On Saturday April 9, 2011 New England Vibhag celebrated Varsha Pratipada in the form of a Balamela in Oak Middle School in Shrewsbury, MA. It was a beautiful spring day making it perfect for all the families to attend. There were 350+ people who participated/enjoyed the Balamela.
The place started bustling by about 12:15-12:30 pm. Welcome table, HSS/Balagokulam Information table, the auditorium, the games tables and the cafeteria were set up. As people started arriving, they were given a very warm, traditional welcome with a tikka, attar (wrist perfume) and gulaabjal (rosewater). We started with the cultural program at 2:00 pm. First and foremost, we did the Aadya Sarsanghachaalak Pranaam. The Ghosh vaadaks were on stage to play the appropriate rachanaas for the Aadya Sar-Sanghachaalak Pranaam, Dhwajaarohanam, and Dhwaj Pranaam. Then the kids from the various shakhas and two of our sister organizations (VHP Balavihar and Samskrit Bharati) presented a wonderful collection of songs, dances, and skits. In all, close to 100 kids participated in these performances. To conclude the cultural program, we had maargdarshan from Sai Ji who had travelled from New York at attend the event. Throughout the program, the emcees kept everyone engaged with their narration.
We then opened up the games & food stalls at 4:00 pm. The kids had made signs for the various stalls and pricing, etc. There were 15 stalls ranging from mehendi, face painting, craft project (making a windmill), to some very innovative and fun games that entertained kids of all ages. The hallway where these games were set up, was a bit narrow and hence got very crowded but everyone still managed to have a lot of fun. All the kids got a book for participation. At the same time, the aroma of yummy food had filled the cafeteria. All the shakhas excelled in serving dishes like Bhel Puri, Papdi Chat, Idli sambaar, Dabeli, Vada Paav, and Veg Pakoraas. There was tea coffee, juice, soda, water and mango lassi to drink and brownies, gulaab jaamun, burfi, etc for dessert. There were smiling, happy faces everywhere. A phrase that was used to describe it was ‘the atmosphere was very festive’.
One of the best outcomes of the whole planning and execution process was the strong bonds that have been formed amongst the sevikaas. We all had done thorough preparations via weekly conference calls, emails, phone calls, in-person baithak and knew that we could count on everyone in the team to not only take care of what was assigned to them but also to step in and help out wherever needed.