Thursday, February 22, 2018

Walking the Talk: Practising What we Preach

Thakur Ranjit Singh

God loves those who love their fellow beings. Hinduism preaches that the most meritorious, virtuous, righteous and saintly deed one can do is “parr hitt”- service to other fellow beings in particular and humanity in general.
Taking this on board, Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust has ventured on a visionary project, a walkathon that is termed, Ram - A –Thon, to help worthy national organisations providing services to communities of New Zealand.  Funds raised last year went to the Starship Hospital in Auckland, while this year’s efforts raised funds for Saint John Ambulance.
This article maps out the event and is intended as a salute to those who literally walked their talk to practice the religious motto of service to humanity.

Indeed, you serve God by loving and serving fellow-beings and humanity. And Shri Ram Mandir devotees literally walked their talk in serving fellow being by raising fund for Saint Johns through a walkathon -Ram- A-Thon on 4th February, 2018.

You may not believe in miracles of God, but the gift of nice fine weather on 4th February, 2018 was nothing short of a miracle. Despite forecast of stormy weather, the day dawned into a beautiful morning. We all assembled at Ram Mandir in Henderson and were transported by Ritchies bus to the starting point, the Winter Gardens at Auckland Domain.

Let the walk begin for a worthy cause. The enthusiastic and energetic walkers commencing the walk at Winter Gardens, Auckland Domain on 4th February, 2018

The Co-Op Taxis had sponsored this point and its executive, Jacob Patel, handed over their donation. Earlier, there was welcome address by the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, and appreciation from Saint John Representative, Dennis Dufty. With morning tea, sandwiches and refreshments, we were fuelled for the first stage of 5.3 km walk from Domain to Western Springs. Unbeknown to many, we had amongst us an 84 year old who started the march.

The Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, giving the welcome small-talk at Auckland Domain (Winter Gardens), before the walk. It was his vision to practise what is preached by Hinduism - serving and loving mankind is one of greatest devotions to God.
This 20km walk served many objectives. We were raising money for a worthy cause-for Saint John. We were getting much needed exercise by walking. This event also brought family, friends and the community together.

One specialty of the walk was health and safety angle. Volunteer Doctors Ajay and Kulvant Singh kept close eyes on the walkers throughout the walk. And Sanit John vehicles accompanied the walkers all the way through. Anybody feeling tired had a choice to terminate the walk and board the accompanying vehicle. And those feeling unwell had more than adequate medical attention.

Pit Stop at Western Springs which was one of the main stops, where Sport Waitakere held activities for Seniors and Families. Pictured here, from left is Ram-A-Thon Executive Committee member, Madhavan Raman, Siona Fernandez, Indian Sports and Wellness Coordinator, Sport Waitakere, and Distinguished Guest, Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

But the real beauty of this walk was the 20km of contrasting, breath-taking views of Auckland. The first stage, comprising 5.3 km went close to the CBD of Auckland, past Upper Queen Street. Passing by Auckland hospital, in the distance shadows of the Sky-Tower, over Grafton Bridge and through famous (some say infamous) K –Road (Karangahape in full), down Great North Road, through Central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn to the first pit stop-Western Springs.

Western Springs was the main pit stop where Sport Waitakere kept the senior citizens busy with their innovative sports and recreation activities. The kind sponsors, The Cooperative Bank provided abundance of healthy food snacks and drinks. The Bank Executive, Alice Cappleman, and Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan addressed the walkers, gave them words of encouragement and spoke about virtues of helping others.

The group photo at Western Springs,with Saint John Ambulance and St John Shuttle van in the background with a third transport car in the middle, dwarfed by the walkers.

After group photos, walkers marched past Western Spring Lake and through a picturesque Western Springs  Park, crossing the motorway overbridge, onto the cycle tract parallel to motorway 16. This is a shared path between walkers and cyclists, and is the longest stretch of the walk, comprising 8.3km. This is a tough one, with a mixture of sea-view, traffic noise and beautiful Waitakere Ranges in the horizon.

