SANTA CLARA, Calif. — An enthralling dance drama entitled “Antaryatra” (a Journey Within) conceptualized and choreographed by Sharmila Biswas marked the annual donor appreciation event of the Bay Area chapter of the All India Movement for Seva at the Elizabeth Hans Theater at the Santa Clara Convention Center here Sept. 28.
The dancers presented the three dance forms from the east coast of India – Kuchipudi from Andhra Pradesh, Odissi from Odisha, and Bharatanatyam from Tamil Nadu.
Beautifully choreographed and executed dances with regular narratives enchanted the largely Indian American audience for over 90 minutes. Carnatic, Hindustani, Oriya and folk music genres were used with lyrics in Sanskrit, Maithili, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu.
AIM For Seva is a pan-India charitable trust tasked with opening and sustaining free student hostels in remote and rural parts of India to help children from these areas stay in school.
Since its inception in 2000, the trust has helped to open 97 chatralayas (student hostels) in 16 states in India. Each hostel that costs about $100,000 to set up houses an average of 30 students. The total annual support of a student in a hostel is about $450.
The Bay Area chapter of the non-profit is responsible for sustaining five youth hostels for boys and one for girls, with a goal of funding the complete care for 207 children. The chapter also helps support the four AIM For Seva hospitals in offering free or subsidized care to rural populations.
“We raised $280,000 at the event,” Vijay Kapoor, a member of AIM For Seva in the United States and coordinator of the San Francisco chapter of the non-profit, told India-West. “The funding goes towards the six hostels that we have direct responsibility for; $100,000 for constructing the new hostel in Padali in Madhya Pradesh; and general funds that can be applied for the children beyond the six hostels,” the Indian American added.
AIM’s Free Student Hostels house children from 4th through 12th grade during the most impressionable years of their growth and development. The hostels provide children a nurturing milieu combining academic coaching, nutritive meals with knowledge of health and hygiene for the children’s holistic growth.
“In the Bay Area chapter for AIM For Seva, we started a children helping children program since November 2018 to involve children in the fundraising efforts,” said Sudarshana Srinivasan, a member of AIM For Seva since 2012. She also spoke about the Global Youth Leadership Program that the non-profit runs for high schoolers and older youth to take them on a two-week trip in December to a village in Tamil Nadu in India. The participants immerse themselves in the lives of the students being helped by the organization and teach the students science, math, English, etc., on a preplanned curriculum designed for the needs of the village students. “Education is the way to break the cycle of poverty and the purpose of the nonprofit is close to my heart and, especially, as a mother seeing how much our children have, it’s on all of us to help those that are not so blessed,” added Srinivasan.
The late Swami Dayananda Saraswati incepted the organization and the hostels for the youth after an elderly village woman showcased the difficulties of educating young children, leading to unfulfilled lives. She identified that it was not the lack of schools but the accessibility to schools that was a problem. She proposed a solution of constructing boarding houses next to schools.
The idea resonated with Swamiji, who had the first one constructed within a year, and helped dozens of youngsters from the Adivasis and Vanavasis in the area.