The Prabha Khaitan Foundation was established in 1987, in Kolkata, with the objective of upholding its late founder Dr Prabha Khaitan’s vision and aspiration to selflessly serve and contribute towards the betterment of society. Then known as Prabha Foundation, the name was changed to Prabha Khaitan Foundation in 2000. Having started with just one city, the non-profit trust has spread its wings since then to 35 cities in India and 10 cities abroad.
Dr Prabha Khaitan was a noted entrepreneur, who also was the first female president of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce. A trendsetter, she lived life on her own terms and strongly advocated feminism, having redefined the essence of womanhood, both within her community and beyond. She also was a great philanthropist, who selflessly gave back to society. Talking about her, Sundeep Bhutoria, her foster son and the managing trustee of the Prabha Khaitan Foundation says, “The activities of the foundation illustrate her ideologies and ethos, and her relentless toil towards the upliftment of society is its quintessence.”
Dr Prabha Khaitan also was a wordsmith of great calibre, who, Bhutoria informs, was awarded by the President of India for her writings. Her autobiography Anya se Ananya, which reflects her personal life, struggles and achievements, has captured the heart of many a reader.
Sundeep Bhutoria along with Shabana Azmi (centre) and Aparna Sen (right) at a movie premiere hosted by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in Kolkata
As managing trustee, Sundeep Bhutoria spearheads the planning, strategising and collaborations for Prabha Khaitan Foundation, while a team of enterprising and dedicated women—the Ehsaas team—marshals the operations. Among them are Vinnie Kakkar, who is National Advisor; Apra Kuchhal, who is Honorary Convenor of Rajasthan and Central India Affairs; Nilisha Agarwal, who as Honorary Social Media Advisor offers guidance on social media presence; and Aakriti Periwal, who is Honorary Convenor of Overseas Affairs.
As for the finances, Bhutoria says that most of their work is self-funded. “Our work has been appreciated by many of our dedicated patrons, and we have collaborated with like- minded organisations and institutions on aspects of cultural exchanges and associations. We have not yet approached for any government aid,” he explains.
Objectives and mission
The Prabha Khaitan Foundation believes that cultural development has the potential to be an alternative way of promoting sustainable development in poor, rural communities. Towards this, it creates an enabling structure to carry out activities on its own and through collaborations, conducting a wide range of events to promote performing arts, literature and culture.
“We undertake collaborative literary activities and projects with universities and like-minded people and institutions. At these events, reputable authors interact with individuals from different walks of life and social backgrounds, and it is always a very mutually enriching experience,” Bhutoria elaborates.
While the focus is on promoting Hindi, English as well as regional literature and culture, the team also provides a platform for holding literary and cultural exchange programmes across India and in other countries.
Accordingly, the Foundation has collaborated with various organisations like British Council, WWF-India, Edinburgh Napier University, Oxford Business College, Sampad South Asian Arts & Heritage, Jhilmil USA, University of Turin and others, which has augmented and enhanced its efforts to a greater level. These associations encompass activities such as organising cultural and literary activities and sessions, conservation of the environment, exchange programmes, promotion of local art and craft and social upliftment of the deprived.
Sundeep Bhutoria (right) with Maharaja Gaj Singh II at a recent bookrack unveiling programme organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation in Jodhpur
The Foundation’s various initiatives and projects include uniquely curated literary and cultural sessions and activities in various cities, such as ‘An Author’s Afternoon’, which provides a platform for English literature in Kolkata, whereas ‘The Write Circle’ does the same for other parts of India. Hindi literature is promoted through sessions of ‘Kalam’, while regional literature spreads its wings through the ‘Aakhar’ platform.
The Foundation has also lent its support to Urdu, Farsi and Arabic literature by organising sessions of ‘Lafz’, in association with Rekhta Foundation. ‘Kitaab’ sessions, on the other hand, are illuminated by some of the most accomplished wordsmiths of our country for book launches, and ‘Sur aur Saaz’ provides impetus to traditional and folk music and artists. Also, there is ‘Ek Mulakat’ which features eminent personalities from different segments of society, while ‘Chalchitra’ showcases films and documentaries.
The Prabha Khaitan Foundation has seen immense support from patrons and well-wishers in India and abroad, who have appreciated and acknowledged the team’s initiatives. And although the Foundation has been named for quite a few awards over the years, the team has abstained from accepting them. “We follow our founder’s ideology of Karma hi jeevan hai (Work is life),” says Bhutoria. “Our biggest accolade is the joy and confidence we are able to galvanise in the lives we have pledged to support.”
Asked about the Foundation’s contributions to Rajasthan, Bhutoria says, “Rajasthan always remains close to my heart, as I was born in the Shekhawati region and that is where my roots are. The Foundation carries out intensive work there. Most of our operations and events began from Rajasthan.”
Both ‘Kalam’ and ‘Aakhar’, we are told, began their journey from Jaipur. The Prabha Khaitan Prashikshan Kendra, which trains women from backward sections of society in various skills so as to help them become self-reliant, also operates out of Rajasthan. And then, of course, Bhutoria himself has created the ‘Rajasthan Forum’, a platform for Rajasthani artists, performers and literary persons, which conducts various activities in Rajasthan. The forum is headed by Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
Vinnie Kakkar (left), along with Saurabh Kakkar (centre) and Sundeep Bhutoria (right) at a tree plantation drive organised by the Foundation in Jaipur
Bhutoria is delighted to share that the Foundation had aimed to encapsulate 30 cities to base out its work from by 2020, and not only has this target been achieved by 2019, it now actually functions from 35 cities in India and 10 cities abroad. Going forward, it looks forward to more international collaborations that will enable it to reach out to a greater number of people, while also showcasing India’s rich cultural heritage.