Sankara Nethralaya USA Activities - 2014

Ballet of Historic Epics fetch feast for eyes at Atlanta

Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust (SN OM Trust), in an effort to raise funds for the India based non-profitable eye institute Sankara Netralaya, conducted a mesmerizing Dance Festival in Atlanta, on November 16th, 2014. This dance festival featured a garland of fascinating mini ballets in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi styles and was presented by some of the most talented dancers from Atlanta. Atlanta’s famous Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center was the venue for this unique event.

The program consisted of 6 beautifully choreographed mini dance ballets. Dr. Ravi Sarma welcomed the donors and talked briefly about Sankara Nethralaya and the great eye care services provided by the same in India. Dr. Seshu Sarma introduced the Dance Ballet and welcomed the audience to the special invocation dance ballet “Swagatham”, beautifully choreographed by Bhavini Rajan of Samarpanam- School of Fine Arts. Sri Yellamraju, the MC for the evening, introduced the next dance ballet “Ganesha Pancharatnam”. Sri Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam was composed by Sri Adi Sankaracharya in the 8th Century. It is a sloka containing five passages on Lord Ganesha (Pancha) which are gems (Ratnam). Ganesha Pancharatnam was preceded by Mallari, an invocatory item, customarily performed when a deity is taken on a procession in the temples. This Dance Ballet was Choreographed by Smt. Revathi Ramachandran and Smt. Chandrika Chandran and presented by the students of Natyanjali Academy of Dance.

The next dance ballet for the evening was Kumara Sambhavam. This is based on an epic, written by Kalidasa, a great Sanskrit poet. This epic talks about the birth of Kumara (Karthikeya, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati), and his victory over the Demon Tarakasura. The casting for this dance ballet was exemplary. This ballet was choreographed by Smt. Revathy Komanduri of Sri Vani Dance Academy.

This was followed by the next item “Saptaswara Jhari”. Saptaswaras are the 7 notes. Jhari means, the flowing river. This ballet was written by Dr.Umaiyyunni and sung by Mastero Dr. Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna. This dance ballet was choreographed by the illustrious Siddarth and Padmaja Kelam and was presented by the students of Kalaivani dance academy. The fifth item for the event was “Siva Panchakshari”. “Namah Sivaya” is a supreme mantra containing 5 holy syllables (panchaaksharas). This ballet invoked and offered salutations to the Perfect God Siva. The audience was spell bound after watching this item. This magnificent item was choreographed by Sri. Sheejith Krishna and was presented by Nritya Sankalpa Dance Academy under the guidance and training by Smt. Savitha Viswanathan.

The last item for the evening was “Sitarama Kalyanam”. The story of Rama and Sita teaches us the three fold Dharma (code of conduct) pertaining to the individual, the family and the society. The Kalyana Utsavam is a symbolic unification of Shiva and Shakti-the Male and Female principles of universe, for the welfare of the community. This colorful ballet was picture perfect. The songs, music and the choreography blended in very well and enthralled the audience. This ballet was choreographed by Smt. Sasikala Penumarthy and was presented by the students of Academy of Kuchipudi Dance. This was followed by the traditional mangalam.

It was a feast to the eyes of the houseful audience to see all performers on stage. A standing ovation with a few minutes of continued applause at the end of the show was a true reflection of the immense appreciation of the audience. Everyone present was in awe and a collective feeling of having witnessed a classic presentation pervaded in the performing arts center. Dr. Sarma thanked all the volunteers and the donors who made this event possible.

The core team of Atlanta branch of SN OM Trust includes Dr. Seshu Sarma (Vice President and trustee), Moorthy Rekapalli (trustee), Ashok Kumar (Member), Sundar Sundararaghavan (Member), Uma Narayan (Member), Raj Rengarajan (Member), Meher Lanka (Member), Krishnadas Pisharodi (Member), Madhu Iyer (Member), Ram Mallappa (Member) and Bob Nayar (Member).

The theme and format of the program was conceived and designed by Dr. Seshu Sarma. The production team of Nritya Kadambam which includes Padma Rallapalli, Lakshmi VedalaSmitha, Yellamraju, Ravi Penumarthi, Mahesh Kommajosyula, Namrata Satuluri, Kamal Satuluri, Malathi Tadavarthi, Raghavababu Tadavarthi and Ramakanth Rallapalli, has put together one of its kind show. The donor response for this event was amazing. For the first time in USA, OM Trust has collected more than 52,000 dollars worth of donation for this noble organization in a single event. This cultural event has set the bar high and the organizers and the audiences are looking forward to many more such great events year after year.

Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust conducts a musical fundraiser

The mellifluous tunes of the Nadaswaram, India’s pride are so captivating that they are believed to have the mystical quality of enhancing the output of crops in the paddy fields and making cows produce more milk. The Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust organized a rare Nadaswaram concert by brothers Kala Saraswathy, Kalaimamani Kasim and Babu disciples and grandsons of the legendary Dr. Sheikh Chinna Moulana Saheb on August 17, 2014 at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple Auditorium, Lanham, MD. Shri Kasim and Shri Babu come from a traditional family of musicians with an unbroken and glorious history running to 300 years and are among the front ranking Nadaswaram artists in the world. The virtuoso performers are noted for both raga alapana and kirti rendering in gayaki style especially in Dhikshithar kirtis. The event was well attended by over 250 members. This is the first time that the Trust presented such a concert and the program was well appreciated and enjoyed by the audience. Mr. S. V. Acharya, President gave the welcome address and highlighted the issue of the visually impaired population in the Indian sub continent. Mr. K. G .Venkataraman, Executive Trustee explained the various donation plans and how the public can support this noble cause. The program concluded with a Vote of thanks by Mr. Shankar Iyer, Executive trustee, highlighting the versatility exhibited by the artists. The program succeeded in spreading the message of Sankara Nethralaya’s philosophy and commitment towards total eradication of blindness and the need to support its noble crusade, among the Indian population of the region.

Young Indian American sibling’s enthralling vocal concert takes compassion to “Lofty Heights”

The Srinivasans namely Shri Kumar Srinivasan a senior pharma professional and Srimathi Bhuvana Srinivasan a software programmer, settled for long in the Philadelphia area are great connoisseurs of Carnatic music, another common passion that the couple share is their empathy to Sankara Nethralaya’s cause and philosophy, hailing from Chennai they are well aware of Sankara Nethralaya’s contribution to the cause of eradicating blindness and hold Dr SS.Badrinath in high esteem. The noble couple are regular audience at the various Carnatic programs organized by the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust in the USA and donate liberally at these programs. Their common passion and empathy seemed to have had a positive impact on their daughter Sriranjani and son Nachikethan and like true chips of the old block the youngsters decided that their Vocal Arangetram to be held in India would be dedicated to Sankara Nethralaya’s noble cause of eradicating blindness and providing the light of life to the visually impaired.

The vocal Arangetram of Sriranjani and Nachikethan, sishyas of Smt. Kiranavali Vidyasankar the renowned vocalist and initiator of “Lofty heights’ an initiative to foster awareness, interest and a lifelong involvement in Indian performing arts and culture particularly in the Philadelphia area was held under the auspices of Vidwan Srimushanam Sri Raja Rao and Cleveland Sri V.V. Sundaram at the Music Academy Mini hall, Chennai. Handbills on the programme exhibited prominently in the venue making an earnest appeal to the audience to donate towards the cause of providing cost free eye care to indigent patients by Sankara Nethralaya had a spontaneous effect and raised a handsome amount as donation.

Highly touched by the thoughtful gesture of a young girl barely in her teens and her bubbly younger brother, Dr. SS.Badrinath met the Srinivasans with their children at the Sankara Nethralaya main campus where a beaming and jubilant Sriranjani handed over the proceeds collected at the Arangetram directly to him. He spent quality time with the young ambassadors of his cherished cause, enquiring about their studies, their special interest and goals for the future, he expressed his high appreciation to the young performers and presented them with a copy of “Insight” the biography of the institution they had raised funds for. Speaking to the corporate communication department after the meeting, young Sriranjani expressed that instances of glaucoma in the family and the pioneering role of Sankara Nethralaya in this field about which she learnt from her father prompted her to do something towards its cost free community Eye care services.

Sankara Nethralaya showcased in two major US events

As part of its ongoing efforts towards spreading the good word about Sankara Nethralaya by gaining a larger mind space and foothold among the Indian milieu in the USA, the SN OM Trust the fund raising arm of Sankara Nethralaya participated in two immensely popular events among its target audience, the annual conference of the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) and the “India Abroad” “Person of the year” ceremony. Participation at the FeTNA 2014 held at the Chaifety Arena, Saint Louis, Missouri State on 20th June 2014 helped in reaching out the Sankara Nethralaya newsletter to 5000+ members of the association across the USA and the one page appeal made in the souvenir released on the occasion to 1,400 members who attended the conference. In-depth presentation of Sankara Nethralaya’s history, growth, philosophy, goals, achievements in various areas and a fervent appeal to donate were made by Mr. Nahush and Mr. Vikram good friends and well wishers of the institution and Dr Robert Churchill from the University of Missouri, Sankara Nethralaya’s partner in collaborative research. SN OM Trust member Singer Prabhu’s mellifluous voice and crisp appeal won many hearts from the 1,400 strong audience and assurances to organize charity shows for Sankara Nethralaya’s cause from more than 10 Sangam presidents present at the venue.

