Celebrating Diwali with Dignity—The Desai Way

by Aditi Paul

Since its inception in 1997, the Desai Foundation has continuously strived to fulfill its mission— to better the livelihood and health of women and children in India and in the U.S. The Desai Foundation substantiates this mission by spearheading various community development programs that strive to uplift the livelihood of women in rural India. These include vocational training programs, sanitary napkin programs, health camps, health and hygiene awareness programs, student volunteer programs, and more. According to Megha Desai, the president of the Desai Foundation, these programs help women obtain a sense of dignity—a basic human right that is often denied to this sect of the population for various socio-economic reasons.

[The Desai Foundation Director Megha Desai with her parents at the annual Diwali on the Hudson celebration. | Photos courtesy of J’adore Andy Photography]
The Foundation hosts various events throughout the year to shed light on the organization’s work and to engage community members in supporting their philanthropic efforts. The flagship event is, of course, Diwali on the Hudson. In its fourth year, Diwali on the Hudson was bigger and better and superseded the grandiosity of its preceding editions.

Held on a crisp fall night at the gorgeous Hudson Terrace locale in New York City, Diwali on the Hudson was a sold out event that brought together the who’s who of Manhattan! Jay Sean and Kirk Douglas from The Roots were some of the many prominent names of the attendees at the event!

[Jay Sean speaking to an AVS reporter at Diwali on the Hudson | Photos courtesy of J’adore Andy Photography]
The evening started with a good-spirited fraternizing of guests who treated themselves to the scrumptious appetizers served by Desi Galli. Megha then took the stage and ran the audience through the highlight reel of Desai Foundation’s efforts in the past year. This was followed by a quick message from Charlotte Douglas, the curator of CHD Couture, a one of a kind wearable art-shop based in Brooklyn, NY. She shared her experience in working with the women in rural India and how these women seamlessly negotiated their domestic and vocational responsibilities.

Megha then cued in the fashion show that showcased designer Payal Singhal’s festive line which she dedicated to the Desai Foundation. In addition to being a world-renowned fashion designer, Payal is passionate about empowering women on and off the runway, a cause near and dear to the foundation’s hearts as well.

“At the Desai Foundation, we believe women are the backbone of society and serve as the foundation for a healthy community. Which is why some of our collection is made exclusively by rural women through the Desai Foundation’s vocational sewing program. Along with these bags, Payal will launch an entire line of clothing in two iconic prints which have been designated for the Desai Foundation. A portion of all the sales of this incredible line will go towards helping these vocational programs for women. These ‘bags with a purpose’ serve as a way for women to reach far beyond their village while focusing on cultivating not just skills and income—but dignity. Dignity is the element that motivates these women, and everyone, to dream beyond their circumstances,” Megha wrote in an email.

The floor then opened up where the attendees danced till the wee hours of the morning to some tub-thumping Bhangra music and Bollywood beats! Another Diwali, another Desai success story.

aditipaulAditi Paul is an assistant professor of Communication Studies at Pace University. She tries to find out how strangers become friends and lovers with people they meet online, all in the name of academic research. When she is not professing, you will find her pretending to be a singer and a guitar player on SoundCloud.


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