Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seva Cafe in Your Backyard!

For those of you that have been fortunate enough to visit Manav Sadhna's Ahmadabad based Seva Cafe on CG road - You know the feeling of excitement you get when you get off that tiny gray elevator on the fourth floor and immediately your ears are greeted with the strumming of the elegant sitar and the rhythmic beats of the tabla. As the fresh aroma of incense tickles your nose, quickly a sense of happiness overcomes any other feelings you may have at that moment. With your first step into the cafe, love is overwhelmingly poured in your direction as you are greeted at the door and seated with compassion under the open night skies. A meal is served to you by the various smiling volunteers of all ages and colors, and at the end of the night, you get no bill for the food you just ate - Rather you are free to give what you feel you would like to offer paying it forward for the next guest, as someone did before you.

Side note on the Seva Cafe philosophy: The cafe is an experiment in the shared joy that comes from humble giving and selfless service. The wholesome meals served there are cooked and served by volunteers and offered to the guests as genuine gifts, paid for in full by the previous guest. As more participate in the joy of giving, the more the cafe thrives. It begins with a single gift given and received, only to multiply and grow the chain of kindness and care (Seehttp://www.sevacafe.org/ for more info).

The tour team had a beautiful idea to bring this concept to the IFF school to show their appreciation for bringing us into their homes and showering us with endless love that helped make our first show so beautiful. Jayeshbhai coordinated a meeting the night before and everyone began volunteering for tasks - Everything from a kitchen staff, to the decoration team, to a bhajans group, and a greeting crew. It was amazing to see so many people so anxious to help serve others - Selflessly.

The Seva day started at 6:30am as I joined the kitchen crew to begin cooking up the feast. Nainabhen, our lady in charge of the delicious meal, headed the team in the kitchen and worked her magic on the massive gas grills making her favorite specialty, handvo. It was my first time cooking (or assisting cooking) and trying this Gujarati specialty and boy would it have been terribly difficult to let me down just by seeing all the loved she poured into the masalas (spices)!

Outside the aromatic kitchen, Jagatbhai and Rahulbhai had done an amazing job lighting up the cafeteria with flowers on every table and beautiful arrangements of petals that covered the room in colors. Nilamdidi and Sheetalbhaiya had begun to fill the room with the sound of their serene voices singing beautiful bhajans. The ambiance was set, and everyone was in the mood of service as the kids rushed out of their rooms to join the cafeteria team and help greet their new brothers and sisters. They had a late night making cards out of colorful construction paper saying thanks to their
new family, and now were ready to serve before eating anything themselves.

Breakfast time was around the corner and as I was running out to change my clothes for the morning, I bumped into our very own...Gandhi ji! I would bet, if Sureshbhai was a little shorter, folks who were lucky enough to ever meet the real Mahatma Gandhi, would not be able to tell the difference! He was a hit star that morning working the Charka and blessing kids with his heartfelt smile. It was a touching site to see!

The IFF kids and staff (including the whole kitchen team) were seated, fed, and their plates were taken upon finishing, and washed by the Manav Sadhna team. Some teachers joined Nilamdidi and together they sang the most beautiful songs we could ever imagine. Everyone was in the spirit of love, service and giving - And it was a kodak camera moment to capture those smiles!

The idea of Seva Cafe can spring anywhere there is a desire to give and serve selflessly - Jayeshbhai and the team brought the idea to the IFF school and each person in the room could feel the happiness in giving. This can happen anywhere and anytime as long as there is selfless love present - It is our challenge to make it a reality even where we may least expect it.



Its Showtime!! (Karjat)

Imagine an outdoor theater nested in the serenity of one of nature's most breathtaking scenes coated with vivid mountains, lush green grass, tall slender palm trees and combined with the laughter of hundreds of beautiful innocent children all around - Our show that had not even begun yet, was already a memorable success!

