REDONDO BEACH - An estimated 1,500 people packed the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center to support Manav Sadhna’s efforts in India’s poorest neighborhoods, what with 17 children from the slums performing in Southern California and delivering messages of peace, love and hope.
Manav Sadhna’s “Jai Jagat” show here was part of the organization’s larger endeavor to eradicate poverty through empowering children. The musical, which took place on May 11, featured some of the children Manav Sadhna aims to support and aid. The 17 children who performed here are all from the poorest neighborhoods of Ahmedabad, each of them receiving visas to enter the United States in early May – less than two weeks ahead of the “Jai Jagat” show.
“Jai Jagat,” which means “victory to the planet,” was a 90-minute dance and drama show, narrating a story of what the world would look like in 2069. The musical, which starred all 17 “ambassador” children from the slums of Ahmedabad, was basically a vision of what the world could look like 50 years from now – specifically on Mahatma Gandhi’s 200-year birthday celebration on Oct. 2, 2069 – if we lived by ideals of peace, love and sharing.
The show, sponsored by the Indian American-founded Tarsadia Foundation, Venture Center for Spiritual Living and Project Ahimsa, started with a song-and-dance routine featuring students of Manhattan Beach’s Grandview Elementary chorus team (song) and the children from Ahmedabad (dance). All the children introduced the show’s theme: Planet Earth is home.
Three performers would narrate the show after the opening act, two of them playing their actual ages (elementary school age) and the third portraying a grandmother. The grandmother and her two grandchildren would have a conversation of what life was like in 2019, 50 years prior to the timeline presented in “Jai Jagat.”
Oct. 1, 2069 was a special day in the show’s timeline – it was the day Earth celebrated 365 days of worldwide peace. All 10.5 million people living in the world were given a Nobel Peace Prize the next day (Oct. 2, 2069) as a reward for maintain one full year of peace on Earth, according to the story’s narrative.
The two grandchildren, naturally, asked their grandmother about Gandhi. The question sparked the show’s musical element, with the performing children narrating Gandhi’s life from his days in South Africa to the day he was assassinated, shortly after India’s independence from Britain.
Other key themes of the “Jai Jagat” show included the power of prayer, using nonviolence protests to facilitate change, showing compassion to refugees, women empowerment, caring for the environment and the value of sharing.
These themes were shared through narratives of popular world figures, such as Malala (women empowerment), former Uruguay President José Mejica (sharing), Wangari Maathai (environment) and Yusra Mardini (refugees).
The show ended with a musical number narrating a child’s quest for happiness and a song calling for hope.
A child, in the penultimate number, leaves his village for the big city and realizes all the money in the world can’t buy happiness, so he returns home and gives back to his family and community. This feel-good act was followed by all the performers singing about hope and running off stage to share handcrafted messages of joy, love, happiness and sharing with the audience. Each child found a random person in the audience to share a hug.
For many of the kids it was the first time out of Ahmedabad or traveling out of the country. They arrived in the Los Angeles area in hopes of helping Manav Sadhna raise money for its programs, which aim to assist the 269 million people in India who live in poverty and struggle with illiteracy, hunger, unemployment and/or poor health.
The organization manages five community centers in slum neighborhoods, oversees 45 projects and serves 10,000 people daily.
Manav Sadhna was founded in 1995 and relies upon the teachings of Gandhi to assist marginalized communities. Visit www.manavsadhna.org for more information.