Akshaya Pātra USA

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Music Concert benefiting Akshaya Patra by Anusha Kulkarni in Hubli, India on August 9, 2015

Translating an idea of Philanthropy into result oriented action requires a great deal of resources and commitment. This is evident when you see a successful organization such as Akshaya Patra in action. Akshaya Patra, a non-profit organization that serves fresh meals to millions of children every single day, is an epitome of what is possible. How it manages to accomplish a seemingly impossible task is beyond comprehension. Watching Akshaya Patra in action while on a visit to Hubli three years ago inspired the Ashland based Kulkarni family to want to be a part of it. Seeing young children in school uniforms enjoying mid-day meals made 16 year old Anusha (born in Hubli but raised in USA) want to contribute to it in some way. The urge to act upon the idea finally hit home when her father, Shridhar Kulkarni, told her that a long time ago, he once was a recipient of such a mid-day meal.

Anusha Kulkarni, Junior at Advanced Math & Science Academy, a charter school in Marlborough, Massachusetts, has a passion for music and has been learning Indian Classical Vocal Music for the past 8 years with Smt. Shuchita Rao. Anusha became one of the Youth Ambassadors for Akshaya Patra in 2014 and was set to achieve an annual target of raising $1,800 and raising awareness for the cause and the organization. After meeting the target in just few months, Anusha wondered what next. Visiting India and hometown Hubli in summer provided the answer. She decided to give a music concert in the heartland of Indian Classical music, the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad benefitting Akshaya Patra which incidentally has one of the largest kitchens in India located in the very same region and feeds 150,000 children every single day.
The transition from a wish to a reality took practice, hours of phone calls, committed volunteers from family, friends, and Akshaya Patra. With support and encouragement from family and friends, the stage was set and ready for Anusha on August 9, 2015 at Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatha Medical College’s Shri D. Veerendra Heggade Kalakshetra auditorium. A beautiful 1,200 capacity hall, whose foundation stone was laid by veteran Hindustani vocalist Smt. Gangubai Hangal and inaugurated by the renowned flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, seemed to have been built for such grand concerts.

The program commenced with traditional lamp lighting ceremony by celebrated Hindustani vocalist maestro Jayteerth Mevundi. Anusha was thrilled to have her teacher Smt. Shuchita Rao from USA attend the concert. The Emcee for the event, Shri Anil Desai, provided the professional and personal touch to the introductions. Anusha commenced the program with a beautiful invocation, a Saraswati Vandana and followed it with two khayals in raag Megh Malhar. The composition “Barakha Ritu Aaye” was very apt for the season since the monsoon rains poured outdoors. Anusha showed her imagination and creativity while singing slow melodic alaaps and sang faster melodic passages “taans” with great ease in the presence of supremely accomplished artist such as Pandit Jayateerth Mevundi who openly appreciated her efforts. She concluded Megh Malhar rendition with a faster khayal composed by Vidushi Dr. Ashwini Bhide “Megh Shyam Ghan Shyam”. The next musical rendition was special. Anusha sang “Raaga Maala”, a composition consisting of 12 raagas strung together in the form of a linked garland. Anusha’s control on each raag and her ability to easily transition from one raag to another was applauded by claps from the concert attendees.
After Classical segment, Anusha went on to sing several devotional songs in Kannada and Marathi. The packed hall of music lovers was amazed at the perfect diction by the 16 year old girl from USA. Singing a composition by popular local artist Shri Vasant Kanakapur, which was made famous by legendary Pandit Venkatesh Kumar, who calls Dharwad home, in front of the Dharwad crowd was a privilege only few can dream of.

Anusha concluded the first half of the concert with couple of Bhaava-geete and was privileged to sing an ever popular D.R Bendre song originally sung by Smt. Sangeeta Katti Kulkarni. It seemed like the tradition of Kannada literature and Indian music was growing and glowing ever so strongly and the concert crowd clapped in agreement. Anusha’s ability to memorize and sing each and every song, without relying on any written notes, did not go unnoticed.
Well supported by Shri Keshav Joshi on Tabla, Shri Sarveshwara Manavacharya on Tanpura, Shri Raghav Kammar on Harmonium, Shri Vaibhav Bhat on Flute, and Shri Prasanna Chittaragi on Manjeera, the professional level of the team of musicians was evident from the perfect harmony displayed with just three practice sessions leading up to the main concert event. 
Chief Guest, Shri Arvind Bellad, MLA for Hubli-Dharwad West, spoke eloquently about the concept of Philanthropy and applauded the Kulkarni family and Anusha in particular for caring so much about her heritage and showing it through action. This was followed by an inspiring speech by Shri Rajiv Lochana Dasa, the Head of Akshaya Patra, Hubli. He explained how a small donation of Rs. 750 can feed a child for an entire year and break the cycle of poverty. Shridhar Kulkarni, father of Anusha, then spoke about how such events are organized and done in the U.S and how Philanthropic minded Americans generously donate for kids in India. He thanked the Management of SDM College for their generosity in offering the Auditorium at a deep discounted price. 

A series of felicitations by family, friends and eminent people such as film-maker Shri Yashwant Sirdeshpande occurred and a special felicitation of Anusha and her guru Smt. Shuchita Rao was done by Saakara organization to recognize their effort in preserving and spreading Indian culture and music in a far off land like America. This was followed by a beautiful Bharatanatyam dance performance by Kumari Samata R.M and Kumari Srushti Kulkarni, of Saakara organization which raises funds for poor dance students who do not have financial resources to support their arangetrams.
Anusha came back to conclude the program with some Karaoke based singing. Anusha sang couple of Bhaava-geete, and then couple of movie songs. She ended the concert on a high note with a beautiful song from movie the old Hindi movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram, originally sung by Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar. The audience was so impressed, they gave her a standing ovation. Anusha could not have asked for more from her hometown people.
Concert attendees who were treated to a wonderful dinner that was served by the Hubli-Dharwad chapter of Akshaya Patra praised the quality and taste of the food. They were happy to know how much care Akshaya Patra puts into making the food fresh and tasty for the school children.  Butter Scotch Ice Cream catered by the local Milk/Ice Cream Company, Nandini was served for dessert.

 

Several people donated Rs. 10,000 and more, including a Rs. 25,000 donation. Thanks to Anusha, a total donation of Rs. 1.3 Lacs was collected for Akshaya Patra at the musical concert.
The excitement of performing in Hubli, the honor of raising money for Akshaya Patra, the appreciation of family, friends, and music lovers, made it all worth the effort put into carrying through the idea of the music concert from seed to fruition. It seemed like many more such events should happen in the coming days, months, and years. Anusha’s teacher Smt. Shuchita Rao summed it up with the words, “I believe that Anusha is extremely gifted in music and also generous in spirit. For a 16 year old to work hard to perfect her skills in music and to use them towards an important social cause is extremely credit worthy. This commitment is bound to take her very far in life!"