Participation in the high profile ‘Person of the Year’ award ceremony conducted by and “India Abroad’ helped in showcasing Sankara Nethralaya to a large gathering of high profile and high net worth Indians gathered at the “The Pierre- A Taj Hotel’ at New York for the high power event. While the screening of the appeal made by Shri Amitabh Bachchan’ at the venue took Sankara Nethralaya’s story to the large gathering at the venue, the interview of Dr SS.Badrinath published in the special issue of ‘India Abroad’ reached out to its large reader base. The SN OM trust would also get 6 pages of advertisement space in the ‘India Abroad’ paper for year 2014 under the agreement of participation in the event.

Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust Inc, USA reaches its message across to the youth of the nation

The Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust as part of its ongoing efforts towards reaching out and educating the public on Sankara Nethralaya and its mission and objectives and raising funds in the USA for its community ophthalmology initiatives in India, sponsored the immensely popular inter-collegiate dance competition organized by MAYURI on the 1st of March 2014 at the University of Maryland HOFF Theater. The performances were of a very high order and the entire event was organized most professionally. The event helped the Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust to reach out to a gathering of more than 400 people comprising students from John Hopkins, Rutgers, UT, Georgia Tech, Tuft, University of Pitts, Emory and the College of NJ, their friends and family members. The SN OM Trust booth registered good footfall and the visitors were given a detailed account about Sankara Nethralaya, its philosophy, goals and objectives, role of the SN OM Trust after which an appeal for financial assistance was made. The collateral materials displayed at the venue, the detailed video presentation and a brief talk by Shri S.V Acharya, Founder & President, Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust played a major role in the visitors getting a firsthand knowledge about the institution and its march towards Banishing blindness.

The Madras Round Table – 1 reiterates its commitment to eradicating blindness in the country

The Madras Round Table -1 and its illustrious member Shri Arvind Swami are no new faces to the Sankara Nethralaya family, the service organization and its large hearted member have been old friends of the institution and have been consistently supporting its cause for many years. The Madras Round Table -1 celebrated its 55th glorious years of service by sponsoring 55 Cataract surgeries in year 2012. Shri Arvind Swami and Shri Manu Wassan, Chairman Madras Round Table 1 accompanied by a few Tablers visited Sankara Nethralaya on the 5th of March 2014 and made a generous donation towards performing Cataract surgeries in the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU). Speaking on the occasion Shri Arvind Swami had a high word of praise for Sankara Nethralaya’s pioneering and innovative initiative of taking high quality eye care right to the door steps of the poor and indigent patients living in remote areas, patients who cannot afford to make a trip to a base hospital. He reminisced his carefree visits to Sankara Nethralaya straight from school and time spent at the open space where the imposing research center stands now. He expressed that it was a pleasure and privilege to be of service to an institution in whose inception his late Father Shri VD.Swami played a major role. Shri Swami closed his talk with an assurance that the Madras Round Table 1 would endeavour to sponsor an outdoor eye camp every year. Speaking on the occasion Shri Manu Wassan observed that it was an honour to share the dais with Dr SS.Badrinath and added that the amount being donated by the Madras Round Table 1 would go towards sponsoring the cost of conducting 90 surgeries to be performed over a week.

The Mobile Eye Surgical unit, jointly developed by Sankara Nethralaya and IIT-Madras, has conducted over 800 surgeries since December 14, 2011. The camp sponsored by the MRT-1 will be held at Alangayam village in Vellore district between April 1 and June 23, 2014.

Quality eye care rolls by road to the closed communities of rural Tamil Nadu

The Mobile Eye Surgical Unit, Sankara Nethralaya’s operation theatre on wheels took off on yet another sojourn of relief and care to the underprivileged citizens living in the backward and interiors pockets of the State. The Outdoor Eye Care team comprising of Dr P.S. Rajesh, Senior Consultant, V.Sivakumar, Administrator, Jaslok Community Ophthalmology Center, Shri Chandra Kumar, Social worker, Shri Padmanabhan, Driver of the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit and Shri Venkatraman, Operation Theatre Assistant left for Vettavelam and Udayarpalayam two interior hamlets located on the Villupuram-Tiruvannamalai route on the 26th of January 2014. The outdoor eye care team was received with overwhelming enthusiasm and cheer by the local populace suffering from lack of access to quality eyecare in both hamlets. The screening camp at Vettavelam was supported by the Sai Trust and Shri Manigandan a local political functionary, a total of 419 patients were screened between the 26th of January to the 3rd of February and 43 patients diagnosed with Cataract were operated upon at the MESU. The post operative screening was completed on the 5th of February and the relief crew left for Udayarpalayam its next port of call on the evening of the same day.

