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Republic Day Celebration at Children Learning Center

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After weeks of intense preparation and excitement about the program at the back of their heads, a group of nervous and unusually bouncy children performed their hearts out at the Children Learning Centre’s Republic Day program on Saturday. In the process of planning, organizing (and performing in) the event (mostly) on their own, the children of various age groups were able to interact and bond with each other. This was the first such opportunity the children were receiving – CLC is after all, only nine months old.

“We woke up at 5 am ma’am, to decorate the stage!” the children declared to Ms. Brinelle D’Souza of TISS when asked about their preparation for the event. In attendance also was the prominent human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi. Tricolour was the theme: tricolour paper flags, hand prints and paintings adorned the stage. The flag showered the crowd with flowers when unfurled. The national anthem was sung in unison, and with such conviction that one almost forgot that this was not an elite private school which disciplined its students into devotion for their country. It was not even a school. CLC was the community rising up to take control of their reality, their patriotism stemming organically from their belief that the ideals this country was found upon – of Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, could still be achieved, that there was still hope.

The flag hoisiting was followed by dancing in earnest to the evergreen patriotic song – Aye Watan Jaanemann and a heartfelt rendition of Hum Honge Kamyab: Girija Kumar Mathur’s beautiful translation of We Shall Overcome. The song incidentally began as a gospel song but later became a song of protest during the American Civil Rights movement. In India, the song was a symbol of defiance during the Emergency, a source of inspiration to political leaders and activists who went underground.

The song, dance and colour also attracted significant favourable attention from other members of the community, a lot of whom were unfamiliar with CLC and were novel to such celebrations, which mostly took place in school/formal workplace settings.

CLC was the brainchild of Sanjay Nagar resident Gulab Hussain Ansari, who works as a tailor in film city. Deeply upset by the apathy with which his kids were treated in their tuition classes and schools, and sensitive to the low importance members of his community gave to formal education (having been denied an opportunity to complete formal education himself), Gulab had approached his old saathis at GBGB with the idea for the Children Care Centre. It had taken great courage for Gulab to take on the responsibility of so many young lives, that too with an income which was just enough to support his family. But one interaction today with any child of the CLC will tell you his initiative is paying off. The kids are confident, smart, enthusiastic and with the right resources can give the very best a run for their money.

CLC’s first Republic Day program will be an important marker in its history. We thank all our well-wishers for their financial and in-kind contributions which made this event possible and look forward to their continued support.

Photos by: Saurabh Verma

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