By Vidya Pradhan
Manjula Gupta is no stranger to philanthropy. Once a software entrepreneur in the valley, she became involved with the American India Foundation (AIF) in its nascent years. As a volunteer Chair for the India Community Center, she worked to bring the community together by starting programs such as the weekly karaoke club. In the course of her varied experiences, she tapped into the rich vein of philanthropy that runs through the successful Indian American community in the Bay Area. “There are so many Indian Americans doing amazing work,” she says. “I found that there was a need to give them a platform.”
When the mayor of Milpitas approached her to start a community based program, she found her calling. “Chai with Manjula”, a TV show focusing on Indian American good Samaritans, now airs in 11 cities throughout the area.( More cities are being added.)
The format is simple. Manjula invites local philanthropists and members of non-profit organizations to come and do a free-form interview on her show. Over a cup of tea, her guests talk about their organization and its goals. This gives the charities the exposure they need to highlight their cause. The show creates archived footage that the charities can use for publicity and promotion at other times.
Every aspect of “Chai…” is produced by Manjula – from the editing to the sound mixing to titles to music composition. She has taught herself the various aspects of TV production and uses the Comcast studio in Milpitas.
One of her first shows was about the Sangati Center, a nonprofit community center focused on providing an intimate venue for un-amplified performances of Indian classical music. After the show aired and the footage was posted on the website, Sangati Center’s event posted a record turnout. “It was a gratifying feeling to be able to help,” says Manjula.
“This is probably the only show of its kind for the community,” says Manjula. “The Indian American community is known for its professional success but we are also a community that gives back in so many different ways. Just like our reach, our responsibilities are also global. My show is about documenting this legacy for the future generations.”
Manjula’s latest project is “Sing for a Cause.” She organizes music parties at her home or other locations where a cause is highlighted. Guests are under no pressure to donate. It is just a forum to learn about worthy charities and listen to pleasant music performed by accomplished local artists. The first such event, organized on June 7th was a huge success. Over a 100 guests attended the invitation-only event. More than 20 singers, including some of the top Bay Area artists participated, and the cause promoted was the Sankara Eye Foundation.
Another initiative in the works is “Pick a Cause” an annual event starting early next year. Several organizations representing worthy causes are to be invited and featured under one roof, enabling guests to learn about a wide range of initiatives, and pick a cause that they would like to support.