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Stars gather for Indian children: Pratham UK Gala 2012

The City's ornate Guildhall was the setting as stars of Film and TV, artists, designers, City bankers, businessmen and even a brace of Bollywood divas gathered for ARTiculate; the 2012 Pratham UK fundraising gala dinner.

More than half a million pounds was raised at the £15,000-per-table event for the children's charity, the largest non-government organization providing primary and secondary education to underprivileged children in India.

Established in Mumbai in 1994 by the United Nations Children's Fund as a three-way partnership between government, businesses and civil society, Pratham is now active in 21 of India's 28 states.

Its' flagship program 'Read India', has helped improve reading and maths skills of millions of children between the ages of 6 and 14 in the country.  

The charity is one which is particularly close to the heart of Bollywood starlet - and self-confessed avid reader - Kajol, Pratham's brand ambassador, who travelled to London to support the event.  

"When you meet these children, the one thing that strikes you is the fierce hope that they all have", the actress said.  "They seem to know and understand the worth of what they are being given.  I think a lot of us take for granted the fact that we are bilingual or trilingual and that we can read and write.  We take our education for granted.  But these children don't.  You can make it out when they spell Apple or when they sing a song.  That's why Pratham's work is so vitally important."

Kajol, who looked stunning in an elaborately embellished Blue Grey sari, joined a host of high profile guests, including fellow Bollywood thespian Soha Ali Khan; British Asian actor and songstress Preeya Kalidas; film director Gurindher Chadha; former Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi; broadcaster and former editor of The Sunday Times Andrew Neil; Billionaire Srichand Hinduja, Head of International Prime Services at Credit Suisse Roy Martins and author and historian Ramachandra Guha.

Speaking to The UKAsian prior to delivering the keynote speech at the event, Mr Guha described what made Pratham special: "I have always been impressed by the range and commitment of Pratham as an organization.  It's one which has depth and credibility and that is why it attracts so much support.  I think charities like Pratham help force governments to be more accountable.  It also generates momentum within wider Indian society.  Education is an area where India lagged behind for a long time.  We had IIT's but we weren't able to provide our children with a decent primary and secondary education.  That has changed because of organizations like Pratham in the last 25 or 30 years.  There's been a groundswell of demand-led education, not just with the work that they do on the ground but the pressure that they put on the public sector."

Guests gathered for a cocktail reception at the magnificent, medieval-style Old Library of The Guildhall where they sipped a special Pratham-themed edition of Luxor champagne complete with gold shavings whilst enjoying canapes including Sev Puri's before enjoying a sumptuous 3-course dinner exclusively prepared by Manish Mehrotra, the head chef of London's award-winning Tamarai restaurant.  

Highlights of the evening included a fashion show by internationally acclaimed designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee as well as a the main auction, conducted by Lord Harry Dalmeny, deputy chairman of Sotherby's UK.

Among the lots up for bidding were a day on a film set with a Bollywood superstar with guests given a choiice between Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan; a Trident Iceni 'eco supercar', much sought-after tickets to a recording of Karan Johar's hugely popular talk show 'Kofee with Karan' and - appropriately enough - a year's supply of 'Drink Me Chai' Spiced Chai Latte.

For more information on Pratham and its activities, visit www.pratham.org.uk

For photo gallery click here

- Poonam Joshi

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