Éclair Birthday, Ludhiana – Jalnidh Kaur
“Mera to kabhi saal me janam din hi nahi aata” (My birthday never comes in the year) – those innocent words said by a kid of about six who is a school dropout and one of the street kids in my street have the tactile effect of activating my tear glands. I wander in my thoughts desperately as I walk the cat back through 17 years of celebrating fun filled birthdays of mine at my place surrounded by hordes of friends, loving relatives and cousins, receiving packets of wrapped gifts - the joy of opening which came only once in a year, the day much awaited for. Funnily though, Mahesh’s birthday never came in the year. There was no such day he could call his own and celebrate. I inquired other kids in our li’l school and none of them could have the faintest memory of knowing their ‘janm-dins’.

That is when some of my friends opted to volunteer and we thought of celebrating a common birthday of all our school kids. We planned the party well in advance – there would be balloons, cake, music and fun with the kids. One of my friends Nehmat Kaur, an enthusiastic volunteer for éclair decided to gift them handkerchiefs painted with their school’s name. News spreads like wildfire among these kids who seem to have greater connectivity with all of their pals in poverty than even facebook can offer. They were there the next day well before time shouting something like “aaj hamara janm din hai!” (Today is our birthday!) To start with, we had the ‘balloon inflating ceremony’ where all of us, including me had nice time blowing into the balloons; (some of us blew until they burst!) Not to mention, like all other kids, they fight too and my friends did a good job solving their tussles over balls and balloons and getting them back again. The cake, the balloons, the candles, the music --- it was a day they could truly call ‘theirs’!

Valentines’ Day, Delhi
Balloonseller: 15 balloons?
Maanasa: Yes, how much for it?
Balloonseller: 150
The girl must be nuts. 15 heart-shaped gas balloons for her love on V- Day! People stared at her, the sight of a girl walking by the roadside with 15 balloons standing erect over her head.
Maanasa’s love deserved the attention. 15 special kids at Éclair Delhi!!! Kids of construction laborers in the DU North Campus. 7 of our volunteers – Surinderjit, Ankita, Geetika (from SRCC), Priyanka, Maanasa, and Sarah Jacobson and Jalnidh (from St Stephens) enjoyed the day with the kids – the smart Keshu, the naughty Bhoora, little Bhagchand among them. They haven’t known the meaning of love – born and brought up in construction sites, their parents keep shifting sites. The only toys our kids have played with are heaps of mud, stones and sand so ubiquitous in the half-built house they call their ‘ghar’. We feasted with samosas and sweets while Ankita’s dancing lessons in the open park were quick to attract attention. The children loved playing with the red gas balloons until they discovered that gas balloons fly up and never return if the string is let gone. The lesson for the day was the lesson of love – that of sharing and caring for each other.

Birthday at Éclair Delhi - Priyanka Dass Saharia
Birthdays are always a very special part of a child’s life - at least for most of them. The day when wishes are granted, candles are blown, cakes cut and new dresses are worn to be flaunted and admired. It is always a special occasion to mark their coming into the world. Everyone showers love and blessings on the child, that day. But in Éclair, the kids didn’t even know their birth dates, let along celebration and gifts and cakes. But here, we never believe in allowing the demons of tragedy attack our angels of hope and joy. Jalnidh came with an idea... Why don’t we have a celebration!!! ...a collective birthday of all the kids, on a specified date. We were all up for it. We decided a date and all of us agreed to pool in whatever way we could. Some decided on the cake, candles, and little packages of pencils, erasers, colour pencils and sketch books.

The cake was specifically kept chocolate with colorful tiny flowers to suit the children. Gaurav went and got Uncle Chips and Frito Lays for the snacks and the tiny gifts were done in shiny paper. The party needless to say was a huge success. We started with Aleesha singing a Malayalam song in her beautiful voice. We had Gaurav and Bhoora grooving to the beats of ‘Sheila ki Jawaani ‘and ‘Chaiya Chaiya’. They had set the dance floor on fire after which we all moved to the rhythm. We had two doctor guests at our birthday – Bhuwan Giri and Siju Chacko, MBBS students from AIIMS whose presence proved icing on the cake.

We played our favorite ‘Chidiya Ur’ and ‘Antakshari’. Soon we cut the cake and sang to the beats of the good old birthday song. We had our exclusive photography session where Keshu and some of the kids did some posing as well. Very soon, we opened the gifts and the kids were delighted to finally get their own tools to be creative and draw and paint all they liked.

This was our first Éclair Birthday, here in Delhi and we assure you that éclair will make sure all the kids here relish the feeling of what birthdays and no one goes without it. We will sing, dance, make merry and always keep the spirit of hope and faith very much alive in us.
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