BY MAHADEV DESAI AND RACHNA GUPTA
Photos by Deepak Naik
Atlanta, GA: Well over four hundred music- lovers in Atlanta attended the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA’s “Shaam-E-Sangeet” program, showcasing the talented artists of Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music and their delightful presentation of old classics, ghazals, riveting dances, new upbeat foot tapping numbers and a vibrant grand qawwali finale, at the Ashiana Banquet Hall, Global Mall, Norcross,GA,on Saturday, December 12.The veritable musical feast was graced by the presence of the Vice-Consul, Consulate General of India in Atlanta, Shri Tarlok Badhan and luminaries of the Atlanta community.
After meeting and greeting, and enjoying the delicious dinner and dessert, the attendees were warmly welcomed by enthusiastic and bubbly Vice President of Ekal Atlanta and the recently elected President of IACA Rina Gupta and Rachna Gupta, Ekal’s Cultural Coordinator Rachna Gupta. After Shri Tarlok Badhan lighted the traditional diya(lamp), Trisha Dalapati, who recently had made her Arangetram as Ekal’s DIY project and donated her money gifts to support an Ekal school for four years, performed an opening invocation to Lord Ganesha through a scintillating Bharatanatyam dance.
Geet-Rung had put together myriad colors into the show, what with live music with piano/ keyboard, colorful dances and vintage song medleys.Atlanta’s well known and popular vocal artists were Pankaj Bhargava, Muhi, Vandana Upadhyaya, Mahesh Patel, Indrani Danave, Sunny Sachdeva and Ajay Upadhyaya entertained the audience with an imaginative mix of Bollywood hit songs. Pankaj and Divya’s son, Geet Bhargava, who had made his impressive debut at Ekal’s program last December, once again delighted the audience with his piano numbers. Divya and her well trained students mesmerized the audience with their dances with intricate footwork, nuanced expressions and graceful moves. And fast paced, energetic dances by brother-sister duo of Rishi Gowda (10 years) and Gowri Gowda (8 years) wowed the audience. When informed that Rishi had kindly donated his pocket money to Ekal, they loudly applauded him.
Ekal’s Regional Administrator Ajay opened with Ekal’s message through the lilting number Bholee See Soorat. Renderings of gems like Man Mohana, Raina Beeti Jaaye, Tu Jo Mere Sur Mein, Na Jaane Kyon, elicited rousing applause. Mahesh beautifully sang Mukesh’s Jaoon Kahaan Bata Ai Dil and Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan and Hemant Kumar’s Ye Nayan Darey Darey. Indrani had the audience humming to her melodious voice with the classical- based Mere Dholna and Maayi Ri Main Kaa Se. Pankaj Bhargava was in his element, singing Kishore Kumar medleys and Mohammad Rafi’s Main Zindagi Ka Saath. Muhi sang Arijit Singh’s classical Raag Bihag number Laal Ishq, Kailash Kher’s Punjabi number Tu Meri Jaan Hai and Maula Mere Maula in his distinctive voice. Sunny Sachdeva presented interesting anecdotes about renowned poet and lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri before singing the lively Badan Pe Sitare. The final medley of all-time favorite qawwalis had the audience joyfully hand-clapping and humming the refrains.
Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF) is a non-profit organization which opens, supports and runs non-formal, one-teacher schools (vidyalayas) for the disadvantaged and neglected tribal and rural children ofIndia. By providing free basic education, healthcare, vocational training and social empowerment Ekal is bringing about far-reaching changes in ruralIndia. Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India is the largest grassroots non-government education movement and has grown into a People’s movement with chapters in Australia, Canada, Dubai, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States (42 chapters).
Four young children and VP of Ekal’s Corporate Outreach Kiran Kodithala highlighted Ekal’s one-teacher school model which exists in all the Indian states, from Kashmir to Kerala, on an annual sponsorship of only $365 and provides basic education to nearly 20-30 students and vocational training to adults. Aarti Aggarwal and Kinjal Kakadiya introduced Ekal’s Youth Initiative which is geared more towards college students and young professionals. Ekal currently runs 52,526 schools which benefits 1.45 million students, with an almost equal boy-girl ratio. The emcees with their infectious enthusiasm were exhorting the audience to sponsor Ekal schools. Soon, the attendees were vying with each other to sponsor schools. Some sponsored 5 schools anonymously! And by the time, the program concluded a record number of 111 schools were sponsored.
Dr. Randeep Bhullar donated two Amazon Fire Tablets and one Samsung Galaxy Tab and iiTworkForce offered New Year eve gala ticket for one couple for the Ekal raffle.
With the 111 schools sponsored at this hugely entertaining night, Ekal is slowing inching towards its goal of 100,000 vidyalayas.
Atlanta Chapter President, Shiv Aggarwal, effusively thanked the dignitaries, numerous sponsors, donors, media including TV Asia, volunteers and supporters for joining in the task of nation-building through Ekal.
Sponsors can track the progress of their school at www.ekal.org.
All in all, it was a well-organized, enthralling, much appreciated and enjoyable program for a very worthy cause!