How we acquired a singing bowl

November 12, 2006

We spent an absorbing time yesterday evening at a fund-raising event for Child Haven International, in Ottawa’s Government Conference Centre, built as the city’s central railway station, opposite the Chateau Laurier. Inside, the walls and windows were appropriately draped with gorgeous Indian saris, many of the guests wearing saris, too. Schoolgirls and schoolboys ushered us in and took care of our coats as the delicious smells of our supper, being prepared by the chefs of Cafe Shafali (the place where we first heard of Child Haven), wafted around. As the Tibetan gong had not yet been struck to announce the serving of supper, I made for the Lassi Bar and took my mango lassi with me to check out the items in the Silent Auction rooms, including several images of Buddha and the Hindu deities, jewelry made from silver and semi-precious stones, a couple of Tibetan singing bowls, an astonishing, “collapsible”, Himalayan version of the Alphorn, some five metres long (for which Chris had to be dissuaded from bidding) and a “home made” Tibetan guitar. In the other rooms were piles of things made from colourful wools and cloths, also for sale. Henna artists were decorating people’s hands, Child Haven volunteers were conscripting others and a Montreal Circus artist in a bowler hat was busy encouraging us to take advantage of all these opportunities.

Chris made a bid for both a large and a small singing bowl.

Then the lids came off the serving dishes and we lined up for our vegetarian supper (in keeping with the charity’s Gandhian philosophy, as the programme put it), to eat which everyone stood at candlelit tables. We were too many to have chairs. The chance to sit down came afterwards, when we were ushered into the Beaux Arts style, former Departures Hall, now transformed into a sort of theatre nearly 30 metres high. The floor show ranged from deep solemnity to hilarity. We were entertained with Indian dancing, a yoga demonstration and juggling by the compère who performed incredible tricks with five crystal balls. Slide shows of the charity’s homes in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Tibet were projected and stories of the recipients’ lives read to us. One destitute Tibetan child, helped by the charity, has recently been enrolled as a student at Beijing University, probably travelling there on the railway I mentioned in a previous blog.

It being the evening of Armistice Day, one of the founders of Child Haven, Fred Cappuccino, an eighty-year-old Unitarian who told us he felt rather sad now that half of his life was over, quoted from the theologian Walter Rauschenbusch who made the following plea:

“…We deplore the spell of enchantments that make the nations drunk with the lust of battle and draw them on as willing tools of death. May we be of quiet and steadfast mind when our own nation clamours for vengeance or aggression. May our sense of justice be strengthened and our regard for the equal worth of other peoples and races. May the rulers of the nations have faith in the possibility of peace through justice and may the common people have anew and stern enthusiasm for the cause of peace. May our soldiers and sailors be commended for their swift obedience and their willingness to answer the call of duty, but may they be inspired none the less with a hatred of war, and may they never for love of private glory or advancement provoke its coming…”

At the end of his reading, Mr Cappuccino, asked for a minute’s silence so that we could think about this, after which the three children on stage, a five year old violinist, another very young ‘cellist and a guitar player, members of a gifted ensemble called Tutti Muzik, burst into a lively arrangement of Rossini’s William Tell overture!

We stayed for a cup of chai and the end of the bidding for the silent auction… and came home with the larger of the singing bowls.

3 Responses to “How we acquired a singing bowl”

  1. Margaret & David Says:

    Chateau Laurier – How that took us back to when we visited you! Pot of tea, English style, in a room overlooking the canal (almost a terrace) and a resident pianist playing on a white grand piano which for some people there also (or perhaps, mainly) served as a handy bar. Wonder if you remember that day as well, Ali.

    Love and Best Wishes
    Margaret & David

    (Please excuse poor blobiquette.)

  2. David Says:

    Oops – blogiquette! ditto for poor spelling. Also, two respondees produce poor grammar, another triumph for technology…

    M’n’D

  3. Alison Says:

    I do indeed remember. Good to hear from you and I like both words: blobiquette and blogiquette. Shall we see you in Canada again one day soon?


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