By Noor Anand Chawla
Women, especially those who chose to pursue creative fields, have been side-lined for centuries. Therefore, in the present day, it is imperative to recognise, reward and celebrate their numerous and wide-ranging achievements. Anuradha Pal, Tabla Virtuoso, Percussionist,Composer and Educator, has taken on the mantle of doing so by instituting the annual Padmashri M. T. Vyas Stree Shakti Award to encourage young girls towards music, dance and social service.
Anuradha Pal began her career as a 9-year-old child prodigy and first generation musician, and thrives on constantly re-inventing herself and pushing the dimensions with experimentation. Through her decades-long practice, she has come to be known for her skilful artistry and energetic performances that are characteristic of her in-depth study mentored by her parents Ila and Devinder Pal. She is also credited as the creator of ‘Tabla Jugalbandi with herself’, India’s first all-female band ‘Stree Shakti’, the Sufi – Folk band called ‘SuFoRe’, and for numerous collaborations with leading Indian and international artists over the years.
“The whole cause of female empowerment is very close to my heart, catalysed by my own struggles as a first generation musician. Responding to the Covid pandemic, and the problems of women, especially the impoverished, poor, disabled, or widowed women, I launched the Stree Shakti URJA initiative where we distributed blankets, food rations, etc. Last year, I instituted an award to encourage young women towards music, dance and social service. This year, we received an overwhelming number of applications for it!” shares Pal with pride.
The award is dedicated to her grandfather Padmashri M. T. Vyas, a revered educationist and freedom fighter. This year’s award ceremony was held on Friday, December 17 on Zoom with a panel discussion on the subject of ‘Women Achievers Against all Odds’. The panel consisted of a number of luminaries from various fields including business, education, journalism, social service, arts and culture, who shared their valuable insights on this topic.
The eminent speakers for this panel discussion were pop diva Usha Uthup, IPS officer Dr Kiran Bedi, bhajan samrat Anup Jalota, BJP spokesperson Shaina NC, Dr A. L. Sharada, President of ICMEI Sandeep Marwah, FICCI Flo’s Rupa Patel, Maya Care UK’s Manjiri Gokhale, CEO of ShowCase Events Nanni Singh, educationist Dr Rajshree Trivedi, Sr. Vice President of Hungama Soumini Paul, founder LAJA Riddhi Doshi, educationist Dr Jaya Parekh, TV presenter Dr Shamoly Khera, NGO Trinayani’s Ritika Sahni, and DesiYUP’s Mahesvari Autar. The session was moderated by Lt. Col. A. Sekhar.
The well-attended virtual event began with Anuradha Pal’s screening of a movie dedicated to her grandfather Padmashri M. T. Vyas. This was followed by Usha Uthup’s impromptu performance of a beautiful song, “Yet mat kaho khuda se, meri mushkilein badi hai, yeh mushkilo se keh do, mera khuda bada hai”. Anuradha Pal joined her on the Kanjira. Eminent speakers shared advice and insight on breaking barriers as women, to an engaged audience.
The closure of the ceremony was marked by playing the anthem of the Women and Child Ministry of the Government of India.
Nanni Singh of ShowCase Events summed up the noble intentions of this award best by saying, “Women are multi-talented. All they need to do is harness their strength from within – that is my strongest appeal to every woman. That is true Stree Shakti.”
The winners of the Stree Shakti award were also declared at the occasion and they are:
1. Singer Misha Sharma
2. Bharatnatyam Dancer Kanak Narayan
3. Singer Manorma Pandey
4. Kathak Dancer Anamika Soni
This prestigious award carries a citation and a cash award to encourage and inspire more girls to enter the fields of Indian classical music and dance as well as social service. The awardsceremony can be streamed on Anuradha Pal’s YouTube channel.