A Special Evening

A Special Evening

Children have an amazing propensity to squeeze out joy from little pleasures of life. It’s delightful to see little kids enjoying themselves merrily – singing, dancing and generally having fun, oblivious to the world around them. And when the kids in question are physically/mentally challenged, belonging to the underprivileged strata of the society, it’s a sight to behold.

Nearly 140 underprivileged, special children had a time of their life on the evening of Saturday October 18, 2003. The children, students of Anand Dighe Jidd School in Thane, were celebrating Diwali amidst their family, friends and teachers at a programme organised specially for them. "Deepanjali" as the evening was called, was sponsored by the Thane Police Department, Rotaract Club of Thane North End and Lioness club of Upvan. Ironically, senior officials from Police Department and the TMC (which runs the Jidd School) were conspicuous by their absence.

The programme, which was organised in the specially created garden for students of Jidd School, lasted for about three hours. Dance and singing performances by children and adults were the highlights of the evening. In one performance, by the staff members of the school, a man dressed up as a village woman, and danced to the tune of folk song while the children laughed and clapped in joy. Interactive games of fortune allowed the audience to participate and win prizes. The live orchestra band added to the charm of the evening.

Towards the end of the show, the orchestra played many popular Hindi songs in a free-for-all dance show. Half the audience was up on the stage, including a few special children. It literally boggled the mind to see the jest with which the special children were dancing. One polio affected child, with barely any legs, was dancing energetically without any sign of discomfort, and enjoying every moment of it. He was literally jumping on a single foot for what seemed like ages, and seemed like he was over the moon. Another special child joined the band to play the drums – and he played wonderfully. The look on the children’s faces and the demand for more music and more dance made it clear that they just did not want the evening to end. In spite of the celebrations mood, the special children surprisingly maintained discipline and none of them needed to be guarded for causing disruptions. Afterwards, many guests, including this writer, were presented with beautiful paper roses made by the special students of Jidd School.

The ultimate delight for the children was the session of fireworks at the close of the show. The sparklers and explosives lit the sky up repeatedly, producing various colours, noises and effects; some breaking into colour bursts in the air and some displaying colours going up. Each successive burst was accompanied by grand cheers, sounds of roaring laughter interspersed with ecstatic oohs and aahs.

Among the people who graced the programme were Mayor Sharada Raut, TMC house speaker Eknath Shinde, Vijay Padwal from the Department of Sports and Culture, Sanjay More from the Education Department and many others. Group Leader of Shiv Sena in TMC, Anil Save who attended the programme said, "Jidd School holds a special place in our hearts. I know of no other Municipal Corporation anywhere in the country that organises such Diwali celebrations for the underprivileged special children. TMC is unique in that respect."

The principal of Jidd School, Shyamshree Bhonsle, when asked what drove her to organise such a programme, replied, "There is a need to deal with special children with greater creativity and sensitivity. Moreover, our students come from really poor families who may be so occupied with mere sustenance that they can hardly afford to think of celebrating festivals. By organising such a programme and inviting their families, we thought we could provide these children an opportunity to enjoy the festival just like we all do. They always look forward to such celebrations as they forget their daily pains, if only for a few hours." She was thankful to the many supporters of the school and sponsors who made it possible. She added, "I wish to personally thank all the well-wishers who contribute in their own way to run the school for the underprivileged children in need of special care."

Such was the evening’s effect that it caused our eyes to become moist with emotion. The joy on the faces of the special children overwhelmed our hearts and made us pray for them. It was a special evening by all counts, indeed.

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