Monday, January 26, 2009

Republic Day celebrations

Hello friends,

It gives me great pleasure in writing down the report of our Republic Day celebrations at LEAD. For those who couldn't make up for this event esp. Nazia, Prachi, Kaustubh, Shila, Narendra, Beena, HP, Krishna, Saroj teacher & Jagtap teacher—I will try my best to make you part of this party.
But in the quest for this, the report has stretched up to 4 pages! Request you to bear with my editing skills! …. Perhaps this may stimulate one of you to take up this task now onwards ;-)

I still remember the day I had emailed everyone about our Republic Day celebrations. We really didn't know the agenda, but one thing was for sure -- Clothes Distribution & Yes! It happened with a big bash!

Frankly speaking, the idea about this drive cropped up because of Prachi's initiative of getting the clothes for our kids on 2 Sundays in succession. Later, even I saw an article in Ms. Contractor wishing to donate the clothes to the needy. Awesome efforts by Sachin! He single-handedly collected her clothes' bags weighing about 10kgs from Nerul. But still the total quantity was too less for the distribution event. Emails to all the friends (almost 25-30)… then friends to their friends & colleagues & so on… I thought that chain effect would work out in 10 days. But it was Tuesday & then Wednesday & still no response from anyone. (Was I foolish again to request the same lot of people to ACT?... Don't know. But I will keep trying shaking them. ) My habit of regularly scanning the for inspiring the nearby volunteers to join us came to the rescue. Sent an email to 27 individuals all over Mumbai with the hopes that at least some of them would turn up for the drive & may be our friends could later help us in the collection from these people. But unfortunately there was no response! Arun, Harshada & Hariprasad spread a word about this drive in Patni through Gauri to all the 'Arth' members. Now it was Thursday & the only soothing news was a few more addition to the lot from Garima & Richa. Not left with an option I started ringing up everyone who had left their contact details on And now there was some action! Dr. Kartik Shah, Sudhaa & Shailesh Patel agreed to lead the drive at their respective places. Meanwhile my friend Nirav also called me up telling he didn't want to lose this opportunity. Also some of my school teachers got in & did the real value addition. Wonderful lead taken up by Christina teacher in my school & then Beena & Shankar helped us in getting that stuff on Monday. Heartiest thanks to Navodaya school staff for their co-operation esp. on a Public Holiday. Beena managed to get some more clothes on Saturday through her friends. Thanks to them too. Thanks to my colleagues Phule Sir, Patil Sir, Warnekar Madam, Pushpa & Daizy for donating the wonderful clothes.

Printouts taken by Kailash were put-up in the notice boards of my as well as couple of other nearby apartments. Thanks to my cousin Roopali too for all her efforts in inspiring the people in her society about this. We had lot of expectations from all the 4 children-flooded societies in Airoli but the virtually zero response left us in despair & Kailash decided to personally visit some of his friends in these societies on Saturday & finally we could get some substantial quantity. My mom too did her best in spreading the word about this to our neighbors as well as near & dear ones.

It was Saturday. Arun & I left for Malad by bus at 8.30 am to collect the stuff from Nirav. He had managed to get a sufficient quantity from his society. Thank you so much Nirav. Then we headed for Ghatkopar to collect the stuff collected by Kartik, Shailesh & Daizy. It was now that we started heaving some sigh of relief. It was so humble of Dr. Kartik to express his complete support to LEAD for its upcoming medical camps. He also dropped us on the highway in his car , from where we took an auto for KanjurMarg to collect the stuff from Sudhaa. She sounded so optimistic & excited in her email about the positive responses from 200-250 families in her society. But then was more than stunned by the lukewarm response (only 2-3 families turned up till Sunday morning.) LEAD's message to her, "Get disappointed but not disheartened!" We moved on in the same auto for Airoli but had to break at the toll-naka to change a one. It was almost 2.30 pm when we dumped all the stuff at New Era (evening tuitions place). Richa too took special efforts to visit Kopar-Khairane & collect the clothes from Pushpa on Saturday. Thanks to them. All the volunteers—Arun, Kailash, Richa, Garima, Vikas, I & Harshada gathered at New-Era at 4pm to sort out the clothes & segregate them according to the age & gender. What a wonderful collection! Some of them have donated almost new clothes for our kids. The more interesting part is that we have received a huge lot for the elders too. Harshada had roped in her friend Ashwini too for this event. Thanks to Harshada for giving such a wonderful volunteer to LEAD. Her energy levels were truly appreciable whether it is chalking down the items to be purchased or be it the final distribution of the clothes. I can still recollect our discussions -- how beautiful our kids would look when dressed up in these garments & then Vikas saying our kids' parents too will look Yo with these T-shirts & three fourths! We made the complete agenda for the next day. The only uncertain part was the participation of magician. Kaustubh too managed to get some good collection at the right time. So nice of his friend Amey to deliver this stuff at 'our' convenience! We dispersed at about 7.30 pm with the wide smiles & lots of hopes for the D-day. Kailash accompanied with me to the Airloli Gaav & later I informed the other 3 slums in the night about the next day's party. This was the first time we had involved parents in our function.