The Karjat theater amplified the values that IFF carried throughout their entire school as the circular back wall displayed a fantastic arrangement of the many wonders of the world. As I walked around counting the wonders I had actually been fortunate enough to go visit, gratitude filled my heart for being blessed with those opportunities. Though tough to admit, the Taj Mahal had not made my list, yet...I was sure to cross it off just a few weeks later! Below the wonders of the world, the stone walls were covered with a unique painting style called, Warli.

Side Note: Warli art was derived from the Warli people who were indigenous Indians that were evicted from their villages by the British and ended up living in the outskirts of main cities or in the fringes of forests. Even today they continue to carry a painting tradition stretching back to 3000 BCE using rudimentary graphic vocabulary: a circle, a triangle, and a square. These shapes were derived from the sun/moon, mountains and trees to tell stories about hunting, fishing, farming, festivals and dances. It is found all over India and exemplifies gratitude in simplicity and tradition.

Seats were packed with friends arriving from all parts of the India from Pune, to Bombay, to Ahmadabad to Karjat itself. The crowd was getting ready to see a performance that most did not even realize might change their lives forever.

Fifteen minutes of colorful innocence by the talented IFF students opened our show that night wowing the audience with their performance on the many elements of the world and a their own unique message of unity and love. With little to no practice, it was a flawless transition into the 90 minute dance/drama performed by our MS kids - Symbolic of there truly being no difference in all the children that were spreading a message on stage that day.

While the awe-striking performance that night left the audience speechless - I was lucky enough to take the backstage seat. Between the frantic costume changes and prop placements, if I could have had a video camera to record what was going on backstage, it would be a box office hit in no time. As Nimeshbhai often says, this tour is not about a production going around the world - But rather, even more importantly, a beautiful journey that is being embarked on to touch each of these children's lives and further plant a seed in all those that came in contact with them or anyone on the team. Backstage was no less a beautiful spectacle of kids helping each other, kids hugging each other, kids singing and dancing even off stage, kids truly happy and in love with each other. You could feel the energy - They were not performing an act of unity, love and oneness, they were truly living examples of it.

What's even better is that we took that love after the show and started our own Garba party on stage with lights, dhols, laughter, and the Bye Bye song (Gujarati traditional song - Pardon the ignorance!) AND...Silly string! Can you think of a better way to end the night?! :)

Thanks to the Karjat IFF team that helped us put on one of the most memorable performances to kick off our tour!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Learning B-Boy Dancing!



Rohan, a friend from Houston, was teaching the kids b-boy dancing today. Man, all the kids were so into it!! Was amazing!
Love.


Monday, December 19, 2011

A small gift as token of love from IFF family, Karjat



As we bade a heartfelt farewell to India First Foundation Family at Karjaat,Jamuna, an Integral member of IFFS gifted Ekatva a beautiful letter.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Swagat (Greeting)!

Arriving at our first tour city was no less than being greeted for a wedding...
After travelling 12 hours by train and 3 hours by bus, we finally stumbled off our rough leather seats, as our ears rang with the
sounds of dhol, cymbals, and drums played by the most adorable students from the hostel that would be our home for the next 4 days of our tour. The kids grabbed our bags from our hands as they applied tikka (a red powder) to our foreheads - a special swagat (greeting) for our arrival.

India First Foundation (IFF) boarding school was built about 2 years ago with the same pillars of love, humility, oneness, and the desire to serve that uphold Manav Sadhna today. The place was lush with greenery and fauna surrounded by picturesque mountains in a remote city about 3 hours from Bombay know as Karjat.

Each detail of the campus was designed with the kid's optimal learning environment in mind. From the detailed art on the walls of the buildings, to the listeded ingredients and nutritional value of food cooked in the canteen (which was the best cafeteria food I have ever had by the way!), to the map of the world with the spice route noted - We were in awe of the school.

