A MAD Voyage

I played thumb war with the kid in the checked shirt.

We were standing in long lines, casting wistful glances at the big white and blue ship beyond a sea of people in front of us. Months of discussions and debates had assembled 200 children, the respective centre authorities and 40 Maddies on 11th June 2011 at the Willingdon Island harbour – the biggest placement activity undertaken. The excitement was near palpable as we waited to enter the portals of the freshly repainted vessel.

Logos Hope, the legendary international floating book fair, has been bringing knowledge, help and hope to all who seek, knock and ask.

400 volunteers from over 40 nations; what binds them together? Their faith. Their belief in the goodness of the divine power ruling the cosmos. A belief moulded by pain and loss, grief and shame. A belief that transcends logical reasoning and accepts divine justice as the perfect plan. And a committed vision that the good news must be spread.

Soon enough, we were welcomed into the auditorium at the base of the ship. Some of the Logos volunteers had prepared a little show for us, which lasted for an hour. Adorned in cute sailor costumes, they proceeded to warm up the 250 strong crowd with “Captain says” and ‘relay’ using life jackets and life tubes. With shifting lights, upbeat background scores and props intact, they captured not just our undivided attention, but also our hearts.

They then enacted a play where 2 cruisers travelled around the world to find out what made people feel special and loved. Bordering on edu-tainment, the skit was crafted in a simplistic manner so as to spark the curiosity in a child without being didactic about values.

The children were even made to learn an action song routine when they docked at Texas, U.S.A and tap dance in wooden shoes at Holland, Amsterdam!! Lively and fun, we couldn’t wait for more.

Following the play was a video tour of the deck of the ship. Creatively captured, we were shown the lives of the volunteers residing within it. Children’s classrooms, elaborate kitchens and tidy laundry rooms were off-shoots of the labyrinthine passageways. As the volunteers commit themselves and their services for a certain period of time, ranging from 6 months to 2 years, to spreading hope in a fallen world, this mammothian beauty is their home away from home.

The general public is allowed access only into the circular book exhibition area of the ship. We joined them afterwards, giving the children a quick preview of the amazing world of books.

The ride back to one of the MAD centres to have a spot of lunch, spoke volumes for the all-pervading goodness that was here to stay. Some moments seem conspired by the universe that we wish we could clutch onto them and never let go. Such was the buoyant feeling as we breezed past the fragrant tea industry, our thoughts leaping over the flat tree-tops and skimming over the swirling blue waters.

Scanning the faces in the bus, I spot a boy with a cast and a girl with a broken past, smiling in their Sunday best. Another child’s eyes had welled up with tears. I asked her what had upset her. She shrugged at me in response, eyes downcast.

In hope lies a gift, I realize; a fragile bliss. We bade farewell grudgingly, to the ship of hope.

By Susan Paul Mathew.

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