26th Jan 2009

Arun, I, Kailash & Vikas gathered at 9.30am to dump the bags from NewEra hall to NMMC hall. The comic scene of Arun being overloaded with the bags by me & Kailash while Vikas-- our macho driver of the day-- ;-) yelling from the front worrying about the balance still bursts me into laughter. (Don't miss out this funny snap) It took about 6-7 rounds in his bike. We had to even transport a table for the laptop & projector. As always Arun got his laptop while Kailash arranged the LCD projector through Shailendra & purchased the white-cloth. Thanks to him. Suraj brought his speakers but when Kailash found them inadequate for the desired output, he immediately got the other pair from his home. Arun got his friend Ajay's bike (Thank you Ajay.) & then we rushed to Mulund to get the wafers, plates, glasses & chocolates at the discounted & wholesale rates. Harshada & Ashwini got the chart papers, patriotic songs' CD & polythene bags while Richa & Devesh got the pencil packets & erasers. Sachin got the beautiful frame of Bharat-maata & I managed the snacks part. Superb Team-work!

Sincere thanks to Arvind who came in all the way from Ulhas-nagar with a sizeable collection of clothes for adults. He also pro-actively volunteered throughout the event.

We all gathered at 2.30 at the venue & started decorating the big hall. Beautiful piece of work by Arvind, Richa, Devesh & Vikas! Kailash & Sachin fixed up the cloth for the projector screen. Thanks to Mr. Naghre, Ward officer, NMMC & his staff person Mr. Shrikant for permitting us to use their chairs for the event.

The event started at 4 pm with Bharat-Mata pooja (A wonderful brain-child of Sachin) Prayers as well as Flowers were offered by our kids. I missed out this delightful scene as had to move out in search for water. Thanks to Devesh as we could easily transport the big water bottle only because of his car. Our kids Sarika & Rahul from sec-19, this time too, got the red-carpet welcome in a car ;-) We reached the venue back, only to find that the kids as well as their parents were having a great time watching the cartoon movies. We distributed & pinned up the small paper-flags on their clothes. Children got so excited, flaunting themselves to their parents with the flags & this created an awesome patriotic ambience for the rest of our function.

Then we played a 10-minute video portraying LEAD's journey with its kids up till now —15th August, School Admissions, Cricket, Tuitions, Children's day, Diwali, Christmas, Dinner party. The expressions of the kids & their parents watching their snaps on the big-screen were truly mesmerizing. Their comments, wide smiles, fingers pointing to the photos, giggles everything told a tale. A tale of faith, of trust, of confidence they bestow upon us today. The bond we need the most ---- to mould their Attitude!