Despite these beautiful amenities, the IFF kids and staff truly practiced their instilled values of oneness as they took in each new stranger with love and invited us into their homes and shared their beds. In a matter of a few hours, our kids were no where to be found as they were fully immersed in the company of their new friends. If we got lucky enough to catch a glimpse of any of the children with their new buddies, each child ensured he or she stopped what they were playing to say, "Pranam" (A respectful greeting to elders). They were walking examples of the fantastic values IFF teaches.

You know is something right when it is so easy for two different worlds to come together in a matter of minutes and immediately feel like one big family! Our Co-Founder, Jayeshbhai, is a trustee of the IFF school and his life is an example of goodness in human form. He is the glue of IFF and Manav Sadhna and this first night in Karjat only reinforced his widespread effect on any world he touches. Life in this world is like that in a dream - Love, happiness, and humility in one spot - Truly heaven on earth.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Journey Begins...

And so the tour finally begins...

At 7am the platform at the Ahmadabad train station was bustling with the noises - From the laughter of children to the sobbing of parting families and the echoing of the morning station chai and biscuit walas (tea/biscuit sellers) - It seemed all of the city had gathered at gate 3 of the station that hour.

16 kids with matching backpacks that had white embroidered names sewn to the front, 16 matching red suitcases, and a smorgasbord of staff members of all ages and sizes - It was quite the scene if you happened to be people watching that morning!

Before we knew it, the train whistles chimed in our ears as we rolled our bags onto the compartment that would become our stomping ground for the next 12 hours as we began our fabulous journey to spread love and unity to our first destination, Karjat.

The joy the kids brought into the train began spreading the minute we got on as they shared seats with those who had forgotten to, or were unable to, reserve seats for themselves. Sanjay decided to squish himself between Vishal and Devram as he tapped the Kaka (elderly man) standing besides him and asked him to take his seat politely - The Kaka was delighted and kindly blessed Sanjay by touching his head.

Two of our staff members, Sunilbhai and Shirshbhai, bumped into some musically talented children on the train who were making music by hitting slates of marble together. It was a beautiful phenomenon as they ran through the different train compartments with joyful faces and contagious laughter taking their music with them. Its amazing to see the happiness music can bring to people's faces - In whatever form it comes. After showering them with hugs and familiarizing them with our family, we began giving them some lessons on general hygiene as they seemed they could benefit from the conversation. Sunilbhai started them on their understanding of cleanliness by cutting their nails while explaining how all the dirt from their nails would go directly into their food and stomachs causing sickness if not cleaned. Later they were joined by Nimeshbhai who directs the Ekatva project, aka Mustache Mom to the kids! He put his rapper hat on and together he and the kids created music that got the whole train up and excited dancing the hours away!

As our new musically talented friends got off the train at their stop, we could hear them screaming goodbye for minutes after our train began its departure to the next stop. They ran and ran alongside our train until they could see us no longer from the tracks. They were happy and you could see it in their eyes. Someone treated them like kids and showered them with love - That's all they ever ask for.



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ekatva Performance in Mumbai, Dec. 4th, 4-6pm @ Nehru Centre



EKATVA’s Mumbai performance at the Nehru Center AuditoriumJoin us for a special Sunday performance of EKATVA in Mumbai, India! 

December 4, 2011
Nehru Center Auditorium - Mumbai
4PM - 6PM | FREE - a gift from the children

Doors open at 330pm.
 
Dr. Annie Besant Road,
Worli, Mumbai - 400018
India
Google Map: 
http://g.co/maps/3pvh6
  
EKATVA comes to Mumbai! EKATVA is a 90 minute dance/drama musical performed by 16 slum children, hoping to share a message of 'oneness' and universal love, to the world. A Manav Sadhna experiment, EKATVA features Sixteen children from some of the largest slums of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. They were selected through a nine month audition process, and are being trained and developed, by two mentors from Manav Sadhna and teachers from Darpana Academy, to perform a 90-minute dance-drama production sharing Gandhiji’s message of ‘Oneness’. After one year of training and development, the children will tour the show across India, the US, and the UK.
 
