I could hear laughter coming from the school as Hardique rushed past me with a blur of red, yellow and blue balloons trailing behind him. I ducked through the doorway of the school and saw the floor covered in balloons and the air thick with excitement as the children have just discovered that we will be playing a movie in the garden tonight. Word began to spread along the pipeline as more and more curious children peeked through the doorway eager to find out what is going on.
A few weeks ago, Suda, who runs an entertainment and event company called “Little Starz” came to us with an idea to have a movie night in the slum. Suda and her family have been helping support Janvi with programs for children over the last few years and we were eager to work with her again. Her company would be supplying a popcorn machine, candy floss and gifts, along with all the neccesary equipment to show the movie. Our job was to set the up the equipment and round up the children.
We decided not to tell the community in advance because we could only accomodate around 500 people and if word spread too early we would not be able to accommodate everyone because there are hundreds of families living along this section of the pipeline.
Early in the afternoon, the tables arrived and with the help of the children we began setting up. As I was unloading a table, I could see six small children carrying the candy floss machine, kicking up dust with their barefeet while their tiny arms struggled with the weight of the machine. I ran towards them and lifted the back end as the children yelled “chelo,chelo!!” and the group of us laughed as we lifted it on to one of the tables. In between unloads we played games of tag and chased each other around the garden. The school was a hive of activity. Sashi and Namrata tied the balloons in bunches and gave them to the children who ran them to the garden. Gotia stood atop our rickety ladder wiring lights to the tree as children ran around, underneath and inbetween the ladder causing me to shudder with every close call.
Suda called next and said she was on the bridge with the equipment so Ashley and I grabbed several older boys and headed to the main road. We unloaded the van and eight of us carried speakers and screens through the lane ways of the slum gathering excited children as we went. Carrying a 70 lb speaker clasped to my chest with Yogita hanging off my left pocket and Sunjana pinching my leg in hysterical fits of laughter we finally made it to the garden. I set down my speaker and gave chase to a Sunjana and Yogita, their tiny legs working overtime trying their best to stay ahead of the scary “Kane Sir”.
I went down to check the other section of the pipeline where the masons were working on the new boundary wall, when all of a sudden hindi disco music came rolling down the pipeline. Children stopped in their tracks, a group of kids playing cricket stopped mid-swing and all ears perked up like animals in a national geographic documentary. Pausing only for a second, children began to run towards the music and I followed suit. Nearing the garden little boys gyrated and little girls held hands and ran towards the garden. Jumping up onto the pipeline the garden came into view and a smile creased my face at the sight of fifty children dancing as if auditioning for a music video. Ashley and I spread tarps on the ground covering the dirt and giving our guests a place to sit for the movie. Soon the smell of popcorn wafted through the garden and mothers carrying their small children filled the sides of the garden. By 6:30 p.m. over 3oo people filled the area and children lined up for popcorn and candy floss.
Urging the children to sit down we turned the main lights off, and when the huge movie screen came alive with colour the kids were momentarily stunned and then excited chatter filled the air. The movie was the animated Pixar film “Shark Tale”, dubbed in Hindi. I took a seat in the back watching the tiny heads of over 400 children sitting quietly watching the jumbo screen. No party is complete with out some glitches and soon our main lights and popcorn machine died but the movie played on. Halfway through the movie, the smell of the popcorn and candy floss machines up and running again was to much for the kids to bear and there was a mad rush. I tried to slow the children down and pick up the little ones from being trampled. After five minutes of chaos we were able to convince the children to sit once again, but all eyes remained on the candy floss. Our volunteers began handing out the floss to children but there was simply too many of them. The machines were turned off again when the gifts were brought to the garden. Then the movie was back on and some order was restored but I was already dreading the gift give-a-way at the end of the night.
As the movie ended, Rudanya, Thryza, Ashley, Suda and her family and I gathered the gifts and prepared for the chaos as best we could. We blocked off the exit to the other end of the garden and got the children to line-up. As they exited the garden they were handed a chocolate role and a plastic molded plate with fork and spoon as a gift to keep for their home. Things were moving quite smoothly until people who didn’t attend the movie heard of the give-a-ways and soon the entrance to the garden was packed chest to chest with adults and children trying to get in on the gifts. We had a limited number and were doing our best to keep the peace. This scenerio would play out the same in any culture or country because when something is free everyone one wants one regardless of what it is. For the next 25 minutes we pleaded with mothers to back up as we passed the gifts to the families already in the garden. Once we ran out of the 500 chocolate rolls and plates we were faced with some very disappointed people, angry that they didn’t get anything. We do our utmost to please everyone, bu inevitably we can’t help them all.
The night was a success. It was a night of frivolous fun and something unusual and interesting for this community. Something as simple as a movie that we take for granted in the west is special for families that will never have the chance to visit a theater. Evenings like this will not change their lives but there is a lot to be said for bringing joy and fun into improvished communities. Watching the children smile and laugh and forget the troubles their families face even for a few hours is worth it’s weight in gold.
Kane Ryancricket, curry, documentary, donate, education, fundraising, garbage, garbage dump, garden, India, Mumbai, orphanage, Photography, reclaim, school, slum, sponsorship, travel, victoria, volunteer