Akshaya Patra celebrates its billionth meal with music and hope
On August 5, 2012, The Akshaya Patra Foundation celebrated serving of its billionth meal. The celebration took place in Bangalore in the presence of a host of government functionaries, corporate representatives, and philanthropists who have been associated with Akshaya Patra. The highlight of the event was the announcement that Shankar Mahadevan will henceforth be the Goodwill Ambassador for Akshaya Patra and spread its message across the world.
Madhu Pandit Dasa, The chairman of Akshaya Patra, who talked about the importance of the evening said, “The child who had our billionth meal might not have understood the significance of that meal in particular but for the organisation this milestone is worth a celebration.”
The founding member of Akshaya Patra, Mohan Das Pai inspired the audience with his speech on the issue of hunger within India. He railed against the status quo citing India as the world’s largest democracy, a growing economic power, and yet hunger affects over 40% of her children. Like the other speakers Pai maintained that this organization is the only one of its kind that does not want to exist in future because it envisions a future that does not require it. In the following speech, Infosys Technologies Chairman Emeritus N R Narayana Murthy said that this was a unique position for an NGO and he appreciated their sole desire to end hunger. He also suggested that Akshaya Patra should expand its efforts to provide breakfast in addition to the mid-day meal.
Akshaya Patra celebrated the achievements of the children who benefited from the mid-day meal programme. C J Karthik, an aspiring doctor who achieved admission to Bangalore Medical College & Research Institute and Savitha B, who attained the 9th rank in the Karnataka State Board 10th grade public examination were felicitated at the event. An announcement of scholarship for their respective higher education was made on the occasion.
Akshaya Patra’s Vice Chairman, Sri Chanchalapati Dasa gave a brief speech thanking the ardent supporters of Akshaya Patra who helped the organisation achieve the milestone of the billionth meal.
Shankar Mahadevan and the well known lyricist Javed Akhtar had composed a beautiful anthem, for the organisation, which was debuted at the event. After singing the song, Shankar began his musical treat and set the crowd clapping and cheering with every verse. Two moments stand out from the rest. The first came when Shankar singled out Sudha Murthy Chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, who revealed herself to be a major fan, to sing the song “Señorita” from the Bollywood film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. The second moment came when Shankar brought out a group of adorable students to sing a song from another Bollywood movie Taare Zameen Par.
Akshaya Patra staff provided a sample mid day meal for the attendants to appreciate along with the dinner. As the evening wound down and guests began to head home, it was hard not to find a smile. This was hardly a surprise given the quality of the music, the authority of the speakers, and perhaps most importantly the message of hope for the future.