Ekal’s musical show raises funds for 100 schools in one night
(Left) Consul (OCI) Davender Singh on the right and VP Ajay Upadhyaya, Event Coordinator Neetu Singh Chauhan, young artists and volunteers on the left. (Photo: Vinod Devilia)
“A child without education is like a bird without wings.”—Tibetan proverb
To gift wings to children in rural and tribal communities in India, the Atlanta Ekal Vidyalaya chapter set out on the formidable endeavor to organize “Ekal Se Taal Mila ke Jhoom” for December 15, 2019, a fundraising event with the ambitious objective of presenting an entertainment program with some of the best artists from Atlanta. The notion was conceptualized seven months in advance of the event, when preparation began to ensure that it ran smoothly and effectually.
Proclaimed “a very successful mission” by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation is a nonprofit entity that has been operating since 1986 in neglected rural areas to eradicate illiteracy. Its innovative single teacher schools have empowered thousands of communities through the provision of free basic education, healthcare, and vocational training. With support from 42 U.S. state chapters and various international ones, Ekal impacts the lives of over 2.7 million boys and girls, through over 100,000 schools operating productively from Kashmir to Kerala. The Atlanta volunteers were dedicated to increasing those numbers, and they began to collect donations, sell tickets, arrange for performances, and choreograph what was destined to be a scintillating, sensational show.
The event began at 6:30 pm after a succulent dinner at Mountain View High School with a warm welcome from the GA Event Coordinator, Neetu Singh Chauhan, who emceed the show, candidly expounding upon her personal connection to the cause. This was followed by Regional VP Ajay Upadhyay’s expressive rendition of “Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai”(It’s a Song of Love) as he urged the audience to begin donating. The well-attended event was graced by Consul Davender Singh, who lit the lamp representing goodwill, knowledge, and the spread of divine grace. Alongside him were Chapter President Shiv Aggarwal, Ajay Upadhyay, Pandit Gyan Prakash Upadhyay chanting the mantras, and the event’s youngest participants, including Anoushka, Prachi, Esha, and Pragya, a 7th grader who donated $700 that she collected on her birthday.
The show commenced with the foot-tapping number “Rhythm Speaks” by Kalaxya Dance Academy. Founder and director Mital Patel, who aims to have a multicultural approach in preserving the dynamic and rich traditions of Indian classical dance, choreographed the traditional dance with a touch of modern rhythm. Next was Chandra Dance Academy’s “Rajwaddi,” a mesmerizing Rajasthani Kathak piece choreographed by founder and director Brittny Chandra, an internationally recognized Kathak artist from the Jaipur Gharana style. Both performances showcased talented dancers, riveting music, and a promising, upbeat start to the show.
The next piece was choreographed by Geet-Rung School of Dance and Music founder and director Divya Srivastava, who has always extended her support to Ekal. She showcased the graceful and delicate dimensions of Kathak in an enchanting performance of “Deewani Mastani.” As a captivating conclusion to the initial dance segment, Nritya Natya Kala Bharti Dance (NNKB) Founder and Director Kumud Savla, an internationally recognized artist honored by the Government of India, had her students perform two pieces: a compelling performance to “Ghar More Pardesiya” amalgamating the pizzazz of Bollywood dance with the grace of Kathak, and an invigorating medley of unforgettable Bollywood Jazz classics. These four dance schools were received with wholehearted applause for their spectacular performances.
(Left) Singers Lakshmi Rao, Purnima Mathur, Saras Jain, and Pankaj Bhargava. (Photo: Vinod Devilia)
This was followed by the introduction of four of Atlanta’s greatest vocalists. Purnima Mathur, an accomplished singer for All India Radio and a prior part of the music talent show SaReGaMaPa and Zee Antakshari, sang classic medleys, including “Radha Na Bole Na Bole,” “Zara Si Aahat,” and “Bole Re Papihara.” Saras Jain, a gifted Indian classical vocalist and Atlanta Indian Idol finalist, lent his soulful vocals and dexterous techniques to his interpretation of “Chunar.” Lakshmi Rao, known as the “Asha Bhosle of Atlanta” for many decades, gave an ebullient rendition of “Yeh Ishq Hai.” Finally, Pankaj Bhargava, the “Kishore Kumar of Atlanta,” had audience members dancing along to his foot-tapping Amitabh-Kishore medley.
After an enlightening presentation on Ekal by Preeti Tanwar and a heartfelt vote of thanks by President Shiv Aggarwal, the dancing continued, with Kalaxya presenting “Garba Masti” with a modern twist of infinite love to Radha Krishna and “Lavni Mix,” synthesizing traditional rhythms with fun-filled Bollywood beats. Chandra Dance Academy exhibited classical roots in the entrancing “Conversation between 323.” Geet Rung showcased the latest Bollywood hits with the exciting, student-choreographed “Punjabi Medley.” The show concluded with the four vocalists uniting for a medley of “Aankhon Mein Kya,” “Chup Gaya Nazare,” “Dheere Dheere Chal,” “Aa Dekhein Zara,” and many more that culminated with thunderous applause.
Performing schools and singers being felicitated by Atlanta Chapter president Shiv Aggarwal. (Photo: Vinod Devilia)
The show was an indubitable success, raising 100 schools at the event in addition to monetary donations, including a $1,000 contribution from Suvidha Indo-Pak Groceries and a $20,000 pledge from 27th Investments Group. Prior to the date, 64 additional schools were donated for the event from August 24th. Volunteers and attendees, proud of all the wings gifted, look forward to accomplishing even more through Ekal Vidyalaya.
Ekal volunteers. (Photo: Vinod Devilia)
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