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August 7, 1999
Spices for Education in New York
Alan Kravitz in New York
Much more than any other American city, it is in New York that Indian food and culinary tradition have been welcomed with great enthusiasm. New York has some of the most acclaimed Indian restaurants in North America, where the likes of Leonardo diCaprio have to wait for a table, as he did last year at Nirvana, along with his grandmother who was visiting him from Germany.
So it is no surprise then that to mark the 52nd anniversary of Indian Independence and raise funds for its children's educational causes in India, Asha for Education is presenting Spice Week '99. This is the first time an event of this nature is being offered in the city.
Asha, which is also collecting donations from people who are giving their hourly wage for a campaign that ends on August 16, is teaming up with some of the most prestigious Indian restaurants in New York City.
The Work an Hour campaign last year received $ 40,000 in donations and Asha hopes to beat that figure.
The Spice Week could lead to similar weeks in other major north American cities if the response in New York is encouraging.
The event starts on Sunday, August 15, and ends on Saturday, August 21. All proceeds will go towards promoting basic education for underprivileged children in India. The participating restaurants will each make a cash contribution to Asha at the end of Spice Week (the amount will vary according to the size of the restaurant).
From the classical South Indian food of Pongal to the Indo-American fusion of tabla, this celebration includes epicurean delights at nearly a dozen restaurants
"The event gives New Yorkers a chance to contribute to children's education in India by simply eating at one of these restaurants at no extra cost," says Arun Vadlamani, an Asha volunteer. "We [only] want the diners to tell the restaurants: 'We are here for Asha during Spice Week'."
Kumi Kalantri, owner of the restaurants Tiffin and Thali, notes: "This is the first time in New York City that we are having a celebration of this type. We are proud to present the great Indian cuisine and our traditional hospitality to all New Yorkers. It also makes me happy that all the proceeds will go towards children's education."
"We at Asha believe that education is the fundamental right of every child in the world. In organising Spice Week '99, we are not only increasing the awareness of Indian food in New York City but also furthering the cause of children's education in India," said Pankaj Gupta, a long-time volunteer of the NYC/NJ chapter.
Asha for Education is a zero-overhead group of dedicated volunteers from various walks of life. All donations to Asha are tax-deductible and go directly to the projects being supported in India.
Asha is a voluntary group comprising students and professionals with several chapters across the US. It was started at the University of California at Berkeley. It raises money in the US through cultural programmes and fundraisers to help support voluntary agencies in India that are directly involved in children's education.
The organisation says 100 per cent of the contributions made to Asha go to groups in India.
The New York City/New Jersey chapter of Asha was started five years ago by students from Columbia, Rutgers and Yeshiva universities. Asha-NYC/NJ currently supports four projects, in Anantapur (rural Andhra Pradesh), Calcutta, Nandgad (rural Karnataka), and Wynad (rural Kerala).
Participating restaurants: Nirvana, 30 Central Park South, 212-486-5700; Tabla, 11 Madison Avenue, 212-889-0667; Tiffin, 24 Murray Street, 212-791-3510; Bay Leaf, 49 W 56th Street, 212-957-1818; Surya, 302 Bleecker Street , 212-807-7770; Dawat, 210 E 58th Street, 212-355-7555; Café Spice, 72 University Pl, 212-253-6999; Thali, 28 Greenwich Avenue, 212-367-7411; Pongal, 110 Lexington Avenue, 212-696-9458; Saffron, 81 Lexington Avenue, 212 696 5130; Diwan Grill, 148 E 48th Street, 212-593-5425; Mallika, 210 E 43rd Street, 212-681-6775.
For more information, contact Arun Vadlamani, 973 793 7495, firstname.lastname@example.org; Surya Devarakonda, 973 781 8186, email@example.com; web site: www.spiceweek.com, or Asha for Education, PO Box 153, New York, NY 10040.www.ashanet.org.
Among the many Asha projects in India is the Kanpur project for migratory workers. Access to education is extremely difficult for children of poor migrant construction workers and agricultural labourers, given their migratory life and adverse socio-economic conditions.
To tackle such problems, Vijaya Didi and Asha India are operating centres in Kanpur to enrol 5- to 10-year-old children in formal schools and to provide non-formal education to those unable to attend schools.
In addition to basic literacy, vocational training will be provided for older children. A crèche for taking care of babies and education for the labourers, to increase their awareness of health, schooling, legal rights and democratic institutions, will also be undertaken.
Work an Hour funds will cover expenses for these centres for the next three years. Contact Sanjay Chandran, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address in the US: Asha for Education, Anthony Hall, University of California Berkeley, CA 94720; Co-ordinator in the US, D P Prakash, email@example.com; 802 655-8253.
Address in India: Asha for Education, A-893, Indira Nagar, Lucknow 226 016, UP co-ordinator, Dr Sandeep Pandey, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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