So stupid of me then asking everyone to stand up for Vande-Mataram! The video with the villagers & tribal riding on the horses waving our tricolor flags was a real inspirational one & that too with the melodious voice of our beloved Lata Mangeshkar! The patriotic tone was set for the day & this was followed by another short video picturing Republic Day function in our country—march past, parades, army, navy, aircrafts, missiles, satellites along with some other interesting stuff like agriculture, small scale industries, students in the schools, sports, art, cultural dances, etc & all this screened up with the background score -- 'Vijayi Vishwa Tiranga Pyara'. To add to this, Devesh spent some time with our kids explaining them the significance of this day in his own simple style. No wonder he soon became the favorite of our kids. This was immediately followed by something that children like the most — Drawing & painting. We divided them into about 7-8 groups with each one having not more than 6 children. White sheets were distributed to each one of them & then 1-2 packets of crayons were kept in the centre. This gave wings to their creativity & then flashed up the drawings of flags, house , smiling sun , man with a big box-like stomach, a girl with her parents, mountains, rivers…& the list goes on. We asked the kids to write their Full name on the sheets & show them to the parents. Infact this was the real purpose behind the drawing event. Parents went truly emotional seeing their kids catching up so fast with some of them even in English! This picture was further beautified by the children of Kailash & Garima. So touchy to see these kids sit alongside these less fortunate kids, draw with them, and interact with them! Garima's daughter even recited an inspiring poem in Hindi in front of the large audience.

I personally believe such initiatives will go long way in instilling the feelings of equality, compassion & fraternity in the young minds of our own children. Just think of this --- we are sowing these seeds of social indiscrimination right from the tender ages. They are getting a platform to practically apply what they learn in their schools! Thank you so much Kailash & Garima for giving LEAD an opportunity to leap forward in this domain too.

Sachin Pawar, the acting & dance master, had already arrived by then with his young & talented team. (Sachin has promised us long back to start the dance & acting class for our kids) Due to lack of time & multitude of children, we had to start with the clothes distribution event in parallel with his event. Omkar & Aasavari delivered their beautiful comic solo performances & literally made our kids & their parents break into giggles. Umesh coordinated amazingly with Sachin Pawar in conducting various games like lemon & spoon & book-balancing on their heads…thanks to the spacious hall ;-) The most hilarious thing was when Vinod, Bharat, Lakhan & others literally lifted up Anil for winning the competition. And Sachin made the environment further spicier by crying the slogans -- 'Ganpati Bappa Morya' & 'Oondir mama ki Jay! ' He even rewarded Anil with a Big chocolate & even made our shaitan-group shake their bodies on a dance number. Very good coordination by Arun, Suraj, Arvind, Garima & Kailash! It was a real Rock-On!

While Sachin was busy in conducting these games, Richa sensitively sent the kids, 2 at a time, for getting their share of clothes. Vikas, Ashwini, Harshada, Devesh & my Mom courageously & fantastically managed this part. Vinita, one of our most committed & humble volunteers, got in at the right time & immediately joined the energetic gang. Though we had segregated the clothes properly, but the number of children, evryone's excitation levels & most importantly the quantity of clothes' bags posed some challenges. (I must admit that I was very nervous about how we will be handling this distribution) But the bottom-line is pretty cool. All the children were getting the dresses of their own choice (some of the girls preferring salwar kamiz instead of frocks & the boys dancing with the jeans in their hands) The smiles on the faces of our kids & that of their parents as well as their body languages clearly aired the success flag for us.

After lot of Dhamaal-Masti, it was now time for Pet-Pooja ;-) Arun started getting the hot samosas in installments while I & Vikas rushed in for the Ice-creams. The other volunteers started filling up the dishes. Some of the parents were really getting restless by now; of-course the mothers had to go home & cook for their families that too in the dark! Our samosa-walah backed out at the eleventh hour for the quantity & Kailash had to zoom in for the next shop for the same.

It was so heart-warming to see the whole community—kids & their parents from all the 4 slums sitting together, laughing, chatting & experiencing a festival culture. The clothes were packed in the polythene bags, one for each child with the names written on each bag to avoid the confusion & hurry up at the last moment. We called up the names one by one & distributed 'their' belongings. Everyone stood up for the national Anthem (audio-visual) & we ended the function with the loud cries of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jay' & 'Vande-Mataram'.

Ashwini & my Mom distributed the pencils & erasers to the children in a queue while leaving the hall. This further elated their moods. All the volunteers were so exhausted but they didn't even wait for a second to wind up—cleaning up the floor, stuffing back the clothes properly in the bags, packing the electronic stuff, returning the chairs etc. Thanks to Devesh & Richa-- their car enabled the speedy & convenient transport of the huge lot of clothes from this hall to our evening tuitions place. I sincerely apologize that the volunteers had to just manage with ice-cream & wafers, especially when they were so hungry. But then I am sure that the good news about Vinod finally grabbing up the offer latter from CafĂ© Coffee Day would have definitely quenched our emotional thirsts!

