Pranav Ashram’s students being trained to excel

The students assembled in two lines and marched in a slow procession to the stage where they arranged themselves neatly before an audience of friends and proud family members. Sans the classic mortarboard and gown, they donned jeweled saris, lehengas and kurtas and spiffy hairstyles. They were proud to be there, to celebrate their above ordinary accomplishment. On-stage, harmoniums, tablas and microphones were aligned in neat strips awaiting players—or in this case, the 2009 graduating class of Pranav Ashram’s Academy of Hindu Philosophy, Religion and Culture.

The students of Pranav Ashram’s heritage and music classes are synonymous with excellence in the art of percussion and singing. They have gained respect and a good reputation for their discipline, skill and incontestable talent. Guru Dave Bansraj, their music instructor and director of the Saaz O Awaaz Acedemy of Music, and Swami Bhajanananda of the Pranav Ashram have fine-tuned the students’ skills and have presented them to mesmerized devotees and audiences alike.

“It is possible because of Guruji, because of his strong leadership—it really made a difference,” said Mohini Ramlakhan. Satisfied with the impact Pranav Ashram has made in her children’s lives over the past seven years that she has been a member, Mrs. Ramlakhan says that along with building confidence and self-esteem, Pranav Ashram is helping her children in their academic studies as well. “They are more disciplined, more focused. It helped them in their schoolwork, to stay on track.”

Mrs. Ramlakhan is the mother of 17-year old tabla player, Justin and 14-year old Jessica Ramlakhan who received the top rank in her heritage class with a 99 percentage. Jessica, in her speech to the attendees details that her heritage class—which she along with the other students attend every Friday and Sunday—gave her courage, a trait she did not previously exhibit.

The evening pushed forward with performances by the students in which they showcased the pieces they have been working on during the weeks prior to their graduation. They sang devotional songs as Guru Bansraj clapped on from the side of the stage, and filmi songs including “O Mere Sona Re”, “Dupatta” and “Kajra Re” which was accompanied by a brilliant tabla performance by Dave Bansraj Jr.

Students of the Pranav Ashram's Academy of Hindu Philosophy, Religion and Culture at their 2009 graduation exercise. Photo by Ramesh Ramkalawan

The event climaxed with a flawless tabla performance led by Dave Bansraj Jr., guiding the students of his tabla class. They tuned their tablas, positioned them comfortably on their chuttas and within minutes presented a spellbinding performance which fired up the crowd into a loud applause.

“Pranav Ashram has done a great deal for my children,” says Aruna Meghbaran, a member of the Pranav Ashram for six years and mother of Nadia, 16, and Navin, 13, both of whom were part of the graduating class. Praising the tremendous growth in her children, she adds, “they never knew what [the Hindu] religion was all about.”

Along with the tutelage of Swami Bhajanananda and Guru Dave Bansraj, the parents of the graduating students are credited with a large part of their success. From ensuring that their children attend classes, to providing voluntary assistance to the ashram in all of its functions, each parent adds to the gears that allows the ashram to continue rotating. “I personally would like to see it continue and I will do whatever I can to help,” says Mr. Gobin Geer, father of graduates 6-year old Rumana, 7-year old Priya and 13-year old Reshmi Geer. Regarding the positive impact that the ashram has had on his children, he adds, “I feel good about it. It’s time consuming, but it’s well worth it because you know where [your children] are and what they are doing.” “I can’t even imagine life without it because we’ve become so close and we just love it so much,” expressed Mrs. Ramlakhan.

Prana’v s graduation ceremony culminated with the presentation of graduate certificates to each student and awards to the top rankers of each class. Awards were also presented to Denece Chanderpaul for excelling at the Heritage examination, and Amanda Persaud for sucessfully completing the Kissoon’s Annual Music Scholarship Award, both of whom formally addressed the audience.

While presenting her speech, Miss Chanderpaul revealed that she did not know what a tabla was or what was the proper way to pray saying, “I thought praying was bowing in the morning and at night.” Now, Miss Chanderpaul and the other students continue to shine as all-deserving of the wonderful accolade that has been bestowed upon them by the Pranav Hindu Mandir Cultural Centre.

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Indo-Caribbean World, Deceber 9, 2009

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