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Best Day(s) Ever

The Waterpark. Just thinking about taking forty plus children to a waterpark gives us complete joy and utter dread. The joy part of the equation is immeasurable. Our dread of how many things could go wrong when none of the children can swim or has experience near large bodies of water, is somewhat outweighed by the children’s anticipation, their list making of names that goes on for days, and their constant chatter for weeks about how many pools there are in the park, while they pass my phone around to check out the photos from last years waterpark picnic. There’s always new children in the group who’ve never been to a pool before, and parents who want to tag along who don’t understand the first thing about water safety. The list of names keeps growing, and the dread of the “what if’s” and “what could happen” prevent restful sleep (the ceiling fan in our dilapidated flat could use a clean I notice as the grime covered fan blades whir at maximum speed), until the event is over and all heads are accounted for, happy, tired, and elated. During the two hour bus ride to the park we shout over the children singing their hearts out to Bollywood tunes, to get Indu's attention who's sitting near the back of the bus leading the sing-a-long dance- a-thon, to tell them, in Hindi, one more time (maybe two more times) about the dangers of deep water, and the more sinister shallow water, and please don’t think it's fun to hold anyone under water. Their collective excitement overrides their attention span, and we sink back in our seats hoping for the best. A few days before the event, upon noticing my increasing anxiety, Indu found a few online videos about water safety, and for a brief minute or two, the children paid attention to the colourful graphics on the screen. It’s all we could hope for. 

This year, forty nine children, and a few parents, joined us on the trip to the far flung waterpark located in a dusty neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. Roshni had a case of dengue fever and didn’t want to miss the day. She gave it her all and splashed in the shallow pools with her brother until she finally gave in to a raging fever. We made her comfortable on a chair in the shade and fished her medicine out of her bag. A swig of medicine calmed her fever and she slept all the way back to the community. One of the moms, completely unaware of the dangers of giant pools of water (she didn’t see the water safety videos!) sat her toddler, Amira, on a chair by the side of the pool and wandered off to enjoy the pools. We noticed Amira in the chaos, thankfully before she decided to try the pool on her own, and she became my hip accessory for a few hours. Deepanshu had a bandaged head wound from falling down a ladder from his home, but he insisted that he was fine to come with us.  Every child yelled out “please, one more photo!" I ran from pool to pool, feeling the responsibility of taking a few hundred photos so that I didn't miss anyone, while on the look out for kids literally in over their heads, tired, and becoming more reckless. I also saw pure joy for eight hours on that blissful day in the hot sun, a once a year opportunity for the children to escape the city and be immersed in big blue pools of water.

Yes, we’ll do it again next year.

The Trampoline Park. We were feeling the pinch of the cost of the waterpark picnic and had considered that we wouldn’t plan any more big picnics this year. We hadn’t spent much time with Indu’s children apart from tuition classes and occasionally picking Aagya up from school, so one day we decided to drop by and take Aagya and Aarya out for an afternoon of ice cream and an hour of play at a trampoline park we’d discovered. Aagya wanted to invite Sakina and Lavisha along. Then I noticed Nikita sitting in Indu’s home, now the lone girl in the tuition class full of boys. How could she not be included. It took her about ten minutes to run back to her home and change into a special outfit for the afternoon playdate. The seven of us marched up to the busy road and stood waiting for an auto rickshaw to take us to the park. The girls were dressed in their best clothes, their hair was styled with barrettes and headbands and earrings sparkled on their tiny ears. While dust swirled around our feet kicked up from the mad traffic, a few rickshaw drivers stopped, but refused our gang of giggling girls, until we were finally rescued by a smiling driver who was happy to let us all pile in and deliver us to our fun destination. Our first stop was DMart for soft ice-cream. Then the girls spent all their pent-up energy on the trampolines, and the bonus bumper cars, but hunger kept them trudging up the long street to a snack shop. We ordered giant toasted sandwiches to share, added a few sodas, and headed another few blocks to a beautiful public park. We enjoyed our lunch sitting on the large expanse of green lawn surrounded by towering palms and lush landscaping encircled by luxury apartments. Sakina declared the picnic “elegant”. After their bellies were full, the girls took advantage of the vast lawns and ran amok through the park leaving no flower unpicked, circling back to drop the just plucked petals in our laps, before hailing a rickshaw to whisk us all back to the community.

