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Viva Calcutta – A tribute to the vibrant city of Tagore
This Dusshera the Goddess Durga herself descended to earth in a powerful tableaux at the Children’s Hope India Gala – Viva Calcutta on October 13, 2013. Over 430 guests who came to this fundraiser for children’s health and education at Pier Sixty in Chelsea Piers, New York, saw this breath-taking 200 1b idol seated in a pandal of radiant hues of red, gold and orange.
A day of celebration indeed as it was not only Dusshera and the last day of the Bengali Puja holidays but also an evening to enjoy the seductive charms of the city of Calcutta, now known as Kolkata. The festive evening, which had a keynote address by Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, raised $450,000 for CHI projects.
Indra Nooyi honored with the Special Impact Award
Children’s Hope India honored Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, with the Special Impact Award, given for the first time in the organization’s history, to pay tribute to Nooyi’s strong and successful leadership at PepsiCo and to the inspiration she provides to the younger generation.
When Nooyi, regarded as one of the most influential business leaders internationally, speaks, everyone stops to listen. Today she turned the spotlight on the importance of personal responsibility and spoke eloquently of her own growing up days in Chennai and the power of volunteerism in changing lives and communities.
“By being here tonight, and supporting Children’s Hope India, you’ve all shown how deeply you accept your responsibility and how seriously you take it,” said Nooyi, addressing the audience. “The harder we all work – more to the point – the smarter we work – the more children we can save, the more lives we can transform, the more dreams we can fulfill.”
When Calcutta & Howrah Bridge Came to New York
The evening began with an opening invocation to the Goddess with ‘Kali’, an original dance theater experience by Surati choreographed by Rimli Roy and set to music by Sumit Roy.
Guests got a chance to pose in front of a gigantic image of the iconic Howrah Bridge, a city landmark, and also taste street foods like puchkas and jaal moori in stalls set up with many Calcutta delicacies. The festive dinner too had many Bengali specialties rarely seen in New York. The silent auction with everything from a sketch by noted Calcutta artist Jogen Chowdhury to much coveted Jets Coach Club tickets to witnessing a live cardiac surgery at Lennox Hill Hospital raised over $25,000.
The host of the evening was the popular TV personality Tinku Jain, who is also an Honorary Advisory Board member of Children’s Hope. She is an eloquent spokesperson for Children’s Hope and introduced the audience to the work of the organization. Guests included Ambassador Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, Consul General of India, Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard, cooking icon and noted actress Madhur Jaffrey with Sanford Allen, Meera Gandhi of the Giving Back Foundation, among many other movers and shakers from the worlds of art, business, and philanthropy.
Kavita Lund, president of Children’s Hope, said, “We have all come together here to celebrate and support the children of India as they struggle to meet the challenges of a changing world. Throughout this evening you will hear about the transformations Children’s Hope is making in their lives, with your help.”
Mallika Dutt & Breakthrough – breaking new ground together
Children’s Hope India also honored the human rights activist Mallika Dutt of Breakthrough with the Making a Difference Award for her courageous and creative ways of bringing about social change through multimedia campaigns.
Breakthrough, which she founded, has taken on issues of justice and equality using the power of pop culture, social media and communities. She said, ” Children’s Hope India, you are doing an extraordinary job of making sure that the next generation of children in India becomes part of that movement to ensure all of us can begin living a life of human rights at home – here and there.”
Spirit of Bengal – Derek O’ Brien, Rachel Roy & Sundaram Tagore
The Spirit of Bengal honorees Derek O’ Brien, Rajya Sabha member and prominent TV host, and Sundaram Tagore, noted art historian, gallerist and film-maker received introductions from the inimitable Ali Velshi, host of Real Money with Ali Velshi on Al Jazeera America.
The third honoree, designer and philanthropist Rachel Roy, was unable to attend but sent in a wonderful video message and also contributed a great gift for the silent auction – a chance to have an outfit personally fitted by the designer herself!
Unable to be there in person, she wrote on Instagram: “I’m so honored to have been awarded the Spirit of Bengal award last night. Please take the time to familiarize yourself with Children’s Hope India. Their message is powerful and their work to help brighten the future of impoverished children is impactful and honorable.”
Meera Gandhi of the Giving Back Foundation was also honored for continuing to fund the CHI educational scholarships at Baruch College for students of modest means. She said, ” It gladdens my heart to be able to help broaden the college years of so many deserving young people.”
A great end to the evening was a live auction – not of luxury goods and fabulous trips – but of projects which could bring health-care and education, vocational training and eye exams to the children of slum dwellers. This auction, conducted by Sandhya Jain-Patel of Christies, surely touched an emotional chord with guests, for in ten minutes scores of paddles were raised, including one for an anonymously given $25,000. Viva Calcutta!