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HeartNotes2019, an initiative by Heartfulness, invigorates academia with the launch of new youth programs.

By Mahadev Desai and Viren Mayani
Images by Digital Touch International

The Atlanta Chapter of the Heartfulness Institute (a non-profit focused on Meditation and Wellness) launched on June 30, 2018, has stepped up the ante in less than a year, by launching two youth programs targeted to improve static academic curricula. They will benefit young people, especially with mental health, at a time when we now have a global crisis borne out of stress, mental fatigue and self-imposed severe competition, culminating in a record of number of suicidal deaths.

Heartfulness Institute is a global organization with over 10,000 certified Heartfulness volunteer trainers serving more than two million meditators in 130 countries, supported by the Heartfulness Guide, Kamesh Patel, also known as Daaji.

The “HeartNotes 2019 - Help Our Youth” fundraising gala at the Signature Ballroom, in Suwanee, GA, was graced by over 500 attendees, with the presence of two noted Bollywood personalities, actors Omi Vaidya and Radhika Apte. The title sponsor was 27th Investments and the event raised approximately $100,000 for the well-being of youth.

Chosen fashion items and The Heartfulness Way book were displayed and available for sale in the ballroom’s foyer, along with abundant food items. The inside of the Ballroom was filled with round tables complete with white linen, and each seat had a HeartNotes pamphlet describing the program. The broad stage had lovely ambient lighting and two large screens adorned each side of the stage so that all the guests could see well. Despite initial sound management and video display difficulties, the audio-video was crisply delivered for the rest of the program.

After the buffet lunch, the program started with MC Rajen Sheth, CEO of Boardwalk Development Group, and Neha Negandhi, Founder/CEO of Social Measures Consulting, freelance writer and social change organizer based in Atlanta.

California born and now famous Bollywood personality, Omi Vaidya, is most favorably remembered as Chatur Ramalingam in the 2009 Bollywood film, 3 Idiots, starring Aamir Khan in the lead. Performing the opening act for the event, and famous for his straight-faced comedy, Omi Vaidya is a graduate of the NYU School of Arts and a known Hollywood and Bollywood actor, director, writer and TV presenter. He spoke in his favorite mix of “chaste” Hindi and English.

During his hilarious standup comedy act, he made a lighthearted comparison between Bollywood and Hollywood films: “The former is just like a Hollywood film. Take a Hollywood film, remove all reason and logic, insert MTV style random music, take any idea and put Salman in it!” He began by joking about the hyphenated ethnicity: we could not be American Indians, as Christopher Columbus stole our identity by naming the Native American Indians, and thus the Indian Diaspora became the Indian-Americans. In his Chatur-like Hindi delivery, Omi concluded with his appeal to the audience, “Dhan sab chuupake rakhte hai lekin Heartfulness ko aapka dhan dena hi padega”. With thunderous laughter breaking out in the audience, he claimed his time was up but that he would return for another segment later.

Entrepreneur and CEO of MSys Technologies, Sanjay Sehgal addressed the gathering next. Sanjay is also a longtime Heartfulness meditator and trainer of the Institute. He introduced the HELP program conducted by Heartfulness Education Trust via a short video and a presentation. He gave an insightful talk on the alarming suicide epidemic and the laudable efforts of Heartfulness tackling it.

“I am part of the Heartfulness Education Trust, which was formed a few years ago by our Guide, Daaji. The current academic curriculum needs changing. Due to the demands of multi-tasking and other distractions, our youth is experiencing anxiety, depression, fear of failure, and fear of not being able to cope with peer pressure. This leads to suicides. The current suicide epidemic is a silent killer. The World Economic Forum has stated that the biggest epidemic of the 21st Century is mental distress. About 700 million people are suffering from some kind of mental disorder, resulting in a staggering number of 800,000 suicides, 75% of which are by youth before they reach the age of 24, and 50% before the age of 14. Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally.

“To cope with this alarming epidemic, Daaji decided to implement a holistic program, bringing the heart into the current curriculum, engaging the mind and body, and helping young students to transition into adulthood with the right life-skills. HELP (Heartfulness – Experience Life’s Potential) is a 16-week certificate course for intermediate students on life skills and values. It includes universal values, Yoga, exercise and meditation, to help develop positive lifestyle habits.

