SAN JOSE, Calif. — Mahesh Kale, an eminent Indian classical singer from the Silicon Valley and a recipient of the prestigious National Film Award, performed in front of more than 400 music lovers Dec. 30 at the California Theater here. The concert, which was a fundraiser for the All India Movement for Seva, or AIM for SEVA, raised $300,000.

AIM -S is the brainchild of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, widely acknowledged as a spiritual leader, philosopher, author, profound thinker and a master of Advaita Vedanta. It is an integrated community development program, whereby rural and tribal children across India are educated through its novel free student hostel or “Chhatralaya” initiative. The advantage is that the student can attend school while being housed in a hostel close by in a clean, nurturing environment, where he is provided with nutritious food, and can participate in extracurricular activities.

The students are supported academically through mentoring, differentiated instructions and after-school coaching. According to the non-profit, the pass percentage of students, who typically spend between seven to eight years living in these hostels, is over 90 percent.

Since its inception in 2001, AIM for SEVA has built 100 free student hostels across rural India, each of which hosts about 35 children for the school year.

With Swamiji entering Mahasamadhi in 2015, the management was restructured, and the fundraising was relegated to the members in the U.S., strengthened by appointing a formal CEO to lead the effort. 

Vijay Kapoor, a former engineer, and now an eminent Vedanta scholar, leads the San Francisco Bay Area chapters of Arsha Vidya Center, and AIM for Seva, and is passionately involved in raising funds for the free student hostels.

Kapoor shared with the attendees that the cost of building one hostel is $100,000, and the cost of supporting a child is approximately $400 a year, as he urged the attendees to donate to the noble cause.

The Indian American community leader acknowledged that in 2017, the organization raised over $3 million, of which approximately $300,000 came from the Bay Area donors. He also recognized the generous contributions of Bay Area residents Kaveri Rangaraj, and Jugal and Bimla Kishor.

The artist for the evening, Mahesh Kale, then came on stage and delivered a stellar performance, a mix of songs and bhajans, displaying his earnest reverence for the purity of classical music. He effortlessly used his powerful versatile vocals interweaving classical and contemporary music through five well-developed pieces.

The audiences were treated to classical Raag Mala, where various ragas are blended into one song, and Kale wowed fans with his mastery of notes and rhythm in a heartfelt presentation.

A fast-paced, spirited rendition of Ganapati Vandana was again a nod to his classical music lineage in the next piece.

This was followed by a devotional bhajan showcasing the fervor of Meera Bai, and the audience members were invited to join in to sing, “Payo Ji Maine Ram Ratan Dhan Payo.”

The next one, a Marathi number, had refreshing strains of the guitar as accompaniment, and he ended with a gentle, melodious rendering of Swamiji’s “Bharata Desh Hitaye,” about the glory of India, repeating the refrain in ever increasing octaves, and bringing them down gently.

Interestingly, Kale trained under Jitendra Abhisheki, who composed the musical production that later became the famed Marathi movie, “Katyar Kaljat Ghusli,” for which Kale received the ‘Best Playback Singer’ award.

Kale was ably accompanied by Harshad Kanetkar on the tabla, who displayed a crispness and clarity as well as total command of rhythm as he accompanied the vocalists, and harmonium player Kedar Naphade.

Kale’s students sang along with him during various portions of the crowd-pleasing concert. 

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