Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

Our last Christmas as a threesome.

Christmas Eve was relatively low-key. Ma left for Vizag in the evening, dropped off at Shalimar by Vicky and Rahul. I had class which ended with two kinds of cake. We all met at home in the evening. I tidied a couple of rooms, sorted out the living room. Watched A Christmas Story over fried rice and chilli chicken and then packed the boy off to bed. Wrapped his gifts while watching Castle. Vicky and I watch it every night these days though I didn't when he was away at Shillong.

Rahul woke up while I was baking mocha cupcakes and then we woke Vicky up so that the gifts could be unwrapped. Vicky and I didn't remember to get one another anything, not that it mattered. Rahul got two paper model-making kits from us, pencils in a case and Tom & Jerry erasers and a boat+car set from his Dadu-Diddi; a train set from his Jethu-Jethi and a much-awaited Hot Wheels dinosaur track from Anindadu, Giga and Jimmashi. It was not easy convincing him to come away to eat his bacon and eggs or even a cupcake.

Cousin J came over for lunch. I made mushrooms in white sauce with pasta, which upset Vicky because it was vegetarian. He wolfed down some leftover Cafe roast chicken and seemed somewhat consoled. J and Rahul spent the afternoon making the fire engine from one of the kits while I took a long nap. Woke up to find Vicky getting Rahul ready for a Christmas party J was supposed to attend... the boy cadged an invitation to one of the nicest Christmas parties in town.

So, Christmas ended with Rahul escorting a young lady to a party while Vicky and I sat in front of the TV with Maggi and hot chocolate. A taste of things to come?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Celebrating Children

We have all grown up celebrating Children’s Day on 14 November in India. What I didn’t know though was 20 November is also celebrated worldwide, as Universal Children’s Day, declared by the UN. You’ll notice this gives us a clear week to celebrate children. (Unless of course your kids are driving you crazy and you feel more homicidal than celebratory. This has been known to happen.)

I don’t usually pay attention to these days but this year ITC Sonar decided to celebrate the occasion in a somewhat unusual way and Arundhati Ghosh from their PR department asked if I wanted to contribute on Facebook and/or Twitter. For a week they collected little notes of love, hope and inspiration for children from underprivileged backgrounds. As a finale they took over these messages, some gift parcels and a feast to the girls of Hope Foundation, Panditiya, on 30 November 2013. They were joined by me and a few others who had tweeted, written the notes and been otherwise involved in the programme.

The event was a little late in starting, so I spent a few minutes chatting with the girls. I had never known before that just a few doors away from my mamarbari there was such a large shelter housing so many young girls. The only children associated with Hope that I’d met before this were the young kids at my storytelling sessions but these girls were in their early to mid-teens, with a clearer vision of what they hoped to make of their lives, and talking to them was actually rather inspirational for me.

Shweta Pillai, Learning Services Manager, ITC Sonar, started the group off with a few games. The girls fell over laughing when they discovered they had to run a race as a ‘balloon train’, connected by balloons they had to balance between them.

This was followed by a game of passing the ring. One of the girls had a hoop placed on her and all the girls formed a large circle. They had to pass the hoop from person to person without holding it or breaking the circle. The girls confidently predicted that such gymnastics would take them at least twenty minutes but in fact they managed a complete pass in less than one minute!

Dipendu Kumar Ghosal from Sonar’s Engineering department had brought along his magician’s bag of tricks. The girls had great fun trying to guess his sleights of hand; even more sportingly, he actually showed them how he did it all, stressing all the while that magic was based on science, not superstition.

There were little speeches by Maureen Forrest, Founder Director, and Geeta Venkadakrishnan, Director, Hope Foundation, that explained the work the Foundation does through its various shelters, sponsorships, training institutes and outreach programmes like Nabadisha. My visits to Hamari Muskan had given me an idea of the backgrounds these children come from but it was still unnerving to be told how many of these bright young girls had been rescued from trafficking or picked up during the night rescue drives.

Bringing the mood back to gaiety and celebration, the girls put on some music and there was dancing. They started out dancing for us but soon they were calling us in and the ITC team gamely tucked in their sarees and joined them. Then we handed out the little gifts brought by ITC.

After all that excitement there was the feast. We all sat around in a circle and tucked into rolls, sandwiches, puffs and cakes while servers plied us with soft drinks and water.

Over the years I’ve learned to be wary of CSR exercises, but this one by ITC Sonar, Kolkata, was a welcome reminder of how much joy a social responsibility programme can bring when planned and executed with belief and enthusiasm.