Hindu Parliament aims at harnessing Hindu Retirees
I was invited by Balkaran Maharaj, President of the Chacachacare Sanjeevani Mandir, to participate in a 3rd Sitting of the Senate of the Hindu Pratipada Sansad (Parliament of the Hindu New Year) at the Hindu Prachaar Kendra (HPK) on Sunday 23 February, 2019. I was a bit confused when I got the invitation because I was wondering if the annual New Year sitting of the Hindu Parliament has been abandoned. Nevertheless, it was only when I arrived at the Hindu Prachaar Kendra (HPK) on Sunday last that my doubts were clarified. I discovered that the Senate is a special sitting of the Hindu Parliament to speak on a relevant theme that would guide the Sansad. The theme chosen for this year’s Parliament is Vanaprastha, the third stage in the Hindu four stages of life or ashramas.
The three senators that spoke on the theme were Senator Deoroop Teemal, Kumar Rambarran and Seeta Mahabir. While the last presenter was new to me, Senator Teemal and Rambarran were known to me for their active engagement in social and cultural work. Teemal, a civil engineer by profession, has been engaged in the Hindu community for the past 39 years and served as a past President of the Hindu Seva Sangh. His is currently the President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, 2nd Vice President of the National Council of Indian Culture and served as Chairman of Divali Nagar 2018. Teemal is also Chairman of the International Yoga Day Committee and Chairman of the Hindu Mandir Conference Committee 2018 which held a successful conference on Hindu Mandirs in Trinidad.
Kumar Rambarran, a retired IT worker at Petrotrin and hailing from Moruga, was an active member of the St Mary’s Hindu Mandir. In 1984 he came into contact with the Hindu Seva Sangh at the Moruga Composite School where the Sangh was holding its first Sangh Siksha Varg (Youth Development Camp) under the directorship of Raviji. Other dedicated Hindu officers of the Hindu Seva Sangh were Haripersad Harikissoon (President), Ramdath Jagessar (Secretary), Varune Persad, Sahadeva Rajkumar, Ramsevak Ramphalie, Sona Mahabir, Krishna Dube, Jang Bahadoor Bhagirathi etc. There was no turning back for Kumar. He served in several programs of the Sangh and also a term as President. Now retired, Kumar is an active worker with the Chinmaya Mission with a special interest in Bal Vihar.
Seeta Mahabir, a graduate of Wisconsin University, is a retired banker. She is also President of the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir of Sewdass Road, Freeport. Seeta has raised her children who are now on their own. She is now keen on sharing her skills and expertise with the youths. Those who work with her at the Lakshmi Narayan Temple know her to be an able organizer making personal phone calls to devotees to have them attend programs. At the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir it is not uncommon to have the mandir packed with a few hundreds devotees. I must mention her leadership in the reconstruction of the mandir after it was damaged by earthquake.
One of Seeta’s recommendation is the establishment of a Vanaprastha Institute for retirees to train youth in preparing resume and other skills for the world of work. I find this to be a most meaningful suggestion because there are many youths who approach the job market armed with certificates, diplomas and degrees but lacking in social skills and other qualities for success in the world of work. Also such an institute would provide an anchor for many retirees who become aimless, bored, engaging in binge drinking with little constructive activities after retirement.
Teemal saw Vanaprastha as an opportunity for retirees to go beyond the welfare of the family and direct their energies toward the welfare of the entire community and the nation. He went on to describe Vanaprastha as a stage in the natural development of the individual. He saw Vanaprashta as an all-embracing stage to help the individual to find harmony to accelerate spiritual growth.
Kumarji spoke about engaging retirees in visits to hospitals to pray with the sick. Many Hindus in institutions such as orphanages, correctional institutions, homes for retirees and hospitals have no visitors to chat with them. In many family homes the elders need support to take them to clinic, the bank or pharmacy. Having retirees visiting and spending time with these seniors would go a long way in bringing fellowship to their lonely lives.
A few detractors hold the view that programs like the meeting of the Senate is irrelevant, opting for a modus operandi that is more confrontational. Raviji, one of the organizers of the Sansad, is not deterred by criticism but is pleased that “the objective of the Varsha Pratipada Samsad brought light to a stage of life in the social order designed to deliver personal, societal and global goals.” Raviji continued: “The third stage also provides resources for the Hindu Community and everyone to benefit from these resources.”
The 8th annual Varsha Pratipada Sansad is carded for Sunday 7th April, 2019, 4 p.m. at the Chinmaya Ashram, Couva.