But 'bout a Kutumba we had been to. Kutumba means family in Kannada.
Family - we take them granted for - but for quite a lot of people they simply don't exist. Birth - a chance -(unless you believe in Karma) could have placed me anywhere. Sex & geography apart, the economic background & your health are something you don't have any control on. I could have been born blind, autistic, mentally-retarded, or physically handicapped. And on top of all poverty. Poverty coupled with a handicap could have easily left me on the streets.
Well, this Deepavali volunteers of Friends of Cry met at a home called 'Kutumba'. It houses 15 inmates along with a warden. Most of them physically handicapped and a couple of them mentally. Girls in the age group of 4 to 25. There was one boy around 8-10 yrs. All of them go to school or some training like tailoring/beautician/computers.
The gang had been joining them for Diwali & Christmas celebrations the last few years. And, so it was on a not-yet-raining evening a gang on bikes started from the CRY office & reached 'Kutumba' somewhere in the Hennur-Banaswadi region around 6ish. The gang had Sandeep, Saphal, Karthik, Vinitha, Mamtha, Kiran, Sunand & me. For many of us it was a first visit.
We quickly settled down, and had a long nice introduction of all of us. Each of us were to give clues to our names, and then the rest were to crack. The names were simply blasted off. And, then we spoke about our interests & hobbies. Lemme recall their names, yes...Kamakshi, Manjula, Sujanna, Pragya, Vikram, Jyothi, Madhu, Vijaya...
This kid is Pragya. Not sure what exactly is wrong. Autism or mental-retardation. Mamtha had a great time with her. And, surprisingly Pragya didn't crib at all, she enjoyed playing with her. Simple things like waving Sunand's cap captured her full attention. Not a word she spoke.
At some point, she noticed the bright red colored thread with a chand-hoova (flower) on my wrist (My Mom's Diwali special), and grabbed it. And, then simply kept oscillating it & watched it fascinated.
Vikram, sat much more silently. Vineeta got talking/engaging him. He had some chocolates & chips. He never talked, hardly moved, sat erect, moving only his hands.
Well, after some 30-40 minutes of talk, we moved up to the terrace to burst crackers. Cool...bursting crackers. Strangely, the girls weren't joining. I expected them to simply pick up the crackers & burst them.
Well, to begin with most of them were scared!!! Secondly, they seemed to be quite shy. So, the volunteers started distributing the stuff. Mamtha set the trend, by bursting whatever she layed her hands on. And, soon the rest of the crowd joined in. Pragya came up, but not Vikram & Vijaya. Vijaya was really scared.
Lot of flower-pots, boo-chakras, sur-sur bathis, and finally we ventured into crackers & rockets. Madhu - an 8th std kid - was graduating fast. Soon, quite a few of them were bursting the big ones. At this point, Anil, Murtuza & Sonia joined us.
We had carried with us lotz of crackers. We spent the next 90 minutes bursting them all. Rockets were a problem, they were so un-predictable. We had a plastic bottle. Soon under Karthik's direction they were all sent up. Yeah! one landed dangerously in a garage nearby.
Around 8:30ish, as we were almost thru, the sky rained rockets back!!! We scampered back indoors.
By now, we knew each other fairly well. I was asking them their short-term goals. Madhu - 8th std kid - said she wants to be doctor ;-) Another lady said she want to stand on her feet - economic independence - that's a realistic & fantastic goal I thought. Soon...songs happened...Anthakshari wasn't a success....and soon we moved to a game called '7 Up'. Each of us count ourselves ...1...2...3..it goes...the 7th chap as to say '7 up'....and point hands in the direction he want the counting to restart again. If somebody goofs up, he/she had to do some activity. We had loads of fun with this game. We passed sweets & chips. Soon it was 9:45pm...........and the rain had slowed down.
We said our byes. They thanked us for coming. Asked us to come back for Christmas. That, we promised. And left the place.
Well, activities like these mean different things to different people. For me, the act of getting to meet such people, talking to them, spending time with them has been important, educating & inspiring. It balances my life. And, I have always believed its important to keep doing something - however small - than get lost in intellectual discussion on their utility/long-termness.
Family/Kutumba, is a concept, that embraces everybody you look at & talk with. For people down & struggling, a little help, an encouragement, an hand-shake, a smile - could make all the difference.
Like to thank all those for making this Diwali event happen. Sunand for planning & running around. Murtuza. Rajarshi for talking about it & pushing it (but not turning up). And, whole lot of people who contributed for the crackers & sweets. Thanks guyz.