And hey… this chap too actively volunteered by collecting the clothes from Santacruz. Thank you Mrs.Priya for this!

Last but definitely not the least, zillions of thanks to all the donors of clothes without whom our children would not be able to try out such wonderful dresses. (We are still left with lots of clothes esp. that of adults & will be soon distributing them in our tuition classes.)

To get a closer look at our celebrations, please do check out the wonderful snaps uploaded on

Thanks to Kailash & Garima for their digital cams while Ashwini & Devesh too captured some of the fantastic moments in their mobiles.

For all those who are still awake even after reading the above report, here's a short mention of a destiny stroke to me that might push up your adrenalin levels!

I was traveling back from the office by train from Wadala & had kept the clothes bag in the upper rack of the compartment. But I missed it while getting down at Kurla. I had changed the platform & as I was about to board in the Thane local, there was a sudden flash – where's the Bag?? Oh my god! It has gone with the train! What to do now?? How to get it?? I didn't want to lose the clothes for 2 reasons—someone had taken the pains & efforts to donate as well as collect them for supporting our cause. Secondly, we were literally short of clothes till Friday. Thank God, I had observed the 'V' (Vashi) symbol while boarding the train from Kurla & then luckily another train had still not arrived on that platform. Changed the platform immediately & boarded the Panvel local. Completely engrossed with a plethora of thoughts… Will I get the bag back?? How will I find it?? Visiting all the compartments?? And then, the worst part was – I was ticket less! What if a TTE hold me up? Some wise decision came handy. I had stored the railway emergency number in my cell after 26/11 incident —23004000… called up them while in the train…the number belonged to western railway… so he gave me the central railway number… but now that was for Mankhurd station… so now this guy gave me the Vashi office number… called him up but he told that there was no train waiting in any of the platforms! I was like shocked! How to get that train now?? The clothes are lost! The co-passengers were surprised what this guy is up to! But then one of them (seemed like a regular traveler by that train) consoled me saying the train would have still not arrived there as the Vashi train has to first clear the way for Panvel train. His words did the job of a silver lining amidst the clouds! As our train was getting clear to the Vashi station, I saw a CST bound train with 'V' letter on the adjacent platform. Yes! Got it! But my train was still in higher speed; while the target train's indicator displaying its departure time as 6.45pm & my watch ticking 6.50pm! Oh my god! I may miss it! I was about to jump off the running train but my co-passengers stopped me & as the train speeded down a bit, I jumped out & started praying that please god! Get me to the right compartment. (Anyways, that was not the major issue as I can then change the compartments every station searching for the bag) You will not believe this…I swear… the compartment in which I got in first …it had the bag!!!!!!!! I got it at the first stroke itself..!! How can that happen??? Was it a mere co-incidence or a miracle? The funny part was that passengers in the compartment were totally nervous & were anxiously examining the contents of the bag (if it had a bomb ;-) They literally shouted at me... "How can you be so careless?? You raised our BP?? ;-) And I was like…. not able to control my laughter…anxiety…emotions…Then later when I replied them that I wanted to go to Thane; they were again surprised "why the hell are you sitting here?? Board a train to Thane directly! And I jumped out of the train immediately (luckily, it had 'just' started)….My God! What was happening?? I got out of the Vashi station, took a sip of hot 'cutting chai' ;-) pondering & laughing about the whole incident…

Friends, the above incident definitely leaves behind many morals for us …Some of you may laugh at me but I feel so blessed that there's some divine power always with us. This incident has dented some indelible impact on me. I have extracted my heavy dose of inspiration from this one. My courage, passion, commitment, conviction, persistence & perseverance everything has almost zoomed up…Now, leaving this up to you friends, for how much motivated you feel in LEAD.

And the icing on the cake is that the same night we got the permission to use the spacious NMMC hall for our event. Thank God! Otherwise, how we would have managed to accommodate such huge numbers?

friends....plz go ahead to share your experiences & valuable feedbacks....


Rupesh S Gesota

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