 Choreography by Mallika Sarabhai (Darpana Academy).
 
 Learn More at 
www.ekatva.org and join us on Facebook (ekatva-oneness)

Nov. 26th, a Special Performance at a Special School, IFF


Ekatva begins its Mumbai trip to a very special school, who's focus is on the wholistic development of its children from a Global perspective, The India First Foundation. We are privileged to be invited to such a school and look forward to the interaction between the kids and the energy created.

This show will be very unique as we will be creatively involving and working with the IFF children days before to prepare an integrated performance of sorts. They have just sent us their music, script and ideas. We are blessed to have schools and leaders who are willing to take such initiative and embrace the creative experience and journey of our children.

Thank you Arvindbhai, Madam Kavita Karve, and the India First Foundation School for your heart warming support along our Ekatva journey.

In humble gratitude.

WWW.IFFSCHOOL.IN

Love and Peace

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

EKATVA @ Town Hall | October 22 & 23, 2011
















Join us for 2 FREE special weekend performances of EKATVA in Ahmedabad, India!

EKATVA is a 90 minute dance/drama musical performed by 16 slum children, hoping to share a message of 'oneness' and universal love, to the world. A Manav Sadhna experiment, EKATVA features Sixteen children from some of the largest slums of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. They were selected through a nine month audition process, and are being trained and developed, by two mentors from Manav Sadhna and teachers from Darpana Academy, to perform a 90-minute dance-drama production sharing Gandhiji’s message of ‘Oneness’. After one year of training and development, the children will tour the show across India, the US, and the UK.

October 22 & 23, 2011 | 8PM Both Nights | FREE
Town Hall near Ellis Bridge - Ahmedabad
Google MAP: http://g.co/maps/wg4cp

Choreography by Mallika Sarabhai (Darpana Academy).

EKATVA on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b-DhnrqRTA&feature=youtu.be

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ekatva Debut Performance on Gandhiji's Birthday

It was a blessing to kick off our Ekatva Tour on Gandhiji's birthday, Oct 2nd at Natrani Theatre, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The kids had rehearsed til' 3am for 2 consecutive nights before in order to pull off their first performance. Everything ended up being a first. Performing with full costumes, props, etc. Not to mention many times they only had 1 minute or so to change costumes back stage before the next performance item. The show was a blessing and an amalgamation of all the children's hard work, dedication and love throughout this journey. It was a show of love. And we are blessed by the opportunity to all share in this ongoing journey of family, children and growth. Love All Serve All.




Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Meet Vishal...



            “In Shankar Bhuvan, you can find any type of masti (mischief) you are looking for,” says Vishal’s father. “Liquor, gambling, fighting, foul language – It’s always going on in the streets.”
            The environment is hardly suitable for raising a family, but Vishal’s mother and father have no choice. With his father as the sole breadwinner, and five mouths to feed, they cannot afford to move out of the Shankar Bhuvan slum.
            Vishal has mixed feelings about his community. He has lived in Shankar Bhuvan all his life. He knows how to navigate the narrow labyrinth of alleys, squeezing past wandering goats and stepping over stray dogs who seek shelter from the blazing Ahmedabad sun. He has built a group of trusty playmates who offer him constant company. With his family and friends in the area, Vishal is never at a loss of people to spend time with.
But upon further thought, Vishal begins to reveal the various difficulties in Shankar Bhuvan that he has faced.
            Like most residents of the area, Vishal’s family does not have a toilet in their home. They have no other option than to use the riverbank as a mass toilet, along with the thousands of other people and no privacy.
            “It’s just not right,” Vishal says. “If I have to go to the bathroom at night, I’m scared to go to the river.”
            His face contorts in disgust and distress as he thinks about the conditions.
            Although Vishal is playful and often smiling, his manner changes suddenly to one of anger and frustration when he becomes upset. And living among men who drink often, and children with little guidance of what is right and wrong, Vishal is often angered by neighbors who misbehave and speak rudely.
            “When the other boys use foul language, I get so mad,” Vishal says. “I lose my head and feel like hitting them.”
            Vishal spreads his hands far apart, illustrating how angry he becomes.
            “I don’t feel just a little angry,” he says. “I feel very, very angry.”
            His EKATVA mentors have coached him in ways to curb his anger and check his physical reactions to those who anger him. But Vishal admits that it is a work in progress.
           

