BY RACHNA GUPTA AND NEETU SINGH
Photos by Puneet Bhatnagar
Atlanta, GA, September 23, 2022: The Atlanta chapter of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation USA was proud to present Niche Entertainment’s “Ye Jo Des Hai Mera” dance and music program on Saturday, September 17, 2022 at Berkmar High School’s new auditorium. The Broadway style dance and musical program, “Story of a Nation” beautifully and imaginatively conceptualized and directed by Milind Oak and narrated by Nachiket Devasthali was embellished by two sound and light specialists and performed by eight proficient music and dance artists. Milind Oak has a personal connection with Ekal having visited an Ekal school in 2015.
The grand show was attended by over 275 guests including dignitaries, Mark Gonsalves, a successful businessman and GA’s 7th Congressional District’s candidate, and his wife; Dilip Tunki, Council Member for the City of Johns Creek, whose help and support for the upcoming Diwali celebrations this year has been appreciated by the City; Kartik Bhatt; and Harsha Agadi, who has served as CEO for classic American brands like Crawford, Friendly’s Ice cream, Church’s Chicken and Little Caesars and his wife.
Shiv Aggarwal, Ekal Chapter President and owner of Global Mall invited the guests of honor and Ekal volunteers Ajay Upadhyaya, Kusum Khurana and Neetu Chauhan to light the traditional diya (lamp) while Pandit Gyan Prakash Upadhyay chanted the invocation.
The evening program included a sumptuous dinner enjoyed by all in the Meet and Greet hour and also hot tea served lovingly by VHPA. The show started with a warm welcome by composed and suave emcee Neetu Singh Chauhan. Ajay Upadhyaya, Regional Vice President led the Ekal youth volunteers in singing the US and Indian national anthems. The students then connected the audience to Ekal’s cause of education in remote, rural villages of India by quoting Oprah Winfrey, “Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom”. Ekal is doing this by making the villagers literate and bringing the world to them on computer buses!
The audience was then treated to a mesmerizing 75-year journey of India through melodious live music, dances, trivia, interviews and vintage speeches! It opened with singing and dancing to the rousing, patriotic song ‘vande mataram’ while archival newspaper clips, images and videos were projected on the huge screen in the background, taking the audience down memory lane, from Jawaharlal Nehru’s iconic ‘tryst with destiny’ speech on the eve of independence, through the pain of partition and Mahatma Gandhi’s shocking and heartrending assassination. The live songs which accompanied more images were ‘Bharat humko jaan se pyaara hai’ and ‘dil hai chhota sa, chhoti si asha’. Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel’s vision was highlighted with ‘chhodo kal ki baatein, kal ki baat puraani, naye daur mein likhenge milkar nayi kahaani, hum Hindustani’! Visions worth emulating today, tomorrow and always!
The audience was treated to the very significant and memorable achievements of the new nation and significant changes in Bollywood with the emergence of new stars, Eastman color films and several live songs from that era.
The 1962 Chinese aggression clips shown on the screen accompanied by the moving song ‘Ai mere watan ke logon, zara aankh mein bhar lo paani’ brought a tear to many an eye as they paid homage to their beloved iconic singer, Lata Mangeshkar as well as to the brave soldiers who laid down their lives fighting valiantly for the nation. The same sentiment was elicited in the songs, ‘apni azadi ko hum hargiz mita sakte nahin’ and ‘mere desh ki dharti sona ugle, ugle heere moti’.
Ekal is proud to continue on the road shown by MS Swaminathan, Father of India’s Green Revolution, who said “If agriculture fails, everything else will fail”, through its organic farming, vermiculture and measures to prevent rural flight by introducing programs in villages so the youth do not migrate to cities in search of employment.
The extravaganza strung along all the accolades received in the field of sports, with special footage for cricket and hockey, highlighted IT firms which have made a name worldwide, India’s space program, Oscar wins, Auto manufacture, “Make in India” initiative and several others to the tune of blessings showered by film Raazi’s song ‘ai watan, mere watan, aabaad rahe tu’.
The show was such a fantastic encapsulation of India’s 75-year history that Mr. and Mrs. Gonsalves stayed till the very end of the program even though major portions of the program were narrated in Hindi. Mrs. Gonsalves said that they thoroughly enjoyed and understood most of the program because newspaper and video clips in English were being projected simultaneously.
Ekal is a big player in the story of India, the seed of education was sown in 1989, and now has sprung to cover over 80,000 villages. Preeti Tanwar’s presentation highlighted Ekal’s one-teacher school model which exists in all the Indian states, for an annual sponsorship of only $365. The Ekal program of free basic primary education has been expanded to formalize vocational training, social empowerment and healthcare for adults and thus brought about far-reaching changes in neglected villages of India and Nepal.
Ekal’s Telemedicine and Tailoring Centers have been very active during the Covid pandemic producing much-needed masks and providing training to local women to use mobile phone-based telemedicine toolkit to help triage common ailments or connect to a doctor using videoconferencing.
Ekal’s long-time school supporters, Harbans and Malti Singla donated $30,000 this year to fund a new tailoring center which will empower many trainees in a new village. The audience was wowed with screenshots of a trendy fashion show which modeled the chic dresses created by Ekal tailoring school graduates!
The appeal that ‘$365 is a small sum but has such a huge impact’ was so powerful, that people were excited to sponsor Ekal schools and in no time over 200 schools were sponsored! Sponsors are able to track their school at www.ekal.org connect with Ekal on Facebook and Twitter or visit an Ekal school as part of the Vana-yatra program.
The show closed with the Rajasthani invitation to visit Bharat with the popular song ‘kesariva baalam aao ni padhaaro mhaare des’ or simply visit “Ye Jo Des Hai Mera”. For your next travel plan please take up Milind Oak Group’s invitation and visit India and while there try to see an Ekal school in session, you will be amazed at how well it functions with such few resources.
The enthusiastic, engaging much appreciated and enjoyable extravaganza for an uplifting cause left many asking for repeat performances!