Fundraising Program for Clean Water for the Disadvantaged

By Juginder and Dolly Luthra, Weirton, WV       e-mail:

The AQWALife (Access Quality Water Always), Prem Sharma Memo­rial Foundation, organized a well-attended fund-raising event titled Jal­tarang (meaning Waves) on Saturday, October 28 in the Antonian Theater at Carlow University. The cold rain showers outside complemented the theme of the evening. The program drew materials from the rich potpourri of Indian music and dance traditions.

The funding for the program was from the ticket sales; Aquatech, a world leader in water purification technology founded in 1981 by Prem Sharma in the US; and sponsorships from many individuals and Pittsburgh-based organizations. After Mr. Sharma’s death in 1991, his sons Venkee and Devesh now manage the company.

A brief presentation at the beginning highlighted the challenge: Scarcity of clean water affects one in three people in every continent, and four children die every minute from preventable water-borne diseases.

The program started on time, which itself was an auspicious sign for Indian programs. After Carl Weinman’s short welcome remarks in Hindi, Venkee Sharma briefly addressed the 400-plus audience on the goals of the Foundation established in 2007 in memory of the Prem Sharma, and its activities in India, Ethiopia and Uganda for providing safe drinking water to the disadvantaged people. Ramesh Rangarajan described the collaboration with Akshaya Trust, Madurai, India. All the speeches were pleasantly short, and video presentations highlighted the problems caused by the lack of clean water, something we take for granted.

After brief Sanskrit hymns, Babeena Sharma (Prem Sharma’s daughter-in-law), accompanied by four children, recited Tulasidas’ famous Hanuman Chalisa in contemporary tunes. Babeena is blessed with a golden voice, which she has honed further with training and hard work.

Next, Nandini Mandal in traditional Indian dance costume in aqua blue, surrounded by a large group of her students in golden yellow costumes, presented an exquisitely choreographed item titled Ganga Tu Behti Hai Kyon? (Ganga, Why do You Flow?). The video of Holy River Ganga gushing down as she descends from the Himalayas and then caressingly flowing in the Northern Plains in India in the background complemented the dance very well.

Neel Nadkarni, with his rich and well-modulated voice, enchanted the audience with several songs of Sonu Nigam and Mohammed Rafi.

Ruby Jain’s graceful Kathak dance followed with Babeena Sharma’s vocal support lighting up the stage. CMU Asian student’s group, Deewane presented a couple of unique songs. A few more dance items came next. Then, more filmi songs, a ghazal, a Punjabi song and classical music recitals.

For all the vocalists, Shreeram provided support on the Keyboard, with Shrikant Aqwalegoankar on Guitar, and Aqeel Bhatti on the Tabla. A pleasant surprise item was a Spanish/Hindi song presented by Sumedha Nagpal and Saurabh Sharma that left the audience mesmerized.

Sumedha Nagpal and Saurabh Sharma, alternating as emcees, kept the program moving with their humorous quips. They never let the program sag. Chandra Sharma, Venkee and Devesh Sharma’s mother, gave the vote of thanks.

Varuna, the Vedic God for rains, was merciful toward the end. The rains stopped as we climbed up the steep hills of Pittsburgh to get the delicious Indian food in the dining hall.

Babeena Sharma, who harnessed the talents and resources from many places for organizing the program, said, “It is a lot of hard work and team effort by all involved. It was a great creative outlet for me and I enjoyed working with my team of performers, musicians, and dancers.”

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