Dancing for a cause

Dancing for a cause

A tragedy usually stirs the human spirit to do things out of the ordinary, heroic or philanthropic. The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust is one such organization, set up in the aftermath of the terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008.

Set up in December that year, the trust is dedicated to helping the families of people who fall victim to natural calamities and honouring those who’ve shown courage in life-threatening situations, especially the unsung heroes of the Armed Forces. On 10 September, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi, in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, will host a charity ball to raise money for the families of martyrs.

“There is a singular thought behind this fund-raising ball—to honour those who die fighting on the borders or have been injured. There are a lot of foundations working for the girl child, the underprivileged, the sick, but an equally big concern that is not heard of or spoken about much is that of war heroes. It’s such a quantum of tragedy that the family has to deal with. What happens to the wife, the child or the family of those who die serving the country?" says Taljinder Singh, general manager, Taj Palace Hotel.

The evening will begin with a welcome ceremony by mounted cavalry. Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik will present a ballad based on the story of a soldier. There will be a performance by Sydney-based band Hypnosis, and of course the ball, wining and dining.

A table for eight can be booked for Rs1 lakh and above, which includes food, drinks and all the events planned for the evening. But guests who don’t wish to make a payment at the outset can host a table and invite their family and friends. After the event, they will be given a donor form and each guest can contribute any amount they feel is right.

“We’re inviting guests to make their contributions. We will then seek the assistance of the Armed Forces to identify beneficiaries, and the disbursement of funds will be completely monitored by the trust," says Deepak Bhatia, who heads the trust.

Among those the trust is helping is former National Security Guard commando Naik Manesh, who was wounded in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, and left paralysed. The Shaurya Chakra awardee is undergoing Ayurvedic treatment for his condition, and reimbursement of those medical bills does not fall under the benefits he receives from the Armed Forces.

Speaking about the trust, Bhatia says: “We work in two ways. There is short-term immediate relief work, like providing medicines and food supplies, etc., and long-term programmes that include building sustainable rehabilitation solutions or giving vocational and hospitality training to youth to make them employable. The Taj group itself has some 100-plus companies, so we train people to either employ them in a Taj company or any other organization they’d like to join."

The first project the trust worked on was helping the victims of the 26/11 attacks. “When a poor family’s earning member is taken away or disabled in some way, it adversely affects the whole family. Children get affected the most, as they are pulled out of schools to save that expenditure," says Bhatia. The trust supported 108 schoolchildren, 60 young people were given hospitality training, and 55 of them were absorbed at the Taj properties.

In August 2010, the trust worked in villages in Ladakh following a cloudburst. “The fields of farmers were covered in tonnes of debris. We helped to remove that with the help of local construction companies, and also started a cash-for-work programme, where locals could help to remove the debris and we paid them daily wages," says Bhatia.

While natural calamities is one of the areas the trust works in, supporting soldiers and their families is a cause they feel deeply about.

Bhatia points out that apart from what the Armed Forces and the government do, more help is always needed.

The Taj Palace Black Tie Charity Ball is scheduled for 7pm on 10 September at Durbar Hall, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi. To make reservations, call 9999001669.