A day after the Dalhousie Institute lit up for the season with the Christmas Tree Party, during which the members’ children (and grown-ups too) enjoyed tricks and treats, it was time for the Club to share the warmth and gaiety with youngsters not so fortunate. The DI invited children who cannot usually partake in the happiness and cheer of Christmas, providing them an opportunity to do so within its precincts on Jhowtala Road, as has been the practice for many years.
And so it was that 55 children from the two schools run by the Bustee Welfare Centre, a 49-year-old NGO based in Kolkata, trooped in to the DI on Mondayafternoon with their teachers guiding them along. An air of excitement hovered over the kids, aged between 5 and 10 years old, as they sat down in the courtyard in front of the stage, all dressed and spruced up for the occasion. As they waited for Santa, they took turn in batches of 10 to visit the kids’ zone, laughing and shouting in joy while they played on the swings, the slides and the jungle gym. The DI Entertainment Committee members were at hand to guide them along.
“Hello, young friends,” crackled a voice on the PA system as the MC for the occasion greeted the children. “Winter has set in…are you feeling the cold?” they were asked in Bengali. The young group replied yes in unison. “With winter comes Christmas, and along with Christmas comes…Santa Claus!” The children broke into a cheer when told that Santa would be coming to DI with gifts especially for them. Then, when word came that he was round the corner and would reach any minute, they were asked to sing Jingle Bells to welcome him. That they had been taught the song in school was evident from the way they kept to the tune and sang as one.
More cheers and applause followed as the bearded man, dressed and capped in red and white, kept his word and strode in, taking his seat on the stage and waving out in greeting. One by one, the children were then called on stage to be handed over a wrapped gift and a warm handshake from Santa. They also received a bag of toys and knick-knacks, distributed by two young volunteers of the Club. Though the kids wondered what their gifts could be, they were told to unwrap them at home, keeping the surprise pending. All the while, the teachers accompanying the children were busy taking pictures. After each child had received gifts, it was time for Santa to take a group picture with all the children. The jocular gent then bid goodbye, promising to return next year.
It was now the turn for more enjoyment - a magic show by Amazing David, a seasoned illusionist who has performed on various TV channels and shows all over the country. Using scarves, paper, rings and flowers that appeared from nowhere, he mesmerized and perplexed the children in turns. He called for volunteers from among the kids, involving them in his acts. Coins appeared from the sleeve, back, head and ears of a young boy called on stage; a sheet of paper was folded and cupped in the magician’s palms which, when he blew into, spewed out bits of paper that looked like snowflakes falling on the DI courtyard. “David is truly amazing with his magic,” remarked a teacher, who was as stumped as her students over how the tricks were being done. Asked to reveal his secrets, the illusionist replied there may be answers on his website – www.amazingdavid.com. And the best part was that the magician entertained the children without taking anything in return, except the awe and smiles of the youngsters.
All this activity had built an appetite among the kids, who were now given boxes filled with goodies – patties, cakes, cutlets and sandwiches, followed by ice cream! The excited chattering and clapping of the magic show was replaced by silence as the children munched their way through the meal. Then, after a solid three hours of frolic, fun and food, it was time to say bye. But wait! Another surprise was in store as each child received take-home packets as they left. “We enjoyed the visit very much,” said seven-year-old Priya, echoing the feelings of the others. The Club’s volunteers and committee members were smiling too. After all, their efforts had evinced laughter and happiness amongst a group for whom these could be difficult to come by. DI had once again shared and cared.