For the residents of Anbu Illam and Families for Children, its celebrations with crackers, sweets and new clothes, writes ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN
Three-year-old Vijayalakshmi does not know what it is to remain still. She screeches her way from one end of the room to the other with her toys. This cherubic girl has got a few more reasons to smile now. The teacher whispers into her ear, "Its Deepavali." She excitedly repeats, "It's Deepavali" and can't tear her eyes away from her new orange frock.Deepavali is the time for new clothes, sweets, greeting cards and unlimited television for children like Vijayalakshmi - inmates of homes and orphanages.
At the Families for Children (FFC), Deepavali celebrations begin with the special children making greeting cards to be sent to wellwishers. "The children begin making cards about 15 days in advance," says Sunbeam Viswanath, administrator, FFC (Ph: 0422-2413397). "All the cards are made out of recycled paper," she explains.Saravanan, a physically disabled boy and the artist of the home, sketches out floral designs on the card. It is then passed on to a boisterous bunch that includes Chinnamuthu, Nasser, Susan, Bhuvaneswari and others who stitch on these designs.Once the cards reach the well wishers, the sweets and clothes keep coming.The story is the same at Don Bosco Anbu Illam (Ph: 0422-2260778/ 2260758). "We have already sent out about 300 cards," says Fr John Dharman, Director. Boys between the age of 6 and 15 add colour to sketches of crackers and sweets and wish all friends of the institution a Happy Deepavali.The festival also means new clothes for the 425 inmates of FFC. "We usually collect the clothes throughout the year," says Sunbeam. "A few days before Deepavali, we start sorting them out and then fit them to the children's sizes," she adds."There are always enough clothes for the girls, but the boys are often not so lucky. Clothes for boys are a little harder to come by," she says.At Anbu Illam, Fr Dharman is hopeful that there would be enough new clothes for the boys. Festivals also mean the breakfast, lunch and dinner are taken care of ages in advance."The meals for Deepavali next year have already been booked," says Sunbeam. According to her, there are regulars who organise meals on these special days. Festivals are also the time for octogenarian Sethuraman to visit the children at FFC. "He makes it a point to meet the children during Deepavali, Pongal and the mango season with his homemade ladoo and mixture," she says. At both the homes, Deepavali begins with the traditional oil bath for the kids. And then it is about the special meals, the new clothes and crackers.
Lighting up lives
At Anbu Illam, the boys decorate the place with lamps and attend the prayer session. "It becomes a spiritual experience for them and stories related to Deepavali are told to the children," says Fr Dharman. Deepavali also has children from the other centres of Anbu Illam coming together. "The children of the home also visit the inmates of the government observation home and interact with the children there," says Fr Dharman. With crackers being the norm, Anbu Illam has taken care to keep accidents at bay. "We are distributing pamphlets with guidelines on safe handling of crackers," says Fr Dharman. With the children gearing up for another festival of lights, Sunbeam says what the children like best is that "it means unlimited television; that makes them really happy."