For the second successive year, nearly 200 members people — United States Army personnel, medical professionals and other guests — celebrated Diwali at
the Walter Reed National Medical Center’s Memorial
Auditorium, November 15.
The center, in Bethesda, Maryland, is the country’s premier medical facility providing support to wounded service
members and their families.
Last year, the first Hindu chaplain in the US Army,
Captain Pratima Dharm, had initiated the first Diwali celebration at the center. She had told India Abroad that she
hoped to make it an annual tradition.
This year, there clearly were more active duty service
members, Department of Defense workers, contractors
and other guests present at the celebration.
Led by Dharm, an enthusiastic group of volunteers recreated a typical Indian Diwali setting amidst stately military
flags in the auditorium. The stage had a temple, colorful
saris, images of Lord Vishnu, and a row of lamps.
Chaplain Robert Powers, head of the Chaplain
Department at Walter Reed; Shiv Ratan, counselor at the
Indian embassy; and Sushila Kaul lit the ceremonial inaugural lamp.
Dr Adarsh Ramkumar, a scientist at the Armed Forces
Radiobiology Research Institute, performed a Ganesh
puja. Mandira Sarkar, Promilla Banik, Raj Mahajan and
Shashi Arora sang bhajans. Lakshmi Swaminathan from
the Natananjali school of Dance in Bethesda, Maryland,
performed Bharata Natyam.
Subha Maruvada’s students performed a group
Kuchipudi dance. Inderjeet Singh and Inderpal Singh sang
Gurubanibhajans (Sikh hymns).
The event concluded with a meditation led by Najuk
Though Shweta Katti, a girl from Mumbai’s red-light district, was able to come to the United States to study
on a full scholarship at Bard College in
upstate New York, she still needs help.
The scholarship is for tuition — about
$28,000 a year — but at the EduCare
Benefit Night held at Chutney Manor in
Monmouth Junction, New Jersey,
November 16, Shweta, 18, said she still has
to raise funds for room, board and personal expenses.
Naresh Jain, founder of EduCare, said
Shweta’s immediate need is to buy winter
clothes. EduCare gave her an honorarium
and Jain took her for shopping for warm
clothes, but a suitable winter
jacket was not found.
Jain has also arranged for a cell
phone with unlimited access for
one month. Shweta’s earlier telephone plan was for 250 minutes
a month, for $25.
“We are raising money for her
through our Web site. We will
continue to help her,” Jain said.
Shweta said she has funds to
continue the education for a year,
thanks to the media coverage, but
once media coverage ends, the
help may also end.
“We will make sure it will not
happen,” Jain said.
Bard College, a small private
college, is 90 miles from New
York City. Katti, 18, is studying
psychology and plans to go back
to India after graduation to help
women in need. There are not many
Indians in the college. Only 16 students are
in her class.
At the EduCare event, which raised more
than $40,000 for EduCare’s projects in
India and the US, Shweta spoke about the
struggle she endured to achieve her dream
of education abroad.
New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra
Chivukula presented a State of New Jersey
Resolution to the EduCare management
recognizing its devotion and work for education. ‘Education is the greatest equalizer,’
he said, citing his own experience.
The nonprofit EduCare Foundation was
started by Jain and three of his friends in
1994 after a Jain monk told them to do
something for India’s children.
It has provided educational assistance to
over 20,000 children, including scholarships, books, uniforms, desks, blackboards
It supports children in 11 schools in nine
Indian states. EduCare volunteers work
with a committee of three teachers in each
The foundation also supports Bal Vidya
Niketan in Allahabad, where 60 children of
sex workers, widows and divorcees get
school supplies and uniforms every year.
Last year, EduCare started an educational assistance program in a preschool in
Piscataway, New Jersey, for computer education to nine needy children and has
added 8 children this year in Perth Amboy.
It also has a youth leadership program to
train high school students in community
At the event, Arvind Shah from the Ratna
Nidhi Charitable Trust of Mumbai
screened a documentary that showed the
impact of 30 scholarships sponsored by
EduCare on the lives of the children of the
victims of the November 2008 terrorist
Dr Subhash Jain displayed slides of the
hardship children have to endure every day
from their dunes and villages to attend the
Bal Academy located in Khichan in the
tribal areas of Rajasthan.
Drs Shantilal and Chandrkanta Lunia
also screened a documentary on a school
for 50 hearing and speech impaired chil-
dren that was completed last August in
“The presentations were eye open-
er for many,” Jain said. “They did not
know that such situation existed in
many parts of India. Food and trans-
portation are the two problems faced
by many students in rural areas. If
we could bring help in these two
areas, things would dramatically
The event included a peacock
dance by the Educare’s youth ambas-
sador Avani Jain of the Rutgers
University’s classical dance team;
Teen from Mumbai’s red-light district still needs help
dances by the students of the
Creations Dance Academy; a fashion
show; and songs by Rosemary Loar,
a veteran of six Broadway shows.
The program also honored youth
leaders including Shweta, Avani and
The US Army
Shweta Katti, second from left, at the EduCare event
;Page A62 US Army Captain Pratima Dharm, center, in sari, at the event.
November 29, 2013