The Udayarpalayam camp had a special significance for the Sankara Nethralaya team as the Mahaperiyava of Kanchi had camped here, worshipped at the local Shiva Temple and performed Tapas at the dhyana mandapam located at the centre of the temple tank by reaching it on a motorized raft. The camp was actively supported by the Zamindar of Udayarpalayam a man held in high esteem and love by the local people and the mobile surgical units were parked from the 6th to the 14th of February at the land provided by him for the purpose. In keeping with the dictum that when you do a good thing you would find support coming from many quarters, Shri Subramanian a member of the Lion’s Club and local resident provided excellent food and refreshments to the entire eye care team for the entire period of the camp. A total of 476 people were thoroughly examined between the 6th and 8th of February and surgeries were performed on 95 patients between the 9th to the 13th of February followed by postoperative examination on the 14th of February.

The camp conducted in these two places captured the spirit of the Mobile eye Surgical Unit by taking eye care to people who had little or no interaction with the outside world beyond the limits of their town and practically no access to health care, a good portion of the youth in these villages had migrated outside of the village in search of livelihood and many of the patients did not have escorts to take them back to their homes post surgery, the Sankara Nethralaya team rose to the occasssion by arranging transport and personally escorting such patients to their homes. Service to mankind is said to be service to God and the camp provided the team with the rare opportunity of offering worship at the local temple and the Maragatha Lingam not known to many in the outside world. The overwhelmed locals in both villages thanked the doctor and the team for the great gesture of binging quality eye care right to their door step and bringing the light of life back into their lives, they made an emphatic appeal to the team to explore the possibility of having a screening facility right at their village around the year which could refer patients needing surgery to the base hospital at Chennai. The highlight of the camp was that the post operative examination conducted in both the camps indicated zero complication and a jubilant and highly fulfilled mobile eye care team returned with great memories of the picturesque villages, the Zamindar’s old palace, worshipping at the local temple and the great opportunity of being able to bring back vision to the simple village folk.

Asian American Resource Centre, Austin, Texas honours an old friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya

In what could be a fitting 70th year anniversary gift to a man who has given his best to the country of his birth and the country he chose to make his second home, the prestigious Asian American Resource Centre honoured Shri Sam Sockalingam Kannappan an old friend of Sankara Nethralaya and a driving force of the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust as a "pioneer in software for engineering and an early leader of the Indian Houston Community" in a photo exhibit titled 'History of Indo-Americans in Texas' tracing the genesis of early Asian settlers and their contribution to the State. The photo exhibit on display included a wonderful photograph of the young Kannappans with their little children, a picture of the imposing Rajagopuram of the Sri Meenakshi Temple at Pearland, Texas which he strived hard to establish and served as Founder Secretary and a current photograph of this most prominent American Indian.

Sankara Nethralaya and the Sankara Nethralaya Ophthalmic Mission Trust express their hearty Congratulations to Shri Sam Kannappan for receiving one more decorative feather to his glorious cap.

Seeds of effort sown by OM Trustee bear fruit

The American Association for Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) has been a long time friend of Sankara Nethralaya and a supporter of its cause. The members of the Long Island chapter of the AAPI responded most generously to a presentation of Sankara Nethralaya’s future plans and cost free community ophthalmology initiatives and earnest appeal for funds to support the same made by Sankara Nethralaya OM Trustee and a member of the AAPI Dr Rajendra Modi some time back and dispatched a check collected from its members to him. Readers may remember that the AAPI had made a similar donation to the SN OM Trust through the good doctor last year too.

A group of Dallas Indians get a melodious introduction to Sankara Nethralaya

Members of the Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust organized a light music program at the Metroplex Tamil Sangam (MTS) Dallas, on 22nd Dec. 2013, as part of ongoing efforts towards popularizing Sankara Nethralaya and creating awareness on its philosophy and services. OM Trust Trustees Mr. Santhanam Mullur and Mr.Singer Prabhu gave a detailed talk on the activities of Sankara Nethralaya, especially its service to the indigent and how everyone can participate in contributing to that cause. Mr.Singer Prabhu and Ms Shruthi reiterated these views again during the music program. Mr. Paul Pandian an ardent supporter of Sankara Nethralaya is now Advisor to the MTS and has offered to help wherever he can. This event is the first one OM Trust is doing with MTS and we hope to do this again during 2014. Some donations were received on the spot and some patrons bought copies of ‘Insight’ the biography of Sankara Nethralaya.

Sankara Nethralaya and the SN OM Trust take this opportunity join hands in expressing their since gratitude to Mr.Singer Prabhu, Ms Sahana and Ms Shruthi for their efforts and dedication towards the cause of Sankara Nethralaya.