EKTA – “UNITY”
In March 2002, a group of 14 teenagers from the scheduled caste community of Ahmedabad began a project of hope, understanding, and transformation. EKTA (Unity in Hindi) was a 2-hour dance/drama choreographed by Mallika Sarabhai, which linked the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. The uniqueness of the project lies in the casting. Fourteen youth from the disadvantaged communities of India became powerful voices representing India, its culture and its people. EKTA toured the United States for three months, giving 25 full-scale performances and participating in exchange programs with nearly two- dozen American public and private schools. Their message of hope and unity rang loud and clear as the dance troupe traveled fro East Coast to West Coat. Schools and communities all across America welcomed these kids with open arms and enthusiasm. EKTA was about building human bridges.

Their names will always be familiar as brothers and sisters to me; Sandeep, Kiran, Ravi, Kamlesh, Barot, Upendra, Bharat, Meena, Parvati, Hemangani, Falguni, Deepika, Rina & Tejvanti. Voices from India. Voices for compassion and understanding.

Throughout the production of the EKTA tour, the world faced many challenges. September 11, 2001 changed the American landscape. Both the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots hit Gujarat with dismay. Throughout this two-year period, the message of EKTA was deepened and the show was conceptualized, choreographed, and produced.

The trip had many personal moments as well. At dinner with a wealthy Indian NRO in New Jersey, our artists were asked if they could have anything they want, what would it be? Without hesitation, young Bharat explained his appreciation for this opportunity and how he had many friends back in India whom he sought to help. In Culpeper, Virginia, the group visited the local volunteer Fire Department, spending time with the trucks and talking with the fireman. When Kamlesh realized that the men all were volunteers and not paid to fight fires, he was stunned. The idea of men risking their lives in a fire to save a life or property and do it voluntarily was great. In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the EKTA team visited a one-room Amish schoolhouse and took horse cart rides with local families. America is the land of plenty, of excess, yet this orthodox religious community maintains their culture. They are agrarian, live with no electricity, and no material possessions. The irony was that many of the EKTA team felt more ‘at home’ in the Amish schoolroom than the large urban schools.

EKTA was an experience for all those involved. Despite its initial critics, the show was a huge success.

In Peace,

Brad Baldwin,
Producer
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