Bay Area residents are quite familiar with Ray Mitra – if not personally then through the terrific Bollywood parties and cultural events his non-profit organization Induz organizes. Induz's mission has always been to use events to generate funds for deserving non-profits within the community and back in India. A significant part of the proceeds is donated to organizations like Sankara, Bring-a- Book Foundation and CRY. “Our tag line used to be ‘Great events, greater causes’,” says Ray.
After planning several successful events, it started bothering Ray that he and his fellow organizers could not see the use the funds generated were being put to. The non-profits supported by Induz were working in the necessary fields of health and education of underprivileged people and children in India, but Ray wondered if anything was being done to give these children exposure to the healing power of art and music. “Studies have shown that involving kids in art at a young age improves focus and concentration,” says Ray, who belongs to a family steeped in both performance and graphic art, “and it made sense for me to start a venture that would pay attention to this neglected area.”
It is a project with heart, a sentiment reflected in the new logo for Induz –“Where art meets heart.” The idea is to start a grassroots movement supporting arts education for kids who could not otherwise afford it.
Induz’s first project is ‘Tulika’(quill), an art program for kids in the sleepy forgotten town of Silghat in Assam, a northeastern state in India. Ray grew up in Silghat. “It used to be a bubbly little town 30-40 years ago,” he reminisces. The town was a stopover for people traversing the Brahmaputra River. When a bridge was built providing an alternative route, the town virtually died.
With the help of Salil Mitra, the Tulika project took off on the 23rd of June this year. Salil Mitra is the principal of the higher secondary school in the area. “Right now the society is ruining the youths in the area,” he says regretfully. “Art and music is in the heart of people. If their hearts are touched in the right way, they can be converted.”
The school has started with weekend classes for 20 children. Volunteers teach them their art ABC’s and the kids do freestyle art to start with. They are given a meal at school to encourage them to keep coming. The kids also learn folk dance.
“We received the initial funding from Induz,” says Salil Mitra. “With more funds we can expand the program. A little money goes a long way here.”
To get the Tulika project firmly established, Induz has planned a fusion music and dance concert in September called Kria. But Ray does not want to limit the scope of his dream. “My dream is to connect people and cultures through art. But it is a fact that art is the first casualty in any budget shortfall.” He hopes that by going mainstream he may be able to avoid the vicissitudes of fortune. He also plans to apply for grants supporting arts education.
Induz also plans to work on arts education for public schools in the Bay Area( talk about mainstream!). With an advisory board that boasts members like Anu Natarajan, Jose Estavez, Sucheta Kapuria(President of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce) and Sonali Bose( director of the award-winning film "Amu") there has been a lot of interest because this is one of the few projects that focuses on teaching and promoting art. As Ray puts it, “Food and language may be barriers but art is universal.”
Right now the focus is all on Tulika and Kria. If like Ray, you also believe that inculcating a love of art and feeding kids’ minds and souls is as important as feeding their bodies, all you have to do is head over to the Santa Clara Convention Center on September 20th and enjoy a night of performances by talented artists. Support Ray Mitra and the Induz team as they go off the beaten track in philanthropy.
You can also support the Tulika project directly here.