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Birthdays are Ordinary Days Sprinkled with Stardust

Written by Avinash Monappa, Sunny and Nitin Vegi

Every Sunday at the Government Home for Men, U&I volunteers gather to spend time with the men. Invariably, one of the volunteers will be led by hand towards the Santa Claus sticker on the wall (a remnant from the previous Christmas celebrations) and asked, “When is the next Christmas Bash coming?” Finally, the much awaited day came on 24th Jan in the form of the Men’s Home Birthday/Christmas Bash.

When we entered the Home holding materials for decoration, Stephen, one of the men, couldn’t believe that his Christmas had finally arrived. With wide eyes of disbelief and excitement, he kept asking, “Is it really Christmas today?” Decorations went on full-speed with Boys’ Home volunteers lending a hand. As the volunteers decorated the walls and windows with balloons and colorful garlands, the men anxiously waited for the fun to begin.

The excitement soared as the bouncing castle was inflated. The surprised men craned their necks to see the big colourful creation outside the window blocking the sunlight. We began helping the men take turns in the bouncing castle. The men were vying for attention to choose them next. We cheered as the men played around. Maya, one of the men, was so elated that he wouldn’t get down. He sat tight at the top, crossed-legged, refusing to budge. But eventually everyone got a chance to play as the trips to the bouncing castle continued throughout the event.

The hall came alive as Santa Claus was ushered in with copious amounts of snow spray and the sound of ‘Jingle Bells’. Dancing has always been a favorite activity for the men and today they had a very special guest dancing with them to a few familiar songs. Men flocked around Santa while he shook their hand and gave them chocolates. The joyous atmosphere made the men more energetic than ever. Right after this tiring dance session, it was time to blow the candles on the cake to celebrate the men’s birthdays. One of the men along with a staff member was asked to cut the cake. The men waited eagerly to have a bite of the delicious cake which was later served to them. As a token of appreciation for their hard and demanding work we gave gifts to all the staff at the Home.

Right after the quick snack, there was a puppet show by Rangaputhali. While the men took their seats, the stage was set for the dolls to dance to popular tunes. One of the performances involved a puppet snake. Annaya, one of the men, quietly got up and walked away far from the front row thinking it was a real snake. As the final song of the show - ‘Dhola Re’ came up, the men themselves started dancing which inspired the puppeteers to bring out the puppets from the stage area and make them dance among the men. It was a fitting finale for the show. The Rangaputhali team were overjoyed with the enthusiastic response from their audience.

The U&I volunteers also performed a play and sang a few songs for the men. A set of volunteers performed a The Nativity Story. It even had some men taking part in it, donning the roles of the wise men and the sheep. Later, the men got a chance to hear melodious Christmas carols performed live. To end the music performance, all the volunteers got together to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while the men formed a human train singing and dancing around the room. Next up, Black Ice Crew enthralled the men and volunteers with an amazing dance performance. Later, cartoons and educational videos were projected onto a screen. The dark room lit only by a string of LEDs looked surreal and it was almost like a movie theater.

The day ended with a special dinner which we served by the volunteers. This satisfying experience was topped by the fact that there was not a single plate which was left unfinished, a lesson that we all have to learn from these men.

The success of the Birthday/Christmas bash is a reflection of the dedication volunteers display on a continual basis. A lot of hard work went into making things run smoothly. It started with a goal to make it memorable for the men and we’d like to believe it was something that they will remember for a long time. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at U&I, the staff at the home for their co-operation, and the performers who enthusiastically agreed to come entertain us. We’d like to reiterate that none of this would have been possible without the volunteers and their thorough preparation for the event - we appreciate your gift of time, energy and enthusiastic support. A heartfelt gratitude to those who attended.

We hope the coming years bring many such wonderful moments to the Government Home for Men. It has been and always will be about the smiles on their faces. Being the reason for their joy is the greatest motivator. Hope those smiles will prevail for a long time to come.

“You take away all the other luxuries in life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness.”

- Brad Garrett

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