A picturesque walk through International park, between McCormick Reserve and Tui Glen. This is led by the youngest walkers. On left is Sukirti Sharma, who at just over 10, completed the whole 20km walk, being youngest to do this. On the right is the baby of the walk, Rania Roma Chand, who was the youngest, at 5 years 9 months, to complete one leg of the walk.
Minister of Housing and Transport, and the local Te Atatu Electorate MP, Phil Twyford welcomed them at McCormick Greens in Te Atatu South, just beside Motorway 16. This pit stop was kindly sponsored by Kumar Guru, Austar Reality, of LJ Hooker.

The big supporter of Shri Ram Mandir activities, the local electorate, Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford,(with mike and cap) being the guest at McCormick Greens Pit stop, addressing and encouraging the walkers. Phil is also Minister of Housing and Minister for Transport. He is appropriately flanked by his two stalwart supporters, Shane Henderson, Chair of Henderson - Massey Local Board, with MC for the pit stop, Madhavan Raman (extreme right) while Pundit Jagdish Sharma, with hand-held hailer, ensuring that the Minister is heard by all. 

The walk from McCormick Reserve to Tui Glen is perhaps most pleasant. Walking past some residential area, sneaking under Central Park Drive Bridge, and walking thought the international gardens among best greens and path made this a very pleasant experience. It was here that the youngest walker, Rania Roma Chand, just 5 years 9 months, joined the walkers for this leg of the walk, with her mother. She chattered the way through with her group of walkers at easy pace while more energetic ones breezed through the shortest leg of 3.2 km walk.

The much deserving prizes for the oldest and the youngest walkers. The prize to the oldest walker, 84 year old, Gangi Taunk, handed over by Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (top)  Above, prize for the youngest walker was given to Rania Roma Chand . Prize is being handed over by Mandeep Kaur Sidhu of NZ Police, and also a committee member of Ram-A-Thon committee. Rania is only five years nine months and completed one leg of the walk, while Sukirti Sharma, aged 10 was the youngest to complete the whole 20km walk. 78 years separated the ages of the youngest and the oldest walkers.
Tui Glen pit stop was sponsored by AB International and chair of Henderson –Massey Local Board, Shane Henderson was on hand to address the walkers, while Minster Phil Twyford had joined the walkers from Mc Cormick pit stop.
When walkers arrived at the final stop outside Ram Mandir on Brick Street, we had a welcoming party consisting of students from Waitakere Hindi School and musicians from Mandir with drums and cymbals to lead the walkers to the Mandir, where the formal part of the programme was held.

The first was naming and awarding prizes to various walkers. The following were the winners:
Prize for most generations walking was given to Master Shiu Charan Family. Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (left) is seen handing over the prize to the family-Shiu Charan, Granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan and Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia Charan. While the grandfather , Shiu Charan completed one leg of the walk, and also won the prize for the highest individual collector, the mother-daughter team completed the whole 20km walk.

·         Highest individual collector-Master Shiu Charan

·         Highest Corporate collector-Lotus Foreign Exchange

·         Family -Generational –Master Shiu Charan, Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia     Charan and granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan (3 generations).

·         Family-highest number- Sanjay, Nandini, Vivek and Vishal Kumar (4)

·         Family completing the full walk:  three winners- Falgun and Sangita Shah,     Amrit Bhai and Amba Ben and Suman Sharma and Kajal Kumar.

·         The youngest: Rania Roma Chand- 5 years 9 months.

·         The oldest: Gangi Taunk- 84 years old.


   Cheque of $15,522.40 being presented to Dennis Dufty (4th from right) of Saint John by Ravend Kishore, (second from right) a Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, while flanked by Pravin Kumar, Managing Trustee and Salend Kumar, another Trustee. On the left are the team from St John that accompanied and oversaw the security and wellbeing of the walkers, and a police representative.

The real winners were the walkers who were rewarded with the satisfaction of helping St John, and of course Saint John who were handed $15, 522 collected in the walk.
This whole event was with a message for other similar religious organisations to venture of the real spirituality of engaging with the wider community and helping those who help others.

We will await you next year for a day of fun with your families-in serving humanity. And God.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs the blog, FIJI PUNDIT, took most of the photos and was also Acting Event Director of Ram-A-Thon project 2018.]

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