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Monday, November 22, 2010

Slumdog Billionaire

The Donate-A-Word campaign kicked off on September 8 which was, by the way, International Literacy Day. We collated some 250 items comprising pens, pencils, crayons, notebooks and all things sweet to donate to the slum kids handled by the NGO Adarshmay on Children’s Day. But since 14th November was a Sunday, we decided to celebrate it on 17th November instead. 17th November happened to be Eid as well as my276 husband’s Birthday! So it was more like a triple celebration for the kids. That and it turned out to be one of the most celebrated event of our lives.

Ashish Pawaskar, who runs this NGO, met us at the Govandi Signal from where we were guided inside the little bylanes of Shivaji Nagar. This is where he runs this private school for some slum kids. When he came in his vehicle, jam packed with the kiddos, they were more than just excited to see us. We were warmly welcomed by the all-decked up pack of 11 girls and boys with some happy ‘Hello teacher! Hello miss and Hi Didi’ greetings. My husband Rahul was almost swept inside as they took him in by hand and shook them vigorously to wish him a Happy Birthday. If we were trees and they were monkeys, it would have been a one big happy family!

308The school’s White Board wished us Eid Mubarak and A Happy Birthday to the Birthday boy. We met with Ashish’s wife and the volunteer, Vandana who have been kind enough to lend their lives to this cause. The kids surrounded us, smiling and pushing each other to shake hands, but not even once misbehaving themselves. ‘Teacher my name is Arshad’ said one. I looked up and smiled a Colgate smile. I felt how a Tom Cruise would on the Red Carpet. Elated, touched and all that.

312 The group leaders pulled up a mattress where they all squat – like a choreographed symphony – girls on one end and the guys seated on the other. Then one by one, some came up to showcase their singing or dancing skills. They sang the Scout & Guide bhajans, some Bollywood hits, and got playing Passing the Parcel. I digged the very dainty very cute Thumbelina-like girl who enacted a Fruit Salad poem....guess can’t really recall her name yet. We were on a complete roll. It was touching to see Ayesha, Muskaan, Arshad, the very little Sania and the other 20 plus paltan on a celebratory mood.

 328Finally, before we departed we donated their little kits to them, from the Donate-a-Word campaign. And in turn they donated to us their love, their respect and their favourite toy – Bluey (we just christened it), the big blue beautiful Dolphin. Now that made us feel like Billionaires. Bluey is now ensconced comfortable in our car boot. How I wish the kids were all that lucky too. But they did get a little ride that day in our car, a scarce privilege for them.

As we said goodbye, they again shook hands and waved out. It was touching. Memorable. Made you want to stay back. And when we sped on our way out, it made me feel enriched. Happier. Like some Slumdog Billionaire.

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