Be­spoke auc­tion lots, star turns, and crores in one evening... Meet SA­MAN­THA NA­YAR, SUPERNA MOT­WANE, and BI­JAL MESWANI who have turned the Magic Bus fundrais­ing din­ner into the coun­try’s A-list charity. By Gay­a­tri R Shah

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - BAZAAR -

IN JUST THREE YEARS, Sa­man­tha Na­yar, Superna Mot­wane and Bi­jal Meswani have turned the an­nual Magic Bus fundrais­ing din­ner into the most an­tic­i­pated event on Mum­bai’s so­cial cal­en­dar. Putting to­gether an evening of fine din­ing, en­ter­tain­ment, and a live auc­tion to aid and spread aware­ness about Magic Bus’s mis­sion to em­power kids from un­der­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties, the trio pulls in A-lis­ters from Mum­bai for the by-in­vi­ta­tion, for­mal seated din­ner.

This year, for in­stance, while Mandira Bedi was the celebrity host who got the auc­tion rolling, it was Ab­hishek Bachchan who ex­horted din­ers to be more gen­er­ous in their bids. Among the be­spoke auc­tion, ‘money can’t buy’ lots were a pri­vate coach­ing ses­sion with Sachin Ten­dulkar, a celebrity foot­ball match with Ran­bir Kapoor and Ab­hishek Bachchan, trips to France cour­tesy Dior and Moët & Chan­don, a trip to Mi­lan cour­tesy Gucci, hol­i­days at Chiva-Som in Thai­land, a pri­vate din­ner cooked by In­digo’s Rahul Ak­erkar, a BMW car, and lux­ury watches. All lots were sold. The auc­tion was fol­lowed up with a live per­for­mance by Farhan Akhtar singing a num­ber from Rock On!!

An en­vi­able mix of Mum­bai’s most sought-af­ter so­cial mavens, fi­nanciers, ty­coons, and beau­ti­ful peo­ple lent their sup­port, in­clud­ing Jeh and Celina Wa­dia, Natasha and Adar Poon­awalla, Arvind Dubash, Haseena Jeth­malani, Roohi Jaik­is­han, Farah Oomerb­hoy, Ashok and Reena Wad­hwa, Tanaaz and Chi­rag Doshi, and Gay­a­tri and Atul Ruia. Last year’s gala raised R 4 crore, ar­guably one of the most suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing ef­forts in a sin­gle evening in In­dia.

Founded in 1999 and run by English­man Matthew Spa­cie, who, while work­ing in In­dia as COO of Cox & Kings, no­ticed that poor chil­dren in Mum­bai had no place to play, Magic Bus uses sport as a tool of em­pow­er­ment in un­der­priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ties. For ev­ery R 60,000 raised, Magic Bus pro­vides a pro­gramme for 50 marginalised chil­dren, also pro­vid­ing a full set of play­ing equip­ment. Vol­un­teers are trained and a Magic Bus em­ployee mon­i­tors the pro­gramme over the year. To­day, the Magic Bus pro­gramme is run in 10 states, reach­ing 2,50,000 chil­dren. Their aim is to reach a mil­lion by 2015.

Sa­man­tha Na­yar, a se­nior ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive who worked in New York, Syd­ney, and Lon­don, be­came in­volved with Magic Bus soon af­ter she moved to Mum­bai in 2002 (she’s been a board mem­ber for a decade). Na­yar points out while there had been a Magic Bus an­nual fundrais­ing gala in Lon­don for years (last year the Lon­don gala, at­tended by 350 peo­ple, raised £200,000) the non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion wasn’t sure In­dia was ready for some­thing com­pa­ra­ble. (Although it may seem that charity din­ners are now a sta­ple on the ur­ban so­cial cir­cuit, think back to a few years ago, when the idea of giv­ing in a pub­lic fash­ion was far from ac­cepted in In­dia.)

Bi­jal Meswani and Superna Mot­wane, who were in­tro­duced to Magic Bus three years ago, were im­me­di­ately com­mit­ted. “Sa­man­tha in­vited me to cof­fee with Matthew, and I was blown away by their project,” re­calls Mot­wane, ed­i­tor of the by-in­vi­ta­tiononly No­blesse magazine. “I ended up feel­ing so over­whelmed I said to them, ‘Thank you so much for help­ing these chil­dren’.”

Meswani, a lawyer by train­ing and a well-known Mum­bai phi­lan­thropist from the Am­bani fam­ily, said what ap­pealed to her was the idea of kids play­ing sports and pur­su­ing their ed­u­ca­tion as the means to a bet­ter life. “Magic Bus is in­no­va­tive and ide­ally suited for im­ple­men­ta­tion in In­dia. It’s achiev­able be­cause of the sim­plic­ity, scal­a­bil­ity, and sus­tain­abil­ity of its strat­egy.”

Na­yar said that she be­lieved in Magic Bus’s long-term in­ter­ven­tion with a child, which lasts typ­i­cally for eight years. “This leads to long-term change, and that by tar­get­ing com­mu­ni­ties, not just in­di­vid­u­als, Magic Bus is able to have a big­ger im­pact on peo­ples’ lives,” says Na­yar. “Due to com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity, girls who were not al­lowed to leave home to play, never mind go to school, have not only been the first in their fam­ily to fin­ish school, but are now at univer­si­ties.”

Sa­man­tha Na­yar and Bi­jal Meswani

Superna Mot­wane

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