Out of the shadows

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Saaya 2016 highlights the plight of struggling Indian farmers and raises funds for their families

Saaya 2016.Indian Link
A fundraising event to support and highlight the struggles of Indian farmers facing financial and climatic hardship, Saaya 2016 was an evening of evergreen Bollywood songs hosted by Service 1st Real Estate with the cooperation of the Australian Telangana State Association at Redgum Centre in Wentworthville. Hari Sallakonda and Shashi Medam were the facilitators of the event which was reported to be a sell-out success.
“Service 1st acted as an event management company for Saaya 2016. The name ‘Saaya’ literally means ‘shade’ or ‘shadow’,” Hari Sallakonda told Indian Link. “We printed 300 tickets of which ATSA sold 200 and we sold 100. We were the sponsors of the event and the total financial cost was borne by us.”  He stressed that it was a strictly altruistic effort on his part.

Saaya 2016.Indian Link
Hari Sallakonda and Sashi Medam of Service 1st presenting the details of the contribution

The musical evening started with the welcome note at 4pm to a packed house. A minute’s silence was observed in honour of the recently martyred soldiers back home. The audience was then treated to the lilting melodies of twenty evergreen Bollywood songs. These were performed by Sirisha Telugu, Charu Gugrathi, Birju Desai, Mehul Somaiya and Rashmi Deshpande. The popular Hindi tunes had the audience in raptures for the entire evening. Sirisha was even coaxed into belting out a Telugu song by strong public demand, to much appreciation.
Saaya 2016.Indian Link
Sirisha performing in Telugu

“Though all singers were professional artists, when I informed them of the cause for which Saaya 2016 was being organised, every one of them offered to donate their time and waive their performance charges,” Sallakonda advised.
The program also consisted of a presentation by the Australian Telangana State Association to acknowledge the organisers and donors, and to explain how and where the funds will be donated. This transparency encouraged more people to come forward and contribute to the cause. Overall, $7500 was collected through ticket sales and another $5000 from individual donations.
“Agriculture is the main occupation in India, but in recent years things have been very tough for farmers. There has been heavy investment in crop with low returns, adverse seasonal conditions have resulted in failed crop, spurious seeds, pesticides and fertilisers combined with declining ground water and low market prices have put enormous stress on the farming community,” Sallakonda said as he explained why the farmers were chosen as beneficiary of the fundraiser. “Hailing from Telangana myself, it pains me to know that 2400 farmers from the state have committed suicide just this year. So, our main purpose of organising this event was to generate funds to support the families of farmers who have become the fatalities of these strains.”
Sallakonda praised the efforts of the Australian Telangana State Association in putting the event together.
Saaya 2016.Indian Link
“ATSA has been promoting Telangana culture in Australia for the past ten years. They have been organising activities to unite the community through religious and cultural programs. They conduct health and wealth seminars; blood donation drives and participate in local community programs to engage the Telangana community and bring them together,” he gushed.
“Through the charity event Saaya 2016, ATSA has broadened its horizons to financially support the community back home. Their effort is highly commendable.”
After Sallakonda expressed his wish to donate the proceeds of the program to the families of affected farmers, it was left to ATSA to use their contacts back home to collect data, analyse the circumstances of each family and identify 30 of them to receive the funds.
To ensure every penny reaches the deserving families, two members of ATSA are planning to visit India later this year to personally deliver the funds to them.
Saaya 2016.Indian Link
Steering back to the musical evening Sallakonda appraised the support he has received from the huge Telangana community in Sydney.
“We have had a solid response to this charity fundraiser,” he said. The community supported us by buying tickets which were $25 each. They donated generously during the evening and continue to do so till now.”
Encouraged by this overwhelming response Sallakonda has vowed to continue the good work he has started. “I have decided to organise Saaya concerts annually. Our aim would remain to collect as much money as we can to donate to different causes back in India.”
So, watch out for Saaya 2017 and aim to dig deeper in your pockets to support genuine charitable causes.

Farzana Ahmad
Farzana Ahmad
Farzana is a freelance writer, artist and children's author

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