make things happen rather than let things happen. She added that in life we must neither give up nor give in but rather give it all. Only when one gives one’s all, one is able to overcome the challenges and walk toward one’s goal. She encouraged the children to keep learning more about Indian history and culture, and prepare themselves to contribute effectively to making a stronger and prosperous future India.
Shri Vijay Poddar then spoke a few closing words. He reminded the gathering that Unmeṣa was indeed like a ‘tapasya’ happening at the Sri Aurobindo Society campus. He encouraged the children to stay in touch and learn more about India that has the potential to bring East and West together and to facilitate a deeper human unity.
Due to a prior engagement, the Chief Guest Dr. Bedi had to leave after a few group pictures with the children and other audience members.
The programme continued for another half an hour afterwards, during which some children gave valuable feedback on their learning experience at the camp. This was followed by honouring the teachers and facilitators of the programme.
Shri Pradip Narang spoke a few words of encouragement and congratulated the Unmesa group for their hard work and invited them to stay in touch with Sri Aurobindo Society. One of the parents of an Unmeṣa participant also thanked the organisers for putting together such an impactful learning programme. The programme concluded with national anthem led by Unmeṣa participants.
Report by SAFIC