India Vision Foundation

Cultural Milieu at India Vision Foundation

Celebration of festivals and cultural events organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are aimed at fostering not only the values and educating about heritage, culture, and traditions but such events are special days when the NGO team member and the beneficiaries collectively come together to spread cheer, smile, and harmony in the community.

This year, I became a part of the Diwali celebrations in Bawana, a community where many of the Foundation’s beneficiaries are settled. Tagged as one of the most crime-prone areas in Delhi, this Community houses migrant people from all parts of the country (like Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan) who reside in these resettlement slums with their families and are engaged in all kinds of work that they can find to survive! Relocation of the small Industrial units near this slum area has added to the woes of those living here and working in the factories where safety and labour laws are hogwash. Narrow and dingy lanes with uncovered drains, inadequate toilet facilities, garbage heaps and poor streetlights make the community more vulnerable to problems like criminal activity, drug peddling and gender violence and children are exposed to them every day.

Hence, while the parents go to work, the Community Centre of the Foundation offers an opportunity to their children for recreation and remedial education and acts as a shelter of safety and security. Many of the vulnerable children receive emotional support through creative engagement and for vulnerable children. Most of the children come from Muslim families who need remedial help in their studies as their parents (mostly mothers) are mostly illiterate but want their children to have a hopeful life, free from crime, poverty, and violence, which is prevalent in their environment. Celebrations and Observance days with the Program children are aimed at Value inculcation and creating awareness about the rich cultural diversity of the country, fostering a sense of brotherhood, compassion, and the importance of coexistence, enabling them to become better citizens. Celebrating multiple religious festivals at Bawana Centre by the Foundation team is aimed at infusing appreciation for other cultures and developing respect and tolerance for other religious faiths.

Hence this year too, the children came forward with great enthusiasm and participated in the decoration of the centre for the Diwali celebration. Each child had something to contribute towards beautifying their second home and having a cheerful time.

There was no bias or barriers. No religion, gender or age separated them, but they had only one goal in mind, and it was to make their centre look beautiful and welcoming for the Diwali celebrations. Each hand and each mind, with shared laughter, had a unique idea of welcoming Diwali and guests from the head office of the Foundation.

The event started with traditional pooja/prayer by the Foundation team members and the children coming together with a collective wish for the well-being of all and for the victory of goodness over evil

Next was the surprise for the mothers of the children who were also present during the celebrations. They were divided into groups and were given colours and asked to make Rangoli patterns and a competition for best design was announced.

The mothers were equally competitive, and each group tried their best to win a prize. What was amazing was that only 2 mothers had some knowledge of making Rangoli while the rest 15 had never touched the colours

The heartening aspect of this competition was the happy faces of the participants. 90% of them were Muslims but they all participated wholeheartedly and were applauded by all.  All of them thanked the team for organizing this activity for them and giving them a chance to show their creativity. Winners were happy to pose for photographs!

After the mothers came the turn of the eager children who were waiting impatiently to showcase their talent. Each child had the chance to enjoy the day with exuberance and joy. No one was competing against anyone, but all members were enthusiastically complimenting their group.  

Some presented great dance moves or sang songs, there was another group that displayed its acting prowess when the Ramayan Natak was staged. But the best part was that the maximum number of children in this Natak were Muslims who were excellent in their respective roles. Each one knew the story of his part and explained the same to the audience for more clarity and understanding. No one faltered but each one was serious about their own act and paid attention to the details and briefing given to them during their practice session.

But the young Vanaars of the Hanuman Sena were the most loved ones who enjoyed chanting Jai Shree Ram again and again.

Their friends in the audience joined them numerous times in creating a real clamour but most of the time they watched in rapt attention and cheered their friends and siblings who were equally proud to show their genius

Another performance that won the most appreciation was the drama on the “harmful effects of firecrackers”. The admirable part is that the whole play was that it was conceptualized and performed by all the boys of different age groups who played the role of female characters beautifully with so much conviction and aplomb. Each one of them won the hearts with their compelling performance.

The celebrations ended on a high note with the distribution of snacks and sweets to all the children with a group photo of all who were present in the Centre. The children expressed their gratitude for the Foundation and shared that they are looking forward to the next celebration.

Thus, the day ended on a beautiful note as the children displayed a perfect case of cultural harmony, coexistence and respect for the values and traditions. What a marvellous example of diversity and integration shown by the Bawana children and their mothers! Together, they all embodied the spirit of secularism through this event and helped the Foundation strengthen and enrich the ethos of our great country!

About the AuthorRenu Nag is Head of Learning & Development at India Vision Foundation and has been in the Development Sector from the last 25 years.

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