As the host of her own annual television interview show about India’s Independence Day, Herricks junior Riti Sunshine Bhalla is used to interacting with public figures.
But acting as interpreter for Hindu spiritual leader Brahmrishi Shree Kumar Swami when he delivered an invocation earlier this month to the state Senate, and accompanying him to Albany as well, was another matter.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was a great honor for me,” Bhalla said. “I felt like a senator standing up there. It was very cool.”
Bhalla is a senator in the Herricks High School Student Council.
“Just standing up there on the top of the podium and seeing all of the 60 senators in front of you and you addressing all of them, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Bhalla, who said she wasn’t nervous about reading the translation of the Brahmrishi’s remarks.
It was a combination of events that led to Bhalla acting as translator. Her father, Varinder Bhalla, suggested to Senate majority leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) that the senate invite Brahmrishi to deliver the invocation during his imminent visit to the New York City area, Bhalla said Skelos enthusiastically agreed. The issue of finding a translator immediately occurred to Skelos. Since Riti Bhalla had interviewed him for her Indian Independence Day show, she was a natural choice.
“It’s a coincidence of events,” the elder Bhalla
Skelos introduced Brahmrishi to his fellow senators as a spirituual leader “who is revered through out the world,” and who has “inspired people all around the world to devote themselves to helping others.”
In the video of Brahmrishi’s appearance before the state Senate (www.cosmicgrace.org), a poised Bhalla thanked the senators for inviting him, and translated his words in a clear, strong voice from Hindi to English. “May this senate seek and celebrate unity without imposing uniformity. May these senators work to the best of their abilitites without becoming attached to the fruits of their work,” he said in part, adding,
“May they promote justice moral clarity, ethical living, acts of kindness and righteousness because where there is righteousness in the heart there is beauty in the character.”
The Bhalla family is still in the afterglow of having the Brahmrishi as a guest in their Albertson home.
“My family in India still doesn’t believe it,” the elder Bhalla said.
He said Brahmrishi typically draws audiences of 100,000 people at venues wherever he speaks in India.
In the wake of her state Senate experience, Bhalla said she is still considering working in the media as one career . Her show about Indian Independence Day is carried around the country on Sahara TV on Aug. 15, the date when Indians observe the historic occasion.
The TV show, “The Riti Bhalla Special,” grew out of connections her father made with Indian TV outlets and U.S. politicians.
Riti Bhalla also has a strong background in vocal music.
She has made all-county as a soprano in New York State School Music Association for the past three years through her participation in school chorus groups. She is a member of the elite Chamber Choir at Herricks High School, and said she’s aiming to achieve all-state status in her senior year.
Bhalla has immersed herself in her native culture by learning classical Indian singing in private group lessons and Indian classical dance, called Bharatnetyam.
She has also been learning Hindi and yoga at the Gaytri Pariwar Hindu Community Center in Deer Park.