The Desai Diwali: Shining a Light on Lives that Matter

by Aditi Paul

The Desai Foundation, founded in 1997, is an organization dedicated to empowering women and children in the U.S. and rural India with the right resources that elevate the livelihood of this otherwise underprivileged population.

“We work to uplift communities that uplifted us,” says an emphatic Megha Desai, the Director of The Desai Foundation.

The Desai Foundation hosts various arts and culture-based programs with two goals in mind: to imbibe the local community in the traditions of Indian culture; and to raise awareness of the foundation’s programs that are geared toward improving the social and economic lives of women and children in the villages of India. One such cultural event is the much-awaited Diwali at the Hudson.

The Diwali on the Hudson, now in its third year, has become a brand in itself. The event has always been marked with splendor and grandiosity.  The crème-de-la-crème of the tri-state area turn up in their best Indian attires and join in the festivities amidst dance, performances, desi deejay music, a fully-stocked open bar, mouth-watering Indian bites, and nouveau Indian desserts. Powered with incredible partners, this year the event is set to take place on a crisp autumn October evening at the beautiful Sunset Terrace overlooking the magnificent Hudson River in New York City.

Even amidst the frolic and galore, The Diwali on the Hudson upholds the Desai Foundation’s core mission of improving the lives of the disadvantaged sect of society. A 100 percent of the proceedings from the ticket sales of this event are channelized toward various pro-social programs spearheaded by the organization. Two such programs are the Sanitary Napkin Program and the Sewing Class Program.

In rural India, it becomes difficult for girls to attend school and women from going to work, especially when they don’t have access to pads. All of this because of menstruation, a biological process that has been societally tabooed and borderline demonized. The Sanitary Napkin Program aims to break this cycle of ignorance surrounding this issue. The program employs women to manufacture sanitary napkins, which in turn are consumed by the female populace in the villages. This allows women to go to work and girls to attend school without being shamed for bleeding, a physiological process that they have no control over to being with.

The Desai Foundation also works with local factories in the villages to pre-negotiate salaries so that women who take the Sowing Class Program can find immediate employment after completing the class coursework. This helps women become financially strong, something that serves as a backbone for the upward mobility of women in an otherwise patriarchal rural society.

Diwali symbolizes the eradication of darkness through light. According to Hindu mythology, light serves as a metaphor for knowledge. Thus celebrating the Festival of Lights becomes a celebration of eradicating the negative forces of ignorance through the power of knowledge. Through its efforts of empowering and uplifting women and children, who have been plagued by the evil forces ignorance of society, by shining the light of knowledge—the Desai Foundation beautifully encapsulates the true essence of Diwali.

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