Last Thursday, the resplendent Lansdowne Club, in the heart of Mayfair, played host to the India Youth Fund (IYF) Charity Gala, in what was a stunning celebration of Diwali, as well as the introduction of the IYF to the UK. We were fortunate enough to be invited by Padmini Sekhsaria and the Narotam Sekhsaria Family Office to cover the spectacular evening of festivities, alongside learning about the fantastic work of the IYF.
On entering the coveted Mayfair establishment, the atmosphere fizzed with anticipation and joviality at the prospect of the evening ahead. Greeted by David Herbert, the CEO of The Lansdowne Club, alongside a champagne reception, and many guests dressed in striking traditional Indian outfits, the famed elegance of W1 was a spectacle for all. As over 150 celebrated guests from across the globe and the Indian diaspora convened, conversations began, the hum filling the club's magnificent ballroom; the evenings merriment began.
CEO of The Lansdowne Club, David Herbert with Will Tomalin & Luke Brown
Once the customary greetings had been completed, speeches commenced, serving as both formal introductions to the guests, and most importantly describing the crucial work that the IYF undertakes, as well as familiarising everyone with the significance of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light. Listening to Padmini Sekhsaria, her family and representatives of the IYF, it was incredible to hear about the vast, positive impact that the charity is having on the most deprived children in India’s slums.
Established to support Indian youths aged between 12-17, who live in desperate conditions within the slums of India’s major cities, the IYF is focused on ensuring that they can break free from the cycle of poverty. The vast majority of children in these areas drop out of school before Year 9, meaning their access to higher education, and ultimately better economic opportunities are almost non-existent; thus the cyclical nature of deprivation ensues.
Alongside their partner, the Salaam Bombay Foundation, the IYF helps slum children to complete their schooling, safeguarding their future prospects, which translates into them finding higher earning jobs and opportunities. Since its inception, the charity has been highly effective, with 98% of their students finishing school, and a further 87% pursuing higher education.
The IYF is a genuine catalyst for change. Their success story to date is prodigious, and with their work being formally introduced to the UK through the Gala, there is reason to be sanguine that the IYF will be at the forefront, leading the campaign to assure slum children of a bright, optimistic future. It was this message that shone through, and intertwined with the overriding meaning of Diwali, that light overcomes darkness, the whole evening was a perfect osmosis in which guests could celebrate in the knowledge that they were helping the IYF realise its fundamental mission.
As the speeches drew to a close, the music struck up, and we were treated to a wide variety of Indian infused songs. A dazzling performance from the Mumbai-based band, Filmytronix boomed around the grand ballroom, and there was a hubbub of chatter and activity. Many flocked to see Krunal Tailor, the world renowned Henna artist, and have their hands decorated in the beautiful, ornate artistry. Others perused the extravagant array of silent auction items. Naturally the bars were teeming, people eager to try the fruits of mixologists gracefully shaking Indian inspired cocktails. The ballroom awash with enjoyment and delight.
Then the casino opened. The excitement ramped up a level, not to mention that it was a brilliant opportunity to dig into the wallets and donate to the IYF. In true Diwali spirit, where games are played, especially those with a little risk involved, any fortune that one finds bodes well for the year ahead! Roulette, black jack, poker and craps, there was plenty of choice for those feeling lucky. As you may expect, spots at each table were rapidly filled, with many hoping to hold the most chips at the end of the night. Conversation, laughter and the odd dash of business chatter flowed around the tables, as people celebrated and cursed their winnings and losses.
Award-winning DJ Irf later took his place on stage and began his electriying set. People took to the floor to indulge in dancing, energy pulsating, and everyone enjoying the evening's swansong with absolute rapture. It is fair to say that everyone was treated to a breath-taking Diwali celebration, a non-stop flow of entertainment, and all in the name of a charity that is helping Indian slum children find real prosperity and opportunity.
To find out more about the India Youth Fund, click here.