Ekal’s “Ek Surili Shaam Ekal Ke Naam” Was a Roaring Success

HOUSTON: Approximately 850 people were witness to a magical musical evening hosted by Ekal Vidyalaya at the U of H Cullen Performance Hall on June 1st, 2019.
The event kicked off with a mouth-watering dinner catered by Dawat Catering, wherein Houstonians found a perfect venue to meet and greet with other patrons. One could sense their enthusiasm and zeal to support and stand by Ekal’s phenomenal grassroot level work.

Ekal Houston had raised about $1.5 million at the Oct 2018 Ekal Gala with a large presence of young professionals. Last night, an additional $400,000 were pledged/contributed by our Bollywood loving, musically inclined patrons.

Vishwanath Batunge along with his team had the audience in ecstasy – clapping their hands, swaying and even dancing to the beats! Vishwanath’s antics coupled with Nayana Sarma’s mellifluous voice and the brilliant percussionist/ tabla/ keyboard team had Houstonians in their grip. The evening melted away into the night with people crying out for more. True to what people had heard from other Ekal chapter events, Vishwanath and team were sheer brilliance.

The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, USA is a nonprofit service organization. It dedicates itself to bringing education and village development to rural India. With ongoing work in the remote and tribal villages of India, the Ekal movement is the largest grassroot NGO in India.

The Ekal magnitude, reaching close to 87,000 villages, is unprecedented. Education reaches over 2.5 million children annually, more than half this number, being girls. Ekal is marching fast towards its goal to establish 100,000 schools by the end of this year.

To sustain a village as an independent social and economic unit, Ekal has piloted several projects. Ekal on wheels is one of them, wherein, a mobile van equipped with laptops and trained instructors travel to the remote hinterland and impart basic computer skills to the youth.

Similarly, Ekal’s Tailoring Centers train women not only to sew their own clothes but create an opportunity for them to earn a living. One woman can earn 7000 to10,000 rupees per month, bringing economic independence for their families. Gramotthan Resource Centers (GRC) are units which aim to make a village community economically self-reliant by educating and motivating villagers to adopt Eco-friendly life, train farmers on organic farming and promote agro based local entrepreneurship.

Ekal has proposed cohesive development of 30 village clusters under the project called Integrated Village Development (IVD) where Ekal Vidyalayas (One Teacher Schools), Digital Literacy, Health Hygiene, E Shiksha, Skill Training are combined under one comprehensive project.

The night saw a huge support from the local crowd. The Ekal core team was on its feet ensuring people to see for themselves the work done by Ekal. The core volunteers, along with young professionals and youth volunteers worked their heart out showing us that engagement and commitment go a long way indeed. As evident by Ramanbhai Das and his son Divyesh Das’ (of Palace Inn) continued commitment to Integrated village development (IVD) and the support of Mr. and Mrs. Mrugesh Parikh for Ekal on Wheels & Computer Lab, the fundraising event saw significant interest by patrons in sponsoring various projects, taking Ekal efforts to the next new heights while continuing their commitment to schools.

This event was graced by Consul General of India (CGI) Dr. Anupam Ray and his wife Dr. Amit Goldberg. In his thought-provoking speech, CGI mentioned that Ekal is “close to his heart”, as he has visited several Ekal locations close to where he spent his formative years and witnessed village transformations, first hand. He described India as “on the move”- a country that is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies of the world, yet also a country which is a “tough” place to live in and which faces many problems. He rightly expressed “Every child reached by Ekal is a plus for progressive India and minus for the counterproductive extremist organisations”.

The CGI further commented that though he gets invited to many charities, the Ekal fundraiser has a tradition of attracting donors for the work being done on ground in India.He admired that what sets Ekal apart is its focus on its work rather than about mega celebrities or sports stars being present at their events.

He also stated that his term in Houston is ending soon and took the opportunity to bid farewell to the wonderful Indian diaspora. He concluded with his best wishes to Ekal Houston team and best regards for Rameshji and Kokilaji, Ekal’s mainstays.

Ekal Houston Chapter President Yogi Patel addressed the crowd mentioning Ekal’s work and its unique position in being “truly a people’s movement”.
He cited an example of stopping an exodus of people from small villages to cities for jobs, who at times in dire situations end up in the city slums. Houston Event Director Dharmendra Shah kept the audience glued to their seats. One of Ekal’s mainstays, Kokila Ji’s speech was very inspiring. Addressing the audience in our national language Hindi, she thanked the crowd as well as invited them to come to the villages and gain a firsthand insight into the work done.

As all good things come to an end, the musical night too drew a close with Vishwanath Batunge getting the core Ekal volunteers to the stage holding hands and singing to the tune of a popular Hindi number. The lines went “Phoolon mein khushboo hain, Is dil mein ik Ekal tu hain, Janmon ke saathi, Hum saath saath hain, Hum saath saath hain”. Such a fitting tune for Ekal’s philosophy of displaying unity in commitment.