NRI Pulse Staff Report
Photos by Vinod Devlia, Photography by Vinod
Atlanta, GA, November 9, 2018: Raksha Inc.’s twentieth anniversary celebrations, aptly themed: “Celebrating the past and Changing the future”, was a celebration of its incredible journey, from Attorney Sunita Iyer’s basement to a volunteer run support group to a branded non-profit with significant staff today, supporting a whole lot more cases.
Almost everyone was who was part of the inaugural “Ek Shaam Raksha ke Naam” was part of this noteworthy milestone held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter on October 7, 2018.
Niraj Sharma, created a video: Walk Down the Memory Lane, which captured faces and comments from many including the pioneers of Ek Shaam…, Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi.
The entire Bakshi family has been a critical part of Ek Shaam’s growth and the couple’s gracious presence at the 20th anniversary was a mixed bag of emotions. The Bakshis did not celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this year due to the untimely loss of their young son Deepak Bakshi, who was also a keen supporter of Raksha. And yet, they were present at the event for which they had given all of their time, energy, funding and support. Truly outstanding and selfless!
Viren Mayani, who not only christened the name: “Ek Shaam…” but whose band “Aawaaz” performed in the first two Raksha fundraisers, emceed the anniversary celebrations. His emceeing involved vivid recollections from the past and he was able to engage the audience throughout the evening.
Past Board Member and Raksha staff member, Sonia Sharma, flew in with her kids to be a part of this significant milestone and many like her had gathered from the past. The meeting was reminiscent of a huge family get-together.
Singers performed intermittently between speeches, videos, testimonials and awards; in their mellifluous voices and to the extreme delight of the audience. Right from the opening number ‘Shava shava’, sung by Rashmi Ahuja, Mayani had people gathered on the dance floor, moving and swaying to desi numbers.
Westin Perimeter’s very own Chef Dinesh’s dinner spread was delicious.
The silent auction items were donated by local businesses that support Raksha, but the crème-de-la-crème were tickets to the SNL: Saturday Night Live production in New York, further aided by a $500 Delta Gift Certificate.
The Ek Shaam couple, Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi were serenaded to a couple of dedication songs from hit films and were later joined by the crowd on the floor. Songs “Jab koi baat bigad jaaye” performed by Pankaj Bhargava and Namrata Dewan & Chandrika Lakshminarayan’s rendition of “Prem ratan dhan payo” not only brought tears of joy to the couple’s eyes filled with gratitude for Raksha, but had all of the audience cheering their presence on the floor.
An moving testimonial video produced by Michael Banks with stories from survivors: Preeti Singh Farmer, Kundan Patel and Bidisha Siddhanta was played. They all unequivocally stated their gratitude to Raksha, for the support they received to heal from the violence they experienced.
Other performances included Anjali Malhotra & Mahesh Patel singing “Tumse milke”, Anand Srinivasan singing Niraj Sharma’s own composition and lyrical song: “Shukriya Zindagi”, and Indrani Danave reciting the hit number “Sun raha he tu”. All of them also indulged the audience with a medley of hit numbers, a good mix of old and new, while all guests were on the floor dancing away to the rhythm of the night. The awesome acoustics were provided by sound engineer Jogi Jose and photos were memorialized by Vinod Devlia (Photography by Vinod).
The event’s keynote speaker was Preeti Singh Farmer, an Atlanta based IT executive, who is also a domestic violence and Stage 3 breast cancer survivor. In a powerful, moving address, Preeti spoke about her cancer diagnosis and painful chemo treatment, which she said, made her face her fears head-on.
“If I had 2 days to live on this earth, I wanted to live in peace and not in a toxic environment,” she said. “If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, do not abandon them. They need your support even if they do not leave right away. Victims need to have their self-esteem built up, not torn down more.”
Preeti, who has since remarried, now runs a divorce support group which has close to 900 members. It provides crucial help and support for those in need.
Gold level Sponsor, Romil Bahl, CEO of Kore, which is a pioneer in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, delivering transformative business performance for its customers, while simplifying the complexities of IoT and M2M (Machine-to-Machine), spoke as well. He argued for support to Raksha and the reasons that make him a huge Raksha fan. Apart from all the serious business that Raksha imbibes, it also gets a chance to play cupid. A brief video was displayed of a chance meeting of Kiran and Hema Hebbar at one of Raksha’s events, which has now ended up in them crafting a blissful matrimony, and growing a delightful family.
The honorees for the night included: (a) the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. This award is given to an individual or organization that goes above and beyond to ensure survivor’s healing, empowerment, and access to justice. (b) Staffers: Aparna Bhattacharyya;, was recognized for her 20 years with Raksha as well as staffer Manisha Lance for her 10th anniversary working for Raksha. © the individuals involved with production of the video – Michael Banks, Preeti Singh Farmer, Bidisha Siddhanta and Kundan Patel with the Seeds of Change award for planting seeds that helps Raksha grow beyond measure by telling their stories and breaking the stigma and isolation in our community (d) all of the music performers, dance group Silent Killers Dance Mania, video creator Niraj Sharma and emcee Viren Mayani, were presented with the fifteenth annual Ramesh & Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award.