Seva Begins in Your Heart and AIMS Brings Hope to a Rural Child

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By Suma Mudan

STAFFORD:  For the fourth year in a row, AIM for Seva (AIMS) brought in a top-notch classical dance drama to the Bayou City.  This year it is was Sundara Kaandam, a visual treat and also a treat for the ears and heart, based on Valmiki’s Ramayan, but more specifically it was the story of the Lord of the Monkeys, Hanuman’s devotion to Lord Rama, in Kishkindha Kandam.

The dance drama was choreographed and directed by the renowned Bharat Natyam teacher, Anitha Guha, with music composed by the well-known musician, Neyveli Santhanagopalan.  The artistes were recruited from various parts of India, and came together to present the glorious story of how Hanuman bridges the gap between Lord Rama and his consort Sita, by giving the signet of hope (ring) to Sita, after traversing the oceans from Bharat to Sri Lanka.

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The program was held at the New Stafford Civic Centre on Cash Road on Friday, August 28 and started with an enthralling rendering of the AIMS theme song, Bharata Desa Ahithaya, by about 60 kids dressed in white.  The drama was a mix of Lakshman’s devotion to Lord Rama, the power struggle between Vali and Sugreeva, and the demonic intentions of Ravana towards Sita.  The ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu was deftly presented by Vali (Thiruchelwam) and Sugreeva  (Yogesh) and the audience could feel the power and fire of their fight.  The artiste who played Hanuman was very mesmerizing and showed the whole gamut of emotions that were required for the part.  The lead roles of Lord Rama and Sita were very well portrayed by Mithun Shyam and Lakshita.  Pavitra Bhatt managed to show both the divine and demon by playing the roles of Lakshman as well as Ravana.

AIMS Houston is able to present these wonderful programs year after year due to the ardent devotion and hard work of a handful of volunteers which is what it takes to put together an outstanding program and get accolades.  Of special mention is the purposeful devotion of Chandrasekhar Raghu and his wife, Hemalatha.  Inspite of being full time employees, they not only play a major role in AIM for Seva activities, but also opened their homes and hearts every weekend for students of Samskritam and Gita.  Narayan Prasad, the President of the Houston Chapter, and event manager Prasanna Bhatt did an outstanding job managing the event. AIMS is so important to all these volunteers that they put their lives on hold for a few months every year, to work on the fund raising program. The program ended with a buffet dinner for all the audience in the adjoining hall.

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AIM for Seva was founded in 2001 by the global spiritual leader, Swami Dayananda Saraswati with the main purpose of making education available to the under-privileged rural and tribal children of India.  He came up with the concept of Chatralayas or Free Student Homes (FSH) where kids can go and stay during the school year and all their needs are taken care of.  These FSH are typically built close to existing schools in order to utilize the existing infrastructure.

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Donors from Australia, Canada, India, Singapore and United States (and a few other countries) impact the success of these FSH.  In 2015, AIMS has more than 106 FSH throughout India, from Andhra Pradesh to Uttarakhand.  There is a significant decrease in school dropouts because of the personal nurturing these kids get in the FSH and their graduation rate in School Board exams is a very impressive 90%.  The movement – to make every child a contributing member of the society – has impacted 1,682 villages in India but a lot more villages need to be reached.

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Houstonians have helped in this cause by adopting 4 FSH and a total of 133 students.  Through the generosity of Houston donors, AIMS is able to sustain the needs of these children as well as help with the required infrastructure.  This year AIMS Houston had a target to raise $135,000 and managed to raise an incredible amount of $115,000.

It is important for Indian diaspora in the United States to contribute to a remote cause like AIMS.  Many Indians have benefited from the next-to-nothing cost of earning our primary degrees before we came to the United States where we made a name for ourselves, and shine as an affluent part of society.  It is the foundation of support which made it happen for most of us and so, it’s only fair that we give back a small fraction of our wealth to the country that gave us the first steps towards our enormous success.