Meditation is the most important aspect in the program as it brings inner transformation. In the first year, the HELP program influenced 57,000 students and in the second year over 331,000 in 1500 schools in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in India. He declared the success of the program by a heartening drop in the total number of suicides. “Our target is 2.5 million students by 2024. This program can be implemented in any country. Making a fervent appeal for support, he said, “HELP has given me a way to do something about this epidemic and make a difference. You can do that too. The HELP program costs us $1 per year for every student so you can serve about 365 students for a year by with the commitment of only $1 a day. You can sign up for the $1 per day program via recurring donations at http://heartnotes.events. You can also make a one-time donation.

One of the seasoned Atlanta trainers, Anuhuya Bhaskara, gave the attendees a short introduction to the holistic BRIGHTER MINDS program practiced at HET. Brighter Minds enhances the observation and cognitive functions, i.e. the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses. It is an 8-week training course for children between the ages of 5 and 15 years. As of today, Brighter Minds has a global presence spanning 13 countries with more than 500 learning centers, 800 trainers, and 15,000 children trained. She invited 12-year old Lakshman on stage, who gave a short demonstration while blindfolded, wherein he identified the colors of balls by telekinesis, and also read out words written by the audience on pieces of paper. He also solved a rubik’s cube within record time to resounding applause.

MC Neha warmly welcomed Radhika Apte on her first trip to Atlanta. A native of Tamil Nadu and brought up in Pune, Radhika has acted in theatre, on TV and in more than 40 movies. She can be seen on Netflix in Padman, Sacred Games, Lust Stories, just to name a few.

Radhika shared insights from her personal and professional life with Neha in a chat format.

Atlanta’s two leading luminaries, Professor Jagdish Sheth and Subash Razdan, were felicitated with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Professor Sheth has been teaching marketing for the past 56 years, is a prodigious author of over 40 books, and 600 whitepapers, and is on the boards of several public and private companies. He is a compelling speaker. After expressing his thanks for the recognition, he said, “This Award is meaningful for me for three reasons: First, the Cause is very important. It is sad that we have no time to share anything together. We have no time to bond with each other. Loneliness creates depression and escapism through drugs and other vices. People are living in a virtual world. Ultimately they take their own lives. So the cause is the main reason for accepting this Award. Two,
the Heartfulness volunteers are incredible, professional people who believe strongly in the cause. I believe that no organization runs well without strong volunteers who are dedicated to the mission and the cause. The third reason is more personal. I think it is the first time I am getting an award with the introduction given by my own son, Rajen! Thank you all.

Subash Razdan, the other recipient has also received the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman 2013 Award, the highest award given by the Government of India for NRIs. He was given that award for outstanding public service. He is a longtime resident in Atlanta. Razdan is chairman and co-founder of the Gandhi Foundation of USA (GFUSA) and former President of IACA. Razdan thanked the Heartfulness Institute for the Award and said, “I would like to congratulate Professor Jagdish Sheth for his recognition. I feel blessed to receive this award in his company. The presentations here have been very inspiring as they are about empowering youth with a lot of dignity. My congratulations to the organizers for an amazing sold out performance. On behalf of the Gandhi Foundation of USA I would like to assure your organization and team of volunteers that we will partner with you and walk the last mile with you. As far as the award goes, it is very humbling. It is with gratitude that I am sharing this award with my team at GFUSA for always being there. I would further like to recognize GA’s media. And last but not least my deep thanks to my family, friends and my wife Raj.

Rina Gupta, Public Relations Director of the sponsor, 27th Investment, commented, “Let me congratulate Heartfulness Institute on their fundraising gala for the promotion of mental health. 27th Investment is excited to be part of this effort. I would also like to congratulate Subash Razdan and Professor Jagdish Sheth for their well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Awards. A hearty welcome to Omi Vaidya and Radhika Apte to the City of Atlanta. Finally, my strong appeal to you all to support Heartfulness Institute and save lives.”

The silent auction of paintings, jewelry and other items helped raise funds. Kudos to the many generous donors and sponsors, who rose to the occasion and helped the Heartfulness Institute to tackle the growing suicide epidemic. The well-orchestrated team effort of Heartfulness’ courteous organizers and volunteers was evident once again at this event, as they extended warm hospitality to all attendees. Kudos for making it a seamless, heart-lifting and memorable event.


' Jun-24-2019