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet Asha...



            Asha is tall, charismatic, and according to her teachers at the Ashramshala, very stubborn. A conversation with her is impressive, but lacks the innocence or candor you’d expect from a 13-year old girl. She has a film star-esque quality to her smile – bright and beautiful, plastered on her face as she searches for the “right” thing to say.
            Yet, someone with Asha’s background cannot be expected to have much girlish innocence. Asha’s family lives in Shankar Bhuvan, a slum area in Ahmedabad known for its tough crowd, and rough living conditions. The narrow alleys that weave through the community are dotted with men exchanging cigarettes and liquor, spitting at the feet of passersby as crude language rolls off their tongues.
            Two years ago, Asha’s parents eagerly took the chance to put Asha and her younger sister in the children’s hostel at Gandhi Ashram.
            “I wanted to get a good education so I can move ahead in life,” Asha says, a response almost too wise for her years. Despite her prodigious claim, the transition to hostel life was not easy for Asha. As she describes the loneliness she felt when other girls did not include her in their games, and as her sister found new friends to join, her smiling and charming veneer shows a crack of candid unease.
            Her troubles were not limited to making friends. The contrast between the disciplined environment at the Ashramshala and the abrasive life in the slums became apparent in Asha’s schoolwork. Her teachers hassle her to pay more focus on her studies, but she is not used to being around those who value education.
            “My friends at Shankar Bhuvan used to always trouble our teachers,” Asha explains. “With them, I never took my studies seriously. Now everyone says I’m not making an effort in the Ashramshala, but I am trying. It’s just that I’m not used to studying. Even a little effort seems like a big one.”
            While effort is relative, Asha’s poor grades and negligent attitude toward her lessons cannot be overlooked. After failing her mid-year Ashramshala exams in February, Asha was warned that her spot in EKATVA was at risk unless she improved her study habits. But she was not left to tackle her schoolwork on her own. Her mentors at Manav Sadhna took out time for extra tutoring, and her friends at the Ashramshala would sit with her late at night after dance rehearsal, to help her practice her lessons.
But when results for the end-of-year exams were tallied, Asha’s performance was disappointing. Her failing marks in every subject left no doubt that her focus in her schoolwork had not been sincere.
Until she demonstrates a sincere effort and improvement in her studies, Asha is no longer a part of EKATVA.
            Asha’s mentors explained to her that the purpose of this production is not as simple as taking 16 children from the slums on a tour around the world. EKATVA is an experiment in uplifting children from poverty to self-sustainability, by supporting them holistically and showing them the fruits of hard work. To include Asha in this journey while she continues her bad study habits would be a disservice to her and the person she has the potential to become. She has been given one more chance to apply herself and add value to the message EKATVA seeks to send to the world.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet Sanjay...


