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AID Organizes Mela 2009

J.C. Prasad


Mela 2009 was an Indian-style fair that took place on October 11 at MIT. Association for India’s Development (AID) organized the fair with the goal of promoting Art, Culture and Peace in local New England communities. A variety of fun events were held for people of all ages – children, parents, students and professionals - to participate in, happy in the knowledge that all funds raised would go directly toward the benefit of marginalized communities in India.


The event kicked off in the afternoon with children’s activities that combined fun with education. The kids first made cards, masquerade masks and puppets with environmentally-friendly materials, before proceeding to get their faces painted, take part in an art contest, participate in a music jam, and help paint a Peace Mural.


The sound of Mela 2009 was the cacophony of a typical Indian fair in harmony with the rhythms of music and dance. Instructors from prestigious local academies - the Triveni, Chhandika, Upasana and Vividha dance schools - offered workshops in Kathak, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Garba and Bollywood dancing. Equally popular were Learnquest’s musical offerings of Hindustani, Carnatic and Tabla workshops. To round off the workshops, participants were also introduced to Yoga and socially-responsible investing.


About 20 exhibitors from a number of non-profits and local businesses set up tables at the Mela. Non-profits such as Barakat and Nanhi Kali described their organizations’ to attendees while businesses such as EarthFrendz and Progressive Asset Management presented an array of goods and services, everything from clothes and jewelry to financial planning and Henna.


AID’s mission of just and sustainable development rang true through photo exhibits on Bhopal and Chhattisgarh. The first displayed the effects of the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, an arresting reminder that the struggle for justice continues 25 years later. The second exhibit vividly described the human-rights violations being suffered by the people of Chhattisgarh, caught in the middle of a violent battle between armed insurgents and the State.


Volunteers also explained to attendees how AID undertakes empowering work in the fields of environment, health, education and agriculture. Perhaps most poignantly, AID had set up a table for “Jivika”. The clothes exhibited here were 100% cotton, hand spun and handwoven fabrics. They require minimal electricity to produce and are an important source of income to millions across rural India. The producers of Jivika live in rural Orissa and Andhra Pradesh and earn 50% of all revenues.


The evening program began with energetic performances by the MIT Resonance a capella group and the Vividha Bollywood Dance School. Dancers from Navarasa then put on a virtuoso show, the choreography of which combined Bharatnatyam, Yoga, Martial Arts and Theater!


Mela 2009 participants were fortunate that Ravi Kuchimanchi, the founder of AID, was visiting Boston at the time. Ravi talked about AID’s humble beginning as a group of graduate students at University of Maryland in 1991. He described how he and some of those students moved back to India to work as full-time AID volunteers, and how the organization had since grown to a several hundred-strong volunteer movement in the US and India. Attendees had the unique opportunity to interact with Ravi and drawing inspiration from his remarkable life.


For the finale of Mela 2009, everyone was invited on to the dance floor for a night of Garba and Dandiya. As a long and fruitful day drew to an end, all who participated reflected on the fun that had been had and on the difference that it was certain to bring into so many distant lives.


Details on Mela 2009:     www.shantimela.org

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Mela 2009 - A Fantastic day of fun and festivities

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