Philanthropy and making a difference in the society is the goal for many people this Deepavali discovers SOHINI CHAKRAVORTY

New clothes and accessories for the family – Rs. 6000, gifts and sweet boxes – Rs. 3000, crackers – Rs. 5000 and spending Deepavali among family and friends with all the things mentioned – priceless. Deepavali gives a chance to put everything else on hold while we soak in the festivities with gay abandon.

The city is decked up with bright lights, last minute shopping, grandmother's special home-made sweets and numerous plans on how to celebrate; it's hard to ignore the bonhomie. But there are some people who like to celebrate their holiday by making a difference and bringing joy to the lives of people who do not have such easy access to festival revelry.

A Standard 12 student from Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Varsha Gandikota started a student organisation The Orange Leaf in the city to work for causes like the environment, animal welfare and education of underprivileged children. This student organisation work with various orphanages and it is with them that Varsha and her friends would like to spend their Deepavali. “Prior to Deepavali, we started an eco-friendly drive asking people to buy crackers which make less sound and do not cause much air pollution. Also, we will spend the Deepavali with the children in the orphanages making diyas and gift items,” she says. She adds that anyone can volunteer, all they have to do is send an email on their Facebook page The Orange Leaf expressing their desire to help. While work keeps MNC employee Ruthu Sreebashyam busy for the rest of the year, this Deepavali she has made a conscious decision to meet her sponsor child on the day and spend some time with him.

“Usually, I transfer funds supporting the education of a second standard boy but I have never really had the opportunity to meet him. He had sent me a hand-written letter a few days ago and I was so touched that I decided that this Deepavali I will meet him and his family and take some gifts too,” she says.

There are many working professionals who are associated with various NGOs and organisations and they prefer working for their causes.

A program manager Ajay Sethi associated with the youth wing of Art of Living says he will be spending his Deepavali in the village of Koyalguddam setting up a computer centre for the youngsters. “We had adopted a village and after a number of fund-raising campaigns we are ready to set up the computer centre and a library by Deepavali,” he explains.

For Sharda Ram who started Aarambh, a school and support group, for autistic children and their families, she takes the opportunity to spread awareness about the neural disorder. She says that “A week before Deepavali, we have a mela where we sell cards, paper bags, diyas made by our students. We organise games for the other family members as well. This gives us a chance to spread more awareness about autism and even the children feel special.”

A lot of NGOs welcome volunteers and visitors during this time to help their cause. Srivyal of Sphoorti Foundation for orphans and underprivileged children says, “Anyone can come to our foundation and spend time with the children, burst crackers with them. It certainly makes them happy.”

Though a festival of lights, it is the animals and pets who go through a harrowing time. Campaigning for their cause, Padmaja Bundla, President of Caring Hands for Animals, has started an awareness campaign by distributing flyers across the city.

“We want people to avoid bursting crackers and rockets. They not only scare animals but result in accidents and a lot of birds get killed. Also, a lot of pets get lost during this time, we are going adopt lost pets and the owners can get in touch with us within a month's time,” she says. For lost pets one can contact 9642057881 and for adoption 9701948888.

After all spreading joy and sharing happiness is the essence of all festivals.