Diwali Dinner raises funds to feed Indian schoolchildren


The event: Sunday’s Diwali Dinner was an early celebration of the Hindu festival of lights, beginning this year on Oct. 23. Honoring entrepreneur Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, the affair benefited Akshaya Patra, meaning the Unending Bowl, which provides hot meals daily to 1.4 million schoolchildren in India.

The scene: Strings of lights twinkled overhead from the palm trees to the patio at Vandana and Ravi Tilak’s new residence in Palos Verdes, where guests gathered for the dinner under the stars. “Anybody who has walked through my house will find it’s completely empty,” said Vandana Tilak. “We just got this house six days ago and this has got to be the best housewarming ever.”

Oct. 6, 3:23 p.m.: Director Shekhar Kapur’s first name was misspelled as Shakhar in an earlier version of this post.

The program: A trio of dancers -- Ankita Bordoloi, Shikha Kumar and Deeya Kumar -- burst onto the stage to start the festivities. Soloist Vinaini Jayasinghe performed the final dance, and in between, there were remarks by Deshpande; special guest Manish Dayal, star of “The Hundred-Foot Journey”; Shekhar Kapur, director of “Elizabeth”; author Mallika Chopra, daughter of Deepak Chopra; and others.

The crowd: Among event sponsors were Pushpa and B.U. Patel, Rika and Manu Shah, Radhika and Ravi Achar, Kalpana and Mayur Patel, Raju and Philo Chhabria, Gregory Milken, Lowell Milken and Dulari Amin.


Quotes of note: Deshpande spoke of “excellence, prosperity and shared prosperity,” former President Clinton’s visit last July to the organization’s kitchen in Jaipur, and the responsibility of sharing prosperity “to keep hope alive.”

Said Kapur: “In the act of giving, those who receive are giving you far more than you’re giving them -- because they’re giving you value for your lives.”

“Let us not forget the top of the pyramid is supported by the bottom of the pyramid,” he added. “You cannot keep the pressure of the top of the pyramid so heavy that the bottom of the pyramid just explodes.”

The numbers: Combining tickets, which began at $500, tables ranging up to $50,000 and additional contributions, the event, attended by 200 guests, raised $500,000.

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