It was 25th March 2018, a Sunday. I woke up at 7am and sat up to hear some vedic chanting going on in a nearby puja mandap. According to the Hindu calendar, it was the day for an important annual festival – Ram Navami. Hundreds of well to do devotees dressed in fine clothes throng the temple to pay their obeisance to Lord Ram by offering flower garlands, bhog and prayers. On festive occasions like these, I always imagine whether the gods will ever bless the poor and economically down trodden people who make their hand-to-mouth living in slums and cannot even afford to hire an auto for visiting the temple. Will the Gods bless only those who can meet the expense of visiting the temple and making rich offerings? Anyway, as I was brushing my teeth, I put aside these thoughts to mentally set myself for the scheduled plan of today. It was not going to be a normal Sunday dedicated to the recently released movie or hang-out with friends or luncheon at newly opened trendy restaurant.
Today, I was going to an NGO named Bakul Foundation with my SICC friends – Barshana, Aditi, Kotni and Chandan. 25th March is celebrated by Bakul Foundation as “Bakul’s Day of Service”. This NGO is dedicated to the lesser privileged children who hail from economically weaker sections of the society and cannot afford sophisticated quality education in good schools. The idea behind this was to volunteer at their event and spend the day with the children for a different experience. As it was located in the slum area of Niladri Vihar, Bhubaneswar, it was quite expected the place to be not fully furnished and constructed.
Some volunteers of Bakul present there, welcomed us. All the volunteers (including us) had the same objective in mind – to make a mark of happiness in the life of these children for one day. They told us about the program which we came for and meanwhile the children started gathering. As an ice-breaker, we asked each one of them their names and with an excited squeal they all responded to us. We even introduced ourselves to them, and I was almost happily smiling when I could see the confusion in their faces upon not being able to pronounce my name.
It was great fun to see how the kids were laughing during story-telling, imitating noises of the animal characters of the story and listening with rapt attention. The next part (my favorite) was to assist the children in making colorful collage work and paper craft.
It was fun watching them cut down colorful papers (desperately trying to make it precise) and pasting it to the drawing sheets provided to them. Their faces were shining with enthusiasm; their hands filled with glue and didn’t want to stop. They were excited on finishing one part of pasting the collage and showing their achievements to each other and even to us. They were very obedient and when they were told to write their names, it was amazing to see that most of them could write in Odia and English.
We wound up for the day by playing games with them. The room was bubbling with a different kind of energy, cheerfulness and the smile in the faces of the children was priceless. We gave them refreshment boxes and clicked group selfies and photographs. It was not only the expressions of the children, but also our faces which was radiating with positive energy and smiles. We went there as volunteers to teach them something which was productive and creative and brighten their day, but instead we came back learning a lot about the traits of life. Definitely each one of us can say that this day was one of the most memorable days of our life. It was a beautiful day to cherish and something which we will look forward to again and again in the near future.
As I retired for the day, I found the answer to the question that came to my mind in the beginning of the day. God blesses the less privileged with carefree happiness and which they spread to us.