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Ekal Vidyalaya's 25th anniversary program helps villages rejuvenate, prevents exodus

Mahadev Desai
January 2014
Ekal Vidyalaya's 25th anniversary program helps villages rejuvenate, prevents exodus

Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF) celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Impact Center of Global Mall in Norcross, Georgia on December 6, 2013. The celebration included dinner, live music, songs, and dance performances, an appeal for sponsorship of schools, and recognition of donors. EVF's one-teacher schools for disadvantaged and neglected tribal and rural children of India provide free basic education, healthcare, vocational training, and social empowerment, bringing about far-reaching changes. EVF is the largest grass¬roots nongovernment education movement with 42 US chapters and others in Australia, Canada, Dubai, New Zealand, United Kingdom.

Dancers Sagnika Mukherjee,Uma Murlidhar,and Divya Srivastava light the diya.

Rachna Gupta emceed, urging 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. Chander Aggarwal, Regional President, recognized 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, who with their time, talent, and tireless efforts put a spotlight on Ekal. Dancers Divya Srivastava, Uma Murlidhar, and Sagnika Mukherjee lit the ceremonial lamp, after which graceful Sagnika per¬formed her captivating and expressive “Jai Dev Jai Dev” Ganesh vandana dance.


The band Dhwani

The Atlanta group Saragam performed,including Yash Warke, Purnima Mathur, Ashwin Tambe, Pankaj Bhargava, and Shyam Gupta. 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,” sung to perfection by Yash Warke and Pankaj Bhargava, to the delight of an appreciative audience.

The live band for the evening, Dhwani, led by Ram Narayan Singh, followed: Ram Narayan Singh and Jayur Patel on percussion, Amjad Kawa was magical at the tabla, Ravi Subramanian at 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 sang 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 here to “Jhanak Jhanak Tori Baaje Paayaliya” in Kathak style to Pankaj Bhargava’s singing; the husband-wife duo got 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.

Ekal officers, volunteers, and artists

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 that created waves recently. She danced with pure abandon, her movements and spins a visual treat earning her 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, providing basic education to nearly thirty students and empowering 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. Sponsors can track their school's progress and get additional information at ekal.org. A wonderful evening for a worthy cause.

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