Amit Thanvi, 26, insisted that they get books too. So setting aside their initial plan of just buying fruits and cakes, a group of youngsters who decided to spread some cheer in the lives of Mumbai’s homeless this Christmas, added books to their shopping list.
With shopping done and Christmas just around the corner, Thursday morning, the group of seven gathered in South Mumbai, all wearing Santa hats. They walked down the parking lot adjoining FLora Fountain in Fort and woke up pavement dwellers, inviting them to join in the revelry, much to the surprise of 50-odd women and children who sat in a circle with expectant eyes, wondering what would happen next.
Amit, who heads Tarang Foundation, along with friends from Robin Hood Army (RHA) first handed out oranges to each one of them. But, well, keeping healthy options aside, the children feasted their eyes first and themselves on a big, chocolate cake, a first for many of the little ones.
Ragun Lodha, 25, said she had no qualms skipping her mother’s birthday celebrations to be with the rest of the group as they finetuned plans for their little Christmas generosity. “Feeding the homeless comes almost innately,” said Lodha, a chartered accountant and member of the RHA.
Before food packets of masala khichdi, from the kitchen of volunteer Hiral Lukka, could be distributed, Amit made sure the women and children had finished their slices of the cake.
One of the women says she had migrated to the city from Solapur 50 years ago to make a better living. “We still live on and off the streets,” she sighs, but says she could not be happier. For the pavement dwellers, the team’s gesture is a welcome festival gift. “We hardly manage two square meals a day. With cake, khichdi and oranges, it is a feast,” she adds.
Activists and volunteers Malvika Agarwal (22) and Priyanka Tripathi (24) are happy that participation in these efforts is growing, but say the number of mouths to be fed in Mumbai rises every day.
For now though the focus is on filling hungry stomachs in the city and treasuring all the gratitude they get in return. Others like Bipin Lukka (50), a share marketer, and 27-year-old Mustafa, a commodities professional with a stock trading firm, do not shy away from any opportunity they get to help the hungry.
“A couple of hours every Sunday can make a world of difference for people deprived of basic needs such as shelter,” says Lodha. The group unanimously feels that other groups and NGOs should come forward to facilitate medical assistance too.
With RHA setting up its latest chapter in Powai, the group is seeking sponsorship from restaurants in and around the area.
“Any help would help us feed a few more,” says Thanvi, who left home in Rajasthan and now dedicates all his time to social causes.