By Sneheel Biswal
Receiving. From the time of our conception to the time we breathe our last, we keep receiving. Gifts on our birthdays, knowledge from our teachers, favors from our friends, unconditional love from our family. We receive a lot throughout our lifetime. I did too. All 21 years that I have lived so far. Upon introspection, I had this nagging question in my mind. What have I given? Of course, I may not be the most conscientious person in the whole wide world, but a little soul searching and all I came up with was shame – shame at having been utterly selfish. Then, MAD came to my rescue!
Seeing and recognizing this opportunity at redemption, I decided to seize it and join MAD. ‘Carpe Diem‘ as is famously said in Latin. Seize the day. And today, I can say that it was one of the best decisions of my life!
In the search for the best for its kids, MAD has a 2-step volunteer selection procedure of group discussions and personal interviews. And all you need to crack it is a good command over the English language, a will to put cause above self, a little innovation, a serious commitment and, of course, a lot of MADness! The ones who get sieved through, are put through a teacher training session.
Taken extremely seriously, teacher training is like base camp for soldiers before they hit ground zero. The senior MADsters work towards equipping the newbies with arsenal that would help them face every possible contingency. But, no matter how much we discussed and pre-planned, we all were hunters in the dark the next day. After all, these are children we are dealing with. Who knows what the little tykes might do?!
4 pm. My first MAD Sunday. I reached the center along with some other volunteers. As we climbed a narrow stair case, I saw a small girl, not more than 7 years old. I smiled, put my hand out and said, “Hi! What’s your name?” She shyly shook my hand, all the while chewing the end of her frock. She smiled and said, “Lakshmi”, and added, “I’m class four Providence Girl’s School!” I laughed and she laughed along.
As soon as we reached the roof (which is also the play area for the kids), I was surrounded waist high by kids. They milled around, grabbing my hand, shaking it vigorously, some tugging at my shirt to get my attention, others hi-fiving my palm. As I looked around, the other volunteers were similarly engaged. After this informal round of introductions, we gathered around for fun and games.
All through the games, a 3 year old kid was clinging to my leg. Throughout the session he played with a ball that I had given him. Another child, a little older, gave me a hug and didn’t let go for a long time. These little gestures just touched my heart. Every kid there had a magical touch, much like the fabled King Midas. As they touched us, we turned into 24 carat gold, on the inside. And that was a lovely feeling!
As the games drew to a close, a little girl came up to me and asked, “Bhaiyya, you’re staying here only na?” I shook my head and said, “No, but we’ll come back soon!” She frowned and grabbed my hand, vowing to never let go. I was rendered speechless. It was like life took hold of me by the scruff of my neck, yanked me closer and looked me dead in the eye. After lifting the last kid for the millionth time, I said good-bye to that little 3-yr old kid. As I left, he cocked his head and smiled at me.
The children have made their own paradise in the big bad world. They love, they laugh and they cry in that paradise. I feel extremely humbled that they had allowed me to be a part of their wonderful world. I might still be receiving a lot, but I had started giving as well. This Christmas, looking back at all those times spent with the children, I had tears in my eyes – tears of joy at befriending the kids with the Midas touch :)
Here’s to a cheerful and merry Christmas!