When Sanjay’s father was in second grade, his teacher slapped him on the hand with a ruler one day for misbehaving. He never went back to school. “Because I was afraid of being hit again, I missed out on an education. I want Sanjay to realize I am doing majoori (labor) work because I am uneducated”
Sanjay and his family live in Ram Rahim no Tekro, a slum area in Old Ahmedabadfamous for the communities of Hindus and Muslims that live side-by-side. Both his parents do majoori, and are desperate for their children to find a way out of their difficult and unstable lifestyle.
A few years ago, Sanjay began ragpicking to earn some extra income for his family, who were in danger of losing their home. He would go through mountains of rubbish in the slums around his home and collect enough scraps of paper to earn about 30 rupees per day.
“My neighbor’s son was ragpicking near the river once, and he got swept away,” Sanjay explained. “I was afraid something like that would happen to me, or that I would get kidnapped.”
The conditions were unimaginable and dangerous, especially for a 10-year old boy, but Sanjay continued ragpicking for several months to help his family.
“As a laborer, you can’t always expect the work to be pleasant.”
Sanjay’s parents hope that EKATVA will equip their son with the tools to build a lifestyle that is not based on hard labor. But it was not clear from the beginning whether Sanjay would be a good fit for this journey. Unlike the other children who were selected based on their potential as performers, strong academics and attitude, Sanjay does not particularly excel in any of these criteria.
He does not show natural talent as a dancer, and his schoolwork is poor. His mother describes him as absentminded, “When I send him to the market to buy five things, he will only come back with one,” she explained.
            “It’s like things fly out of my mind when I need to remember them,” he says. This forgetfulness, in addition to his tendency toward mischief, made him an unlikely candidate for this demanding journey.
            But although Sanjay’s qualifications seemed lacking on paper, he has demonstrated an impressive commitment to EKATVA. Everyday for over three months, he made the 40-minute bus trip across the Sabarmati River that divides Ahmedabad, to reach EKATVA practice after school.
            “In the beginning, I was afraid that I would get on the wrong bus and end up in God-knows-where,” Sanjay said.
            He has earned the trust of his parents, who do not hesitate to send him unaccompanied, and his teachers at Manav Sadhna, who have witnessed his street smarts and dependability.
            Although the responsibility of travelling alone has not always been easy, Sanjay doesn’t mind putting in the extra effort.
“Bad things take no time at all to finish,” Sanjay says. “It’s the good things that take a long time and hard work. For good things, you have to sweat.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Meet Krishna...




            In her EKATVA journey, Krishna has learned about inner happiness and inner strength.
            “Helping others is the way to feel santosh (contentment),” the 11-year old says sagely.
            Krishna describes a young boy she met near Gandhi Ashram whose leg was handicapped from polio. As he was trying to cross the road, faced by an onslaught of speeding rickshaws and heavy buses, Krishna and her friend noticed his struggle and hurried to help him.
            “You should have seen his face when I took his hand and my friend took his bag” Krishna’s face lights up as she tells the story.
            “He was so happy. When he said thank you, I felt something good open up inside me.”
            The value of seva, or service, that Krishna has developed through EKATVA has pushed her beyond her comfort zone. Her mother explains that before, Krishna used to look out for herself only. But recently, she has noticed her daughter putting the wellbeing of her siblings and parents before her own.
            “We are one family,” Krishna says. “We should take care of each other.”
            What activities of service and compassion have done for Krishna internally, the rigorous EKATVA dance rehearsals have done for her physically, helping her realize the limits of her physical strength.
            Since the beginning of this journey, Krishna has been fragile, both emotionally and in terms of her fitness. Daily dance practice has been grueling, especially in the heat of Ahmedabad summer. The rehearsal schedule and dances demand strength and endurance, something that young Krishna was visibly lacking.
            But just as she has displayed a change in her behavior toward others, recently, her strength has improved as well.
            During the children’s exercise routine at practice one morning, the children began a contest to see who could do the most jumping jacks. Five minutes passed, and kids started dropping. Then ten minutes. The number continued to fall, as more exhausted little dancers ran out of gas. Finally, nearly 20 minutes into the contest, only two children remained. Delicate Krishna and tiny Chandani surprised everyone with their stamina, and even more so, with their will power and desire to win.


Meet Devram...




