What do the works of SH Raza, a community programme for children’s health, the stars of Netflix reality show Indian Matchmaking, and the musician who pioneered Bhangra music in North America have in common? One evening, and a fundraising effort.
The US-based Desai Foundation is known for its fundraising events in different cities around that country, raising money for menstrual health and employment programmes that it conducts both in the US and in rural India. At the first virtual edition of its Lotus Festival recently, among the highlights was — and continues to be — a silent, online auction. Still underway, the auction comprises works of famous artists like MF Husain and Sh Raza, the services of famous chefs, holiday getaways and more. But for foundation President Megha Desai, the items linked directly to their grassroots-level social work — training women to make face masks and clothes; imparting menstrual hygiene education, distributing masks, sanitary napkins and more — hold more signifance than the more glittering items.
“It’s the [Foundation’s] work that I have always held most dear — so when people want to invest in a specific programme, whether it be the Asani Sanitary Napkin programme, our vocational programmes, or our health and hygiene programmes, it’s a great validation that we are doing something that matters to people,” she says via email, adding, “Despite COVID restrictions, we’ve recently expanded our work to Uttar Pradesh, in addition to Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra, and we were so happy to be able to celebrate that with the donors that make that work possible.”
The event also featured celebrity appearances, including an address by DJ Rekha, founder of Basement Bhangra and pioneer of the merging of Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with electronic dance music or EDM. Rekha has been vocal and active about social causes in the past as well, and says in an email interview: “I think it is important for all humans to fight injustice. As artists some of us have the privilege and duty to use our platforms to amplify inequality, systemic oppression among other things.”
Rekha, who has been hosting live music sets online during these months of social distancing, finds that virtual events have an appeal of their own: “Accessing the vibe when spinning live is essential. Doing livestream sets, a different kind of intimacy is created. The camera is close up on you and people are commenting in real time from all over the world. It gives the feeling of a global dancefloor.”
For details, visit thedesaifoundation.org.