The next afternoon, upon arriving at Indu’s for her afternoon tuition class, Ganesh handed us a list of names the boys had written on two scraps of paper. They called it their ‘justice list’. While we’d been out with the girls I’d sent Indu photos of the them having a grand time, and she shared the photos with the boys. They'd made two lists of names so that we could accommodate them in auto rickshaws more easily, and offered us the choice of time and dates for their day at the trampoline park.

We took each team of boys to the trampolines, on two separate days, where they competed with each other to climb the highest and jump the farthest, while we watched their antics from behind a safety net. The bumper cars were mayhem, and we were thankful that the cars had speed limits. Their day ended with a trip to the same snack shop where they ordered samosa chaats and sodas, and then we wandered into a different nearby park for more play, stopping to check out koi fish and turtles in a murky pond, and randomly stopped for cupcakes at a fancy bakery before we hailed rickshaws to take us home.

Days like these are extraordinary for the children. They help to plan the dates, the times, and where to go; an immeasurable gift that sustains them for weeks. The trampoline park is located in an upscale area, a place that they would have no reason to go to, although many of their parents are employed as nanny's, domestic help, or personal drivers in these well-tended neighbourhoods. Their everyday lives don’t allow them what most of us take for granted as small pleasures. These days are golden and worth whatever it costs. The socks with the sticky dots on the bottom that we were required to purchase at the trampoline park, were a coveted souvenir, stuffed into their pockets, as a cool reminder of their day of fantastic play.

Saturday Play. Every Saturday we gather behind the community in the space that used to house hundreds of families before it was bulldozed a few years ago. The municipal government destroyed this part of the slum area in order to protect the water pipeline that runs in a straight line for kilometres, previously dissecting the community. The displaced families moved to other slum areas of the city, or have made a new home in the part of the community that was left, building rooms atop other rooms, building up instead of out, thus obliterating the chance for daylight to enter the lanes. The government has since removed the debris from the flattened homes in the demolished area, and in their place added bicycle trails, exercise equipment, landscaping, fencing, and footpaths that run for kilometres along the water pipeline route. The ghost outlines of slum homes are still visible along the concrete walls that separate the community from the high-rise buildings and the road, but the area is a now a wide open space for everyone to escape the dark lanes and their windowless homes. It's a utopia for many people in the community. In the early morning, before the temperature becomes unbearable, and in late afternoon before the sun sets, adults wander out into the sunlit area for long walks, children play on the rusting exercise equipment and race along the narrow grass areas, while the elderly and groups of women and men sit in clumps visiting with each other. 

We use the area for unbridled play. Every year, sometimes a few times a year, we purchase badminton rackets, balls, skipping ropes, cricket bats, chalk, bubbles, frisbees, tiny cars and play animals for a free-for-all-do-what-you-want Saturday play day. We watch as balls are accidentally launched over the tall concrete barrier topped with barb wire. One of the boys will climb the wall and put their head through the barbed wire to yell at someone on the other side to throw it back. The footpath is dotted with loosely covered square holes for drainage. The covers are rarely in place, allowing balls and toys to find a way into the drains. “Don’t do it!! We’ll buy new frisbees!’ we scream as a child drops down into the hole that is about five feet below the surface stepping into piles of garbage and broken glass, plus a large rat population, to rescue whatever is down there. An older boy will inevitably decide to shimmy up into the branches of a coconut palm tree to rattle the tree for fresh coconuts while we scamper to get the toddlers out from under the tree before the coconuts fall. Defining this area as utopia might be superfluous given that there are plenty of ways for the children to hurt themselves. Despite the broken cement, meandering curbs, large holes, broken glass, the metal pipeline, barbed wire, rusting exercise equipment, falling coconuts, and motorcycles speeding down the walking path, it’s the best place to play for miles around. This area has become an integral part of community life, offering respite for some, room to exercise for others, and a place to play for all. We love it.

