Gandhi Camp, California, July 2017

     When one is destined to witness eight decades of life, they have seen it all! There is rare an exposure or experience that can distinguish their scrutiny and earn an exceptional mention. The week of ICC Gandhi Camp 2017 organized in the cozy facility of Chinamaya Mission’s Krishnalaya, nestled in the foresty terrains of Piercy, California was a special and unique event deserving such an accolade.
     Devi and I joined the camp as senior volunteers keeping an eye on three of our grandsons Kailash, Nikash, and Kishor, with no clue of our role or function in such a setup. After the week we returned with an endearing appreciation of the splendid way the event was organized, the meticulous attention paid to every detail and the particular focus given to inculcate the fundamentals of being a good human being into the young minds of the campers. The youthful and charismatic leadership of BhaiJi, the eighty-eight-year young, original Gandhian brought in from India, was the heart and soul of the camp as he enlightened the youth with the rudiments of humanism, spirituality, patriotism, service mentality and passion for ‘Karma Yoga’. The motto, ‘work as worship’ prevailed in the camp atmosphere throughout the week. Serene, disciplined, humble yet strong, and with an air of compassionate confidence, he exuded the very elements that the youth can enormously benefit from if they choose to emulate the experience they were offered through the course.
     The take home message for every attendee was to live up to the glorious endowment of being born as a human, of the privilege of being the beneficiary of the magnificent nature surrounding us and to be disciplined with a conviction to be self-sufficient, caring, helping and supportive of our fellow human beings. As one who observed the whole camp functioning, I would strongly implore every parent who volunteered their children for the camp, to emphasize that their kids remember and follow what they were told and made to practice during the one-week of their stay.
     The very commendable leadership imparted by the young adult volunteers with sincerity, discipline, and authority would be the crux of the program’s success that the young ones obediently abided by, absorbing their instructions.
     And, oh my God, the food! Without a hint of exaggeration, I can emphatically declare that I have rarely experienced such an exemplary treat of culinary indulgence. The success of the entire event may be attributed to the delicious, sumptuous, variety of food served with care and love in an orderly fashion to every heart’s content. All of us who were in the camp, left with filled stomachs and gratified hearts, appreciative of and indebted to the kitchen team.
     No program can go flawlessly without the leadership of unmitigated vision, impeccable discipline and selfless commitment, the top team of Gandhi camp exemplifying such perfect combination in organizing such an exemplary event to perfection. But the reward, the remuneration of grooming a bunch of superlative citizens is invaluable and priceless, worth any effort or sacrifice. And in that endeavour, and watching the marvellous young counsellors, they have succeeded beyond reproach. And we, ‘the senior volunteers’ returned abundantly contented, watching our grandchildren introduced to some profound values in life and beaming with their glorious experience. For us, the icing on the cake was the privileged opportunity of meeting, knowing, spending time and making friends with some of the best human beings we have ever met in life.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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