Bollywood concert at Trafalgar Square, for the cause of widows

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : He’s had global personalities, businessmen and humanitarians from across the world standing with him in his fight for the cause of poor widows and their children. The latest to join Britain-based social entrepreneur Raj Loomba’s fraternity is the glitterati of Bollywood, who will be coming together for a Bollywood concert at the Trafalgar Square in London June 23.

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Supporting 3,600 children of poor widows and 500 children who have been victim to the tsunami in India and carrying on similar work in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Nepal and Ghana, Loomba has had support streaming in from all quarters since the past 10 years of its existence.

The Bollywood fraternity is the latest to join in the cause.

“Bollywood is a strong medium to spread awareness about a particular issue. This is why we would be organising a Bollywood concert June 23 this year in which top stars and singers from the industry will be performing,” Loomba, 64, told IANS in an interview.

“Whether it’s movies based on an issue or an actor associating himself to a cause, Bollywood has the ability to send out strong messages to the masses. Veteran actor Dev Anand and Poonam Dhillon are two people who are seriously involved with the cause,” Loomba said.

To be held at the Trafalgar Square, London’s most prominent landmark, a similar concert was held in 2006. It drew personalities like Sunidhi Chauhan, Shekhar Suman, Sophia and Kashmira Shah. The concert attracted more than 7,000 people, including 300 dignitaries.

The list of celebrities for this year’s show will be finalised by the end of this month.

The significance of holding the concert June 23 is that his mother became a widow on this day. It is thus observed as the International Widows’ Day by the Loomba Trust and its supporters.

Loomba, the founder and executive chairman of the Rinku Group PLC, the fashion and clothing company in Britain, now wants the UN to recognise this day in order to globally highlight the plight of widows and their children.

“A woman whose husband dies is already submerged in grief. With no fault of hers, she is secluded from the society. If she is poor and uneducated, she gets no job. This in turn affects her children who can’t be sent to school and more often than not, fall into bad ways.

“Not only in India, but also elsewhere, a widow is secluded from the system. She is not invited to social dos and get-togethers. It’s a vicious trap, and we are trying to break that trap by empowering the widows and giving scholarships to their children so that they can study,” said Loomba, who lost his father early and endured hardship along with his mother and siblings.

According to Loomba, there are over 100 million widows across the world. Of this, roughly 35 million live in India.

Soft spoken and determined, Loomba has a strong stand against the ashrams for widows in places like Varanasi, Mathura and Vrindavan in the country.

“I want to call upon the government to dismantle these ashrams. Unlike yesteryears when women were sent away from their homes when they lost their husbands, now that doesn’t happen. Instead there is a socio-economic seclusion.

“Instead of these ashrams, other provisions should be set up which would empower the widows. Women simply survive in these places, they are often abused by people who are supposed to take care of them,” he said.

Loomba, although he is all praises for Deepa Mehta’s film “Water” and had aided the premiere of the movie in London last year, thinks that such movies should focus on the present condition of widows instead of dwelling on the past.

The Pushpa Wati Loomba Trust is also conducting research on the plight of widows in 20 countries, in association with the Chatham House, an international think tank on international affairs. The report of this research will be submitted to the UN in support of their demand of recognising June 23 as the International Widows’ Day.

The Loomba Trust is also associating itself with Unicef to improve toilet facilities and basic sanitation in schools, especially for the girl student.

“We have a host of international leaders and personalities like Cherie Booth Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is the president of the Trust, Laura Bush, John Lenon’s widow Yoko Ono, Mark Tully and others who support our cause.

“We now urge more people, the corporate houses, multinational companies to join in,” he said.