Sunday, October 22, 2006

Lights, sweets, action!

Diwali is all about lights, sweets and crackers. And when you get to spend it with kids who are as bright, sweet and are bursting with energy as the ones at Anand Kendra, trust me, it’s the best Diwali ever! Firstly, our distribution on the 20th of October (our 15th one) was very impromptu, just decided in the afternoon and there we were in the evening. So we couldn’t call many people.

Anyway, so we reached Anand Kendra (right next to Atria Mall, Worli) and there they were, about 50 kids sitting on the benches waiting for us, some shy, some forward, but basically all friendly. First things first, we introduced ourselves and got a loud Happy Diwali wishes. We got to know all the kids’ names, age and what class they were in. Then they introduced us to their special friend, Basanti, a cute li’l kitten who found a cozy place in some boy’s arms or the other. Oh, by the way, Basanti is quite a rockstar, and according to the kids she teaches them ganit (Maths). Can you beat kids’ imagination? That’s rhetoric. We knew better than arguing too, anything that makes them happy.

All the kids there go to school and believe you me, they are bright! Since the occasion was Diwali, the kids knew what one does during Diwali – you burst cracker, eat sweets and light diyas (as one of them said, 'Diwali mein phatake aate hain, but they didn’t know why one does that. So, we decided to let them know the real reason. Thanks a lot, Shishir, you did a great job! Our good friend Shishir took the reigns in his hands and though he started narrating the story, he made it much more interactive by asking kids questions, after which, three of the kids narrated the entire Ramayan! They began with ‘Ramji Vishnu bhagwan ke aathve avatar thhe.’ Now, I didn’t know that! Told you the kids are bright. The story found mention of every important detail and character, be is Kaikeyi, Manthra, Surpanakha, Jatayu or Kumbhkaran, who the kids found most fascinating because he could eat and sleep nonstop for six months!

Ok, here is the best part of the narration. When a kid reached the Ram and Ravan yudh in the end part, he said, ‘Pehle Ram bhagvan Ravan ko boley, sorry bol de toh tujhe nahin marunga…. Ram bhagvan ne Gandhigiri ki. Lekin Ravan ne nahi suna to Ram bhagvan ne usey maar diya.’

After the narration, the volunteers (thanks a ton Kritika, Pooja, Neerav and Kashyap) distributed sweets and gifted the kids beautiful diyas to make their Diwali sweeter and brighter. The fun was far from over for every one of us. The kids recited poems, sang songs, danced and even presented a funny skit for us and themselves! What’s more, they didn’t even need a music system to dance. Every kid sang in unison any song that the dancer asked for, who often pulled his friends to accompany him. We had prospective creative professionals among us, other than the regular doctors and pilots. There was a potential writer, a playwright, a singer, a dancer, etc.

After getting their toys, the kids got busy with playing and even exchanged them with each other without making a fuss about it. They couldn’t care about the fact that they weren’t outside bursting crackers, they seemed happy just the same. It’s really not every year that you get to celebrate Diwali in such a special way. It was really one HAPPY Diwali!

Dhaval Roy
Toybank Team - Giving back the Right to a Childhood

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Of Saints, Sinners and Narakasuras

Dear All,

Let the Diwali kill all the EGO 'narakasuras' in all of us.
Let us remember the very old saying every saint has a past and every sinner a future.
Let true secularism rule our nation and more and more Gandhigiri succeed.

By the way Happy Diwali!
Lets have more light than sound!

Best Regards,
Toybank Team - Giving back the Right to a Childhood

Friday, October 13, 2006

Love of the common people

Now that I have thrown my well-paying job out of the window, I am discovering a lot of delights that I hadn't. For one, commuting in the second class compartment of a train. People here are so much more interesting, unassuming and real. Ya, they do have their quirks of quarreling for no rhyme or reason and striking a conversation about the most arbitrary things in the world, like a particular hairband a vendor is selling. But, it's actually a lotta fun to indulge in such conversations! Or at least better than interacting with the snooty women in a 1st class compartment who think they are Cleopatra reincarnate!

I have witnessed a woman asking a poor kid to get off a moving train because he got into a first class compartment. I have seen women yelling at someone hanging out of the train, for he/she risks meeting with an accident. But, no, not coz the women are concerned but because they don't want the train to stop if someone falls! I have seen women condescendingly ask other not-so-well-turned out women if they have a first class pass. Oh, yes, sunshine, the TC is on leave and you are a proxy!

First class (compartment) women are not tolerant about anyone entering even if the compartment is empty. But, they'd rather not argue with a eunuch and only give them glares and seethe with rage. In a second class compartment, a lady actually took the eunuch's number and wanted to call her to give her blessings at a religious function. The eunuch left, but not before touching the lady's head. When she passed by me, she saw me and smiled. I, of course, smiled back. And she touched my head too. And I thought they do that only when you give them money.

Ever seen a woman sleeping in a second class compartment and being woken up rather mercilessly by others who want to sit? But, if there is a vendor's 2-yr old baby sleeping, women, even the older ones, wouldn't mind standing. Or if there is a very old woman, catching 40 winks, she isn't to be disturbed. I have also seen an old woman selling something and a buyer actually convincing other women to buy stuff coz the vendor was old and needy.

Toybank Team - Giving back the Right to a Childhood