Here’s how your donations were used from February 1, 2024 to March 30, 2024.

School Fees

Nandchhaya Vidya Niketan School:

Sumedh Vijay Wankhade: 16,150 rupees

Piyush Poojari: 10,000 rupees

Mehwish Mosin Khan: 12,150 rupees

Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala College of Arts, Commerce, Science

Itaba Imran Hashmi: 3795 rupees 

Adarshan Vidya Mandir

Tanishka Jayant Thakur: 10,600 rupees 

Total: 52,695 rupees

Medical Fees

Amjad Shaikh/medicine/hospital fees: 13,375 rupees

-Abhipray Centre Ultrasound: 2000 rupees

-Druv Medical Store (Nirmal Hospital)/blood tests/scans: 6364 rupees

-Drug Medical Store/medicine/tests: 6870 rupees

Gotia/Cancer test/Jeeyo PET CT & Nuclear Imaging Centre: 8500 rupees

Rahees Shaikh: tonsil removal/sinus operation/payment for medical tool for diagnosis at BMC Hospital: 10,000 rupee deposit against fees (family paid the remaining fees)

Aagya/Cure Chemist/inhalers/mouth gel: 1270 rupees

Motikala Singh/Nirmal Hospital: 5000 rupees (deposit against fees/family paid the remaining fees)

Total: 53,379 rupees

Other/Tuition Centre/Birthdays/Picnics etc


Bus snacks: cookies, bananas: 850 rupees (no receipt)

Bus rental: 10,000 (no receipt)

Bus tolls: 300 rupees

Anand Sagar Waterpark

49 people (adults and children) @ 550 each (waterpark/breakfast/lunch/snack) = 26,950 rupees

Total: 38,100

Girl’s Picnic (5 girls)

Trampoline: 2400 rupees

Socks (DMart): 198 rupees

Bumper Car: 480 rupees

Lunch: 900 (K3 chat shop Hiranandani)

Ice Cream (Dmart): 75 rupees 

Rickshaws (return): 180 rupees

Total: 4233 rupees

Boy’s Picnic (group 1) 7 boys

Bumper cars: 560 rupees

Ice cream: 105 rupees

Trampoline: 3500 rupees

Water bottles: 120 rupees

Lunch: 1000

Rickshaws: (return) 270 rupees 

Total: 5555 rupees

Boys Picnic (group 2) 8 boys

Bumper Cars: 480 rupees

Trampoline: 3900 rupees

Ice cream: 90 rupees

Water bottles: 100 rupees

Lunch: 1500 rupees

Cupcakes: 520 rupees

Rickshaws (return) 200

Total: 6790 rupees

Haiko supermarket: 500 grams cashews as treat for tuition class: 680 rupees

Grapes for treat for tuition class: 1 kilo @ 200 rupees

Lucky Next Shop (Powai)/ art supplies, holi supplies: 970 rupees

Patel Book Centre/Badminton rackets/balls/toy animals/bubbles: 1200 rupees

Patel Book Centre: (balls for Saturday play): 415 rupees

Sweets/chocolate treats/Indu’s tuition classes/40 children x 15 rupees each: 600 rupees

Chocolates purchased for Nandchhaya School Fees staff as a thank you gift: 375 rupees

Ganesh’s mother died/cash given to grandmother for cremation and other death related expenses plus living expenses for one month: 15,000 rupees

Treats/rations for street family (nuts, etc): 895 rupees

Naeem/birthday/cake/chips/badminton racket gift/plates/candy: 920 rupees

Lucky Stores/crayons/candy for valentine day give away: 384 rupees

Suarav/birthday/cake/candy/chips/frisbee: 890 rupees

Total (February 2024 - March 2024) 183,281 rupees/CAD 2,988.58

If you'd like to look, we post photos and short stories on Instagram and Facebook a few times a week.



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