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BY MAHADEV DESAI
Atlanta, GA: Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Impact Center in Global Mall, Norcross on Friday, December 6. The well-attended joyous celebrations included sumptuous dinner, live music, songs and scintillating dance performances, appeal for sponsorship of Ekal one-teacher schools and recognition of donors. Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF), is a non-profit organization which opens, supports and runs non-formal, one-teacher schools for the disadvantaged and neglected tribal and rural children of India. By providing free basic education, healthcare, vocational training and social empowerment Ekal is bringing about far-reaching changes in rural India. Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India is the largest grassroots non-government education movement and with chapters in Australia, Canada, Dubai, New Zealand, United Kingdom and 42 United States chapters has grown into a People’s movement.
After a delicious dinner and dessert, Rachna Gupta, who emceed the program with grace and verve, urged all attendees to treat Ekal’s 25th anniversary as that of a family member’s because by becoming sponsors and volunteers they had become part of a very large Ekal family! Artists who had lent their support to Ekal over the years were present for the celebration. Sh. Chander Aggarwal, Regional President recognized that Global Mall, 5th Season, Ashiana Restaurant, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), Ekal volunteers, Saragam, Dhwani, Planet U Performing Arts and Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music with their time, talent and tireless efforts put a spotlight on Ekal. Divya Srivastava, Uma Murlidhar and Sagnika Mukherjee lit the ceremonial lamp, after which graceful Sagnika won the hearts of the audience with her captivating and expressive Jai Dev Jai Dev, Ganesh Vandana dance.
Accolades for the karaoke music segment went to the talented and well-known Atlanta group “Saragam” known for supporting various local charitable causes. Navin Tyagi as organizer and sound engineer, with the help of Vikram Mathur provided the sound and technical support for singers, Yash Warke, Purnima Mathur, Ashwin Tambe, Pankaj Bhargava, (also Director of Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music) and Shyam Gupta (volunteer for SEWA and VHPA) each of whom gave an excellent performance. Some of Saragam’s song highlights were their soulful Jyoti Kalash Chhalke, energetic Bade Miyaan Deewaane, lilting numbers Raat Bhii Hai Kuchh, Ae Gulabadan and Teri Bindiya, Punjabi Paani Daa Rang, a medley paying homage to the late Manna Dey and a final tribute to two music legends of Bollywood, Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar with Ek Chatur Naar which was sung to perfection by Yash Warke and Pankaj Bhargava, much to the delight of a very appreciative audience.
The live band for the evening “Dhwani”, led by Ram Narayan Singh was formed in 2005, and is composed of Atlanta’s music lovers who also support local charities. Ram Narayan Singh and Jayur Patel were the percussion artists, Amjad Kawa was magical at the tabla, Ravi Subramanian at the keyboard, Parth Visawanathan and Anand Srinivasan with guitars and Subra Viswanathan, Supriya Sridharan (Atlanta’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa contestant in Mumbai) and Radhika Sundar with Anand enthralled the audience with vintage and latest Bollywood hits. They sung their signature songs Maa Tujhe Salaam – Vande Mataram, Teri Deewani, Senorita, Dil Cheez Hai Kya, Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Nee Main Samajh Gayee with great aplomb.
Aside from having had their own recitals to raise funds for Ekal schools, Divya Srivastava, Founder-Director of Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music, danced gracefully and delicately with subtle nuances to Jhanak Jhanak Tori Baaje Paayaliya in Kathak style to Pankaj Bhargava’s singing which got the husband-wife duo a huge applause.
Uma Murlidhar’s Planet U Performing Arts supported Ekal through their academy’s fundraisers in 2012 and 2013 and two of its students, Divya Srinivasan and Sindhu Sukumar brought a lively, foot-tapping “Holi” dance from “Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani” to add color to Ekal’s evening.
Video of Ram Leela dance by Sagnika. Video courtesy: Panchjanya.
The dance floor went ablaze with color, energy and the sound of ghunghroos as Sagnika Mukherjee performed her high octane dance on the hit song Nagade Sung Dhol Baaje from “Ram Leela” – a movie which has created waves recently. She danced with pure abandon, her movements and spins were a visual treat which earned her a long, resounding applause.
Ajay Upadhyaya, Technical and Cultural Coordinator for Ekal, opened with Pankaj Udhas’ ghazal Chaandi Jaisa Rang Hai Tera and then urged the dhanwaans to change the lives of the poor in India by supporting Ekal in eradication of illiteracy and prevention of exodus of villagers to cities in search of livelihood, through their village rejuvenation program. He reiterated that a one-time donation of $365 ran an Ekal school for a whole year and provided basic education to nearly thirty students and empowered the whole village. From Kashmir to Kerala, Ekal currently has over 51,000 schools, and with the 42 schools sponsored at this fun event Ekal is slowing inching towards its goal of 100,000 vidyalayas. All sponsors are able to track the progress of their school and get additional information at ekal.org. All in all, it was a wonderful program for a very worthy cause!