            When Devram begins to talk about his grandfather, there is a change in his body language. He sits on top of his hands, as though he is afraid someone will try to take them, and focuses his eyes ahead, on a point far away. He describes how his Dada used to give him a few rupees each day to buy fruit, before he came to live at the children’s hostel at Gandhi Ashram. Devram prefers apple or guava, but during the summer, he would bring home a mango, his Dada’s favorite.
            “He taught me only good things,” Devram says. “He taught me to never steal or lie, and to work hard.”
            Devram’s Dada also taught him to read and write. These days, surrounded by dozens of playful children at the hostel, he still prefers to study and read his school lessons in his free time, rather than join in the mischief and impromptu cricket matches with other boys.
            When his Dada passed away in January, Devram refused to take time off from school to be at home with his family, worried that he would fall behind in his studies. His eyes fill up with tears when he thinks about it.
            Despite his sadness over his grandfather’s death, Devram’s studies have not suffered. He continues to place first in his class. Yet, his future remains uncertain. In the past, the Ashramshala hostel has only accommodated children until the seventh standard. Until recently, Devram had planned to return to the Ahmedabad slum in which his family lives, and attend the public municipality school this year as he enters eighth standard. He explained that his parents did not want him to leave home again to study in another hostel, but one can sense that the wish to be home may be mutual.
However, his mentors at Manav Sadhna felt it would be a shame for his bright future and shining potential to be eclipsed by the uncertainty of life in the slum and the neglect of public schoolteachers. Since Devram has proved himself to be a hard-working and conscientious student,  Manav Sadhna has arranged for him to live in the Ashramshala while he studies and continues to attend the Gandhi Ashram School No. 1.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The New School Year, Ashramshalla, Education...


As we approach finishing the EKATVA show production over the next 3 months, we need to get prepared for the journey we will be taking this upcoming year with the kids: Performances, interactions and activities, practices and rehearsals, alongside the most important activities: School, Tution class and Education.
For this reason we have decided to bring all the EKATVA children living further away to come live at the Gandhi Ashram Hostel Ashramshall, with the other 120 kids that currently live there (6 of which are already our EKATVA kids). These kids are all from the so called ‘Untouchable’ community. Gandhiji started the Harijan Sevak Trust over 70 years ago to help in the upliftment of this community.
With most of the EKATVA kids at the Ashramshalla now, and going to Government School across the street, Gandhi Ashram School No. 1, we will be able to focus more attention and detail on their studies and with their teachers. On top of this, we will be having tution class for the kids everyday at the Ashramshalla, Gandhi Ashram from 2-5pm. And then finally we will have dance practice from 5 – 8pm.  In this new school year it has been very important for me to stress to the kids how important their education and studies will be this year. Because once the EKATVA journey and project is complete, Education and their values, will be the number one and only tools they have to reach their dreams. They seems to understand and accept that.
A pleasant surprise: Two of our kids, Bhavnik and Nikita were awarded 5000 Rupees each (about 2 months of their mom and dad’s salaries) for being top performers in their last school year. Three other of our EKATVA kids also received top 3 in their class. J

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EKATVA Skype performance with Liecester UK - Indian Summer Festival



The groundbreaking Indian Summer festival in Leicester UK featured a live Skype linkage between the 16 children of EKATVA and kathak performers at the festival. The children interacted with Festival participants, artists and organizers, and learned about the Indian community that lives in the UK. Segments of the dance drama were performed and projected live at the Festival.


We all gathered around Gandhiji's bronze statue at the Gandhi Ashram at 6pm on Saturday, June 18, 2011 to first explain to the children what we were about to do. For most of the children, this was their exposure to Skype and its power to connect people through audio and video all over the world.



We talked about geography, explaining to them where Leicester UK was in the world, and what the festival was all about. The kids had many questions and were full of wonder once the camera came on and we were all interacting with the Festival moderator.



This first interactive linkage has set the stage for more exciting collaborations! For all of us, the experience affirmed the power of unity and EKATVA, and how music and dance can dissolve boundaries between cultures.





SLUMBER PARTY #2....YIPPEEEE!

