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“Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves”
– Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
One such day of wonder and emotional adventure, for me, was 24th July, 2016.
After a month of planning, attending meetings every weekend in Lakshmi Devi Park, late night conference calls and constant stream WhatsApp group messages, Bhumi project Bangalore Nakshatra 2016, the D-Day was here! Nakshatra is an annual inter- home cultural, literary, arts fest wholly conducted by Bhumi. This year, 688 kids from 26 shelter homes took part in 15 events, managed on the whole by 147 volunteers all under one roof! Despite a lot of dilemma and confusion right up to the previous day of the D- Day, it surely was a resounding success.
Following is my experience of the overwhelming day.
We walk into the New Horizon campus through the main gate and make our way across to the centre of campus.
Long lines of children greet us hands pressed together or small palms waving at us, with exuberant “Good Morning, Sister!” or “Namaskara Sister!” The enthusiasm and excitement in the air was infectious!
I already knew- This day will be worth all the time and effort we all put into it.
“Dream, dream, dream. Dreams transform into thoughts. And thoughts result in action ”
– Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Volunteer registration completed, we threw ourselves into the work in students from homes registration. A complicated system at first glance, the coloured bands of identification at the wrists, with boxes to be ticked for each event participated in, nevertheless was an effective system.
The yellow band was for juniors, the blue band for seniors and orange band for super seniors. This helped the on spot event registration to work out smoothly in identification and allotting the students.
The bright breezy day made a good backdrop for home portraits being taken against the Bhumi banner as the background. These pictures to be framed and given to the homes at the end of the day.
Now for a delicious breakfast of chow chow bath, pongal and plenty of chutney!
Everyone loved it, and not a morsel was wasted. Polite and reserved, brazen and dashing; there were so many children giggling, or viewing their surroundings with gleaming excitement apparent in their eyes.
The connection and relationship developed with the children by the Home Specific Volunteers (HSVs) was a delight to see.
I noticed several children playing with their HSVs, gossiping occasionally, falling over with laughter.
“The child ever dwells in the mystery of ageless time, unobscured by the dust of history.” – Rabindranath Tagore
It was now 9:30 AM. The announcements in the auditoriums and help desk began. On Spot Registration was set up. The Inauguration ceremony was held main auditorium. The highly organised and efficient Inventory team sent over materials required for the events. Participants filed into classrooms or auditoriums where the events were going to take place. Judges walked in.
Bangalore Nakshatra 2016 had begun!
“What’s done to the children is done to society.”
The HSVs themselves would responsibly herd their flock from one event room to another, encouraging the occasional child suffering from anxiety or wavering self confidence.
Storytelling was vivacious in character. Soft spoken, shy youngsters, took the stage by storm. The applause for one young man with fine bravado was particularly high. Another girl told us a story of an overworked mother whose entire day goes bad because of butter! We heard many innovative ideas in the space of an hour.
The adorably naughtier children in Quiz prelims would try to sneak a look at the question paper placed upside down and grin when reprimanded. The five teams who qualified for the finals were surely an intellectual lot. One team in particular had an awesome grasp of textbook knowledge while two girls in a team answered all the literature questions perfectly. When I asked them about their interests, I found out they were vociferous readers and had completed reading ask the books collections in their home library. The youngest team of the lot, two boys, answered the sports questions right off the bat! It was truly commendable. The intensity in the room was palpable when we conducted the tie breaker round.
Creative Writing saw many heart rending stories. Irrespective of the level and grammar, everyone’s stories carried emotional weight which is hard to replicate. One story related the helplessness felt while while watching the effects of bullying. Another explained why their mother is their favourite person ever. One poem had a complex rhyming scheme and my friend even noticed literary devices like refrains elsewhere.
Lunch was a very brief respite since everyone jogged around to get to the next event. Nevertheless, the children surely enjoyed the jalebi, ladoo, Pulau, raitha and curd rice.
The momentum of the events kept at a fevered pitch. Word Potpourri was a fun affair for everyone what with rounds of Word puzzles, picture puzzles, and Dumb Charades. On a side note, it was really interesting to notice all the different smart strategies employed by the kids to achieve all the tasks.
Shipwreck was a new concept for everyone but after a few trial runs, the kids took it up in their stride and became Gandhi, or Rajnikanth or Buddha with gusto!
One boy mentioned that he wanted to be saved in the life boat, because as Buddha, he can help mankind keep away from nuclear weapons! This kind of prompt intelligence drew forth chuckles from the judges too!
The judges evidently had a great time reading through and listening to the performances and stories. Judges Preethi, Seema, Nachiketh, and Desmond were all very encouraging and helpful to the children.
As the literary coordinator, my work relegated me to the second floor where all the literary events were taking place. Nonetheless I heard many inspiring stories of a boy who painted beautifully with his toes, and the determination of a group of girls to take part in rangoli.
The highlight of the day, as with any fest of course, was Group Dance! As I sat backstage sorting the prize distribution certificates, medals and winner kits, I had the opportunity to watch the energetic performances. A moonwalk executed to perfection, graceful peacock inviting rain dances, and Bollywood jhatak-matak! Ah, we volunteers just had to dance along to the tunes backstage and in the wings!
I know there must have been a lot more happening that I have missed and cannot record here, but at the denouement of Nakshatra, I can confidently say, my eyes have been opened and the joy I feel on the behalf of the children is inexplicable.
Despite the obvious presumption that good food must have been of foremost priority in everyone’s heads, I saw many tiny tots single mindedly focus on all their events, even during lunch time!
“The law of love could be best understood and learned through little children.”
Just after the prize distribution ceremony, the kids trooped out of the main auditorium and were delighted with the array of Samosas and goodies on display. Each of us munched a crunchy Samosa while many children waved their goodbyes to us with heart warming exclamations of “chanage ithu!”, “khushi aithu!” and “thank you!”
“And that is the reason why this victory is great, because different players have made contributions to the win.”
– Sachin Tendulkar
Nakshatra has reinforced my belief that I must channel my energy in a constructive way. Meeting so many fun, interesting and dedicated people was a definite bonus! I walked away with a Bhumi 100% certificate, yes, but the real treasure from the experience is the memories of smiles, and the wealth of my own emotional growth.
Here’s to Bhumi’s achievements in the last ten years and many more to come!
To know more about Nakshatra:
To volunteer with Bhumi