by Dr. Sahana Prasad
It doesn’t seem like a revolutionary idea, does it? Continents have been linked over so many things over so many centuries, right? Spices, silk, gold, artifacts, plants and animals have been imported and exported for centuries. Religion, art, scientific discoveries have their way through the most turbulent oceans and over the tallest mountains. But there is something fascinating when continents are linked by pure goodness. The kind of goodness that children can spread without thinking about “what’s in it for me?” or “how can I profit from it?”
“Children helping children” has been an important goal of OSAAT’s signature event “Naatya Raaga” ever since it made it debut in the San Francisco Bay area in 2007. So, what exactly is the big deal about this? one might ask.
It is a big deal if you are an Indian American parent. Whether it is Indian politics or sports or entertainment, first generation Indian Americans are still very much plugged into everything happening in India. However, the same cannot be said of their children growing up in the USA. Similarly, giving back to India comes naturally to first generation Indian Americans. The same is not true for second generation Indian Americans. So, the challenge lies in how parents can instill in their children a sense of pride in Indian tradition and culture along with the compassion and caring for someone their own age in India. Indian American parents have discovered that learning Indian music and dance not only helps in the holistic development of their children but is also a great way of connecting back to their motherland.
Now, envisage a powerful visual and audio platform that not only enthralls people but also draws the Indian community together for a great cause. “Naatya Raaga” is that platform, in the form of a 2-day event where talented Indian American children and young adults showcase their talent and help raise funds for the education of children in rural India. Amateur artists ages 8-17 participate in large numbers in Naatya Raaga – as many as 400+ in the dance contest and 250+ in the music contest during the best years before the pandemic – putting in their heart and soul to raise funds for the education of children in rural India.
Samarth Kunhody, a young OSAAT volunteer who has never missed a single Naatya Raaga event since 2007, says – “Winning at Naatya Raaga is great but that is just secondary. I know how valuable education is for a poor child in rural India. I am grateful that I can contribute my time and energy to help someone my own age in India”. This “Kids helping Kids” while realizing the joy in giving back to society and connecting with their roots is exactly the type of emotional connection we hope to link continents beyond any trade, religion or political aspirations.
Naatya Raaga has evolved as a prestigious platform over the years with a great deal of support from the Indian American community. Professional artists, founders and directors of Bay Area’s music and dance schools volunteer as judges. Many Indian businesses have been sponsoring the event with contributions of cash and in-kind donations like food, trophies, prizes for raffles etc. OSAAT volunteers of all ages spend more than 10 hours each day of the 2-day, helping with ticketing, ushering and stage management. This year, Naatya Raaga is already underway as a virtual event. Details at: https://osaat.org/event/naatya-raaga-2022/
Apoorva Krishna shares her experience with Naatya Raaga in the message below: