BY MAHADEV DESAI AND RACHNA GUPTA
Photos by Vinod Devlia and Deepak Naik
Atlanta, GA, January 10: Over 400 dance and music lovers in Atlanta attended the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA’s “Shaam-e-Sangeet” fundraiser program, conceived, choreographed and coordinated by Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music. The program showcased the artistic talents of Atlanta together with students of Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music and their delightful presentations of old classics, ghazals, riveting dances, new upbeat foot tapping numbers and a vibrant grand finale, at the Impact Center at the Global Mall, Norcross, GA on Saturday, December 3,2016.
The veritable dance-cum-musical feast was graced by the presence of the Consul D.V.Singh and luminaries of the Atlanta community.
After meeting and greeting, and enjoying the delicious dinner prepared by Ashiana Restaurant, the attendees were warmly welcomed by vice president of Ekal Atlanta Rina Gupta and Rachna Gupta, Ekal’s cultural coordinator. Consul D.V.Singh together with Shiv Aggarwal and winners of Literacyhero.com’s championship, lighted the traditional diya (lamp), followed aptly by Saraswati Vandana, a dance invocation to the goddess of learning.
Geet-Rung had put together myriad colors into the show, what with colorful dances by Divya Srivastava and her students as well as vintage repertoire of songs by Atlanta’s well known and popular vocal artists Pankaj Bhargava, Rekha Pallath, Saras Jain and Bhavika Merchant from South Carolina.
These busy I.T professionals lent their talent to the program for the love of singing and an innate interest in Ekal’s cause. Divya and her dance students mesmerized the audience with their intricate footwork, soulful expressions, nuanced emoting, and finesse and grace in Bollywood medleys and laavani dances. In keeping with the theme of the program, young singers opened with popular prayer song, Itni Shakti Hamein Dena and followed later with Saancha Naam Tera.
Kya Jaanoon Sajan set the tone for the other colors to follow: Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Aa Bhi Jaa, etc. by Bhavika, Himesh Reshamiya’s cousin and Garba singer fromSouth Carolina, elicited rousing applause. Singer-Songwriter Rekha, who has sung in a Kannada film “Software Ganda”, released a CD “Nasha”, and has been associated with Ekal for several years, had the audience humming to her melodious voice in songs, Aapki Nazaron Ne Samjha, Muskurane Ki Vajah Tum Ho and Lambi Judai. Saras Jain, a Sangeet Prabhakar and trained Hindustani Classical vocalist opened with Raahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Lagan Laagi Tum Se Man Kee Lagan followed by Jag Ghumeya, and a medley of Arijit Singh’s songs in his captivating voice. Pankaj Bhargava, the music lead of Geet-Rung, was in full flow, opening with Aap Ke Anurodh Pe, and later singing Kishore Kumar and Kumar Sanu’s medleys. The duets were also well chosen and showed the versatility of every performing artist. The upbeat final medley of all-time favorites made the audience not only clap in rhythm but also join in dancing!
Ekal’s 2016 DVD highlighted its one-teacher school model which exists in all the Indian states, fromKashmirto Kerala, for an annual sponsorship of only $365. Ekal currently runs 54,292 schools, each providing basic education to nearly 20-30 students and benefits 1.5 million rural children, with an almost equal boy-girl ratio. In the DVD,India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ji called Ekal “a very successful mission” and acknowledged the relentless work undertaken by Zee TV’s head, Dr.Subhash Chandra for Ekal’s expansion. The Ekal program of free basic education for children has been expanded to formalize vocational training, social empowerment and healthcare for adults and thus brought about far-reaching changes in neglected areas ofIndia. It is the largest grassroots non-government organization with chapters inAustralia,Canada,Dubai,New Zealand,United Kingdomand United States (42 chapters). Indian Minister for Human Resources Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar has said: “Ekal’s is one of the most meaningful social impact work in the field of education.”
Once they visualized the huge social impact their monetary contribution would make, audience members vied with each other to sponsor Ekal schools. Some even preferred to sponsor anonymously. As soon as 100 schools had been donated by individuals, Shiv Aggarwal, Georgia Chapter President, gushed that the number had been matched by a check for 100 schools ($36,500) from 27th Group, a real estate/restaurants management company, run by Anil Damani, whose HR/PR Coordinator Prem Kaushal was present at the event. Ekal’s heartfelt thanks were expressed to him by Shiv.
“Shaam-E-Sangeet 2016” raised $86,000 for a record number of 201 schools in just 4 hours! Fifteen additional schools were pledged with the funds going directly to Ekal HQ, making it a total of 216 schools in one night! While every sponsor received a heartfelt applause, thunderous claps went to four young children, Varoon, Veda, Isha and Kunal who had created art and craft work especially for Ekal. The sale proceeds of their creations helped sponsor a new school! With these schools, Ekal is slowing inching towards its goal of 100,000.
Shiv Aggarwal thanked VHPA for the much needed hot chai, the artists, students, sponsors, donors, volunteers and supporters for joining in, in the task of nation-building through Ekal.
Sponsors can track the progress of their school at www.ekal.org, can connect with Ekal on Facebook and Twitter too.
All in all, it was a well-organized, enthusiastic, engaging, much appreciated and enjoyable program for a very worthy cause!