A Birthday Cake like no other
Everyone agreed that this visit to New York was unlike any other. We were there to celebrate Sri Chinmoy's 74th birthday; in his native India, birthdays are marked by acts of giving by the individual celebrant, and in this vein Sri Chinmoy decided to give a series of concerts for students. And so on different days we listened to a singing performance of 74 mantric songs (followed up with 26 more songs just composed), 74 improvisations on 74 different pianos, 74 songs played on his favourite instrument, the esraj, and performances of 74 different woodwind instruments. To cap it all we were treated to another performance of 220 mantric songs on the birthday day of August 27th. Each concert lasted for well over two hours, and brought down a feeling of peace so tangibly you could almost touch it.
The second reason we could say we had a birthday celebrations like no other was that we had a cake like no other - Ashrita Furman, a long time student of Sri Chinmoy and holder of more Guiness World Records than anyone else, had organised 47 volunteers (including Ambarish, Shane and Colm from the Dublin Centre) in an attempt to create the most amount of candles on a birthday cake - a staggering 27,000. The cake was 60ft long by 6ft wide, and the 47 of us had to light a section each with a blowtorch within a minute and a half. This gave Sri Chinmoy a minute or so to meditate in gratitude on the birthday cake before we all had to start huffing and puffing on the cake before it got burnt!
We all had a wonderful time in New York. It was Colm's first time there, and he launched himself into every singing performance going. As ever, we had a Circus; Mangala and Paula were dragon-tamers of some description in some ancient Chinese act (I'd best ask them to explain), Colm was in a frenetic drumming group and later himself and Shane played the parts of jesters in a performance directed by Charana from Cardiff which featured a two headed cow, a homicidal Robin Hood, King Arthur doing the vacuuming, and Batman and some Roman gladiators boogying along in perfect harmony to an old Prince record. Hmm.
A highlight for many was the merry-go-round constructed by Sri Chinmoy's students. All of the children in the audience ran down to have a go whilst Sri Chinmoy powered the apparatus himself using a foot pedal.
We also had the closing ceremony of the US leg of the World Harmony Run, in which runners from all around the world participated, and the very next day we ran the annual Self-Transcendence Marathon organised by the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. We were all really happy with our performances in the marathon. Colm ran a scorching debut marathon, finishing in 3:32. After an unsuccessful attempt last year, Paula came home to great joy in a time of 6:50. Shane came home in a PB of 3:21 and Ambarish declared himself well pleased with his time of 3:29. The race was held in perfect conditions in the most beautiful natural setting.