I could only remember how exciting it was when we were younger to hold slumber parties with our friends.
Well we had our second slumber party with our 16 kids, at my apartment. It was…well....a slumber party!!!!
Taking showers, late night and getting ready as if we were gonna go out to a club or something....


...Then cooking...


...can't forget to watch a movie..."The Incredibles"!!!...


...of course, you need a little excercise, to balance your 20 people in a 2 bedroom apartment slumber party experience...



...and, can't forget to play with all the little dolls in the gift corner...


...at some point we went to sleep....


...and at some point we woke up....


...can't forget to feed the belly....


...and a be a goofball, while feeding it...



AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST.........DRUM ROLL PLEASE....

YOU HAVE TO AT LEAST MAKE ONE MUSIC VIDEO at every slumber party you go to :)


hAving the kIds ovEr is Always a BLEssinG. We eNjoy ComInG TogEthEr and FindIng Love in Life.

Love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Meet Bharti...



Bharti seems to have it all. She has the striking expressions of an actor, the grace of a dancer, and the potential to develop her girlish presence into one of a great performer. Yet something is lacking, holding her back from the places her talent may take her.
On the surface, Bharti’s home life shines compared to her neighbors in Ramapir no Tekro, the largest slum area in Ahmedabad. The moment you cross the threshold of her home in the tekro, the background changes from dusty, barren slum-land, to glossy, tiled-floor. Bharti’s family owns a computer, bought by her grandparents as an investment in the education of Bharti and her siblings, and a refrigerator, a sign of wealth in the crowded, poverty-laden chalis, or alleyways.
            Though Bharti is happy, enjoying the masti and mischief of youth in the tekro, her story reveals difficulties – some she understands, and others she does not.
            She explains that her mother fell very ill when her youngest brother, Mehul, was born three years ago. For months, she was in and out of the hospital, experiencing seizure and faintness. Bharti’s eldest sister, Payal, studying in the 8th standard at the time, dropped out of school to take care of their mother and manage the household work.
            When Payal later decided that she wanted to continue her studies, her father did not support her wish. As he explains, the circumstances in the household, including Bharti’s sickly mother and her 3-year old brother, have not allowed Payal to return to school.
            “Who would stay home and take care of the housework?” he asks.
            The contrast between Bharti’s colorful childhood, highlighted by experiences in Manav Sadhna and EKATVA, and Payal’s seemingly lost childhood, are stark, but underrated.
            Though Bharti doesn’t dwell on her sister’s circumstances, she worries that her parents fight often, creating tension in their home.
            “I try to make them stop,” Bharti says, with genuine adolescent angst. “I tell them they should act like adults, rather than small children.” But her parents do not see, or choose not to acknowledge, that their quarrelling has an effect on their children.
            “Family members will always fight,” Bharti’s father says. “That’s just the way it is. When Bharti tells us to stop, I say, ‘Fine, we’ll put off today’s fighting for tomorrow.’” He laughs, making light of the issue.
            The conflict and relative wealth in her home have added elements ego and friction to Bharti’s otherwise charming personality. At EKATVA dance rehearsal, she sometimes lacks focus. She shows less ambition than her peers to perfect her performance.
            In an environment like the tekro, prosperity is an abstract term. To one family, wealth refers to their herd to goats; to their neighbors, wealth is the ability to afford electricity. In such a resource-poor setting, the perception of wealth depends on the priorities of the beholder, and the attitude with which one discloses his possessions and lifestyle.
            Within Bharti’s family, seemingly prosperous with their modern possessions, symptoms of poverty exist in Payal’s interrupted education, and the household tensions caused by the often-fighting mother and father.
            Bharti describes EKATVA as an experience that has changed her completely.
            “I’ve learned about ekta [unity],” she says. “I’ve learned that when we show love to all people, regardless of age, religion, or caste, everyone benefits.”
            Only time will tell if the values Bharti is learning in her journey with EKATVA, will add prosperity to the features of her home life that bear qualities of poverty, and help her realize the wealth of talent she has been gifted.

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