Celebration of Life 2009 – Kerala

Date: 17th October 2009
Venue: Shilpa School for Mentally Challenged Children – Palluruthy, Kochi

Each of us is blessed differently.  This thought flashed through my mind as I celebrated Max’s Birthday with Special Children at Shilpa School for Mentally Challenged Children – Palluruthy, Kochi. All of them have smiles on their faces which stay put through the day. Are they truly less fortunate? How many of us are lucky enough to be able to smile nonstop all day? 

This school is run by Dr Pramila and Dr Harimohan  in memory of their daughter Shilpa, a special child , who passed away at the age of 11. Dr Harimohan  is an Oncologist, and a close friend, from my Lakeshore Hospital days, and I got to know a lot about this school from him. There are 150 children and they charge no fees. Food is provided free too. The mothers of the children are the teachers and there is a physiotherapist also. I was overwhelmed to see the patience with which the staff worked with the children and spoke to them in the language they understood.
We chose Diwali Day (17th October) – a day people all over India celebrate the festival of lights , with sparklers and colourful  fireworks, to celebrate Max’s Birthday at Kochi.

Carrying bags packed with chocolates, colour pencils, crayons, drawing books, pens, and fireworks,  I set out to collect the 3 kg cake we had ordered, then proceeded to receive the FOM core group members Shajahan,  Sharifudheen and Sajeevan, all from Calicut, at the railway station. From there, we set out and reached the school at 12.00- to a warm welcome by Dr Pramila and her staff.

We were told to expect 35 children and their parents, but so many turned up that the 50 gift bags I had brought were just enough to cover them all. Including parents, there were 112 persons present.

And the children – they were simply amazing. Just wait a bit for more on this, please.
Dr Pramila introduced the FOM members and me.
I introduced Max, showed them his photo and said “The Max Foundation has  sent these goodies to be distributed amongst you all”

We began with cutting the cake….. 17 year old Santosh was celebrating his birthday that very day, so he was chosen to cut the cake. The boy was so excited and did a wonderful job, while all the children sang “Happy Birthday To Max”

Once the cake was distributed (actually vanished, lol), we got down to playing some games. Chocolate picking, musical chair and passing the parcel were played, and the Children enjoyed and played like any other normal child would.

I realised then that one has only to open one’s heart and understand these special children and then it is so much fun…they are special indeed.

After the game, the goodies were distributed and it was lunch time. Lunch was served the traditional Kerala way, rice served on plantain leaf with traditional curries. I pitched in to serve too.

Diwali day has to have fireworks. The children were so delighted, each wanted to light a sparkler or two but did not know how. Eventually, we gave them each a box of sparklers to take home.

There was one smart boy who came, stretched out his right hand, and asked for a box, which was provided. Then 5 minutes later, he came back with his left hand stretched out, saying that this hand needed a box too. We laughingly obliged.
My surprise knew no bounds when he came back once again, with both hands joined, and asked for more. This time we had to tell him we would give him more after all the others also got one each.

Guess what? After 5 minutes, this smarty came again, this time saying that his close friend wants one box….Tee hee…. It was very hard to resist his charming smile…
He also volunteered to dance, claiming that he was the best dancer in the school. Not bad, eh?

Then , there were these brothers aged 13 and 15, their two elder brothers ( one passed away and the other boy is very sick) also mentally challenged…a family with four children (3 alive)— all special.

At times, The Lord truly showers his blessings on some folks. My heart went out to the family.

After a heart-warming day with these children, I took the FOM members for a brief outing, to see the beautiful Old Fort Kochi, with her Chinese fishing nets, St Francis Church (where Vasco da Gama was originally buried and later his remains were taken away to Lisbon), The Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue.

The Calicut boys just managed to catch the next available train at around 5 .40, and must have reached their homes around midnight. I am truly overwhelmed by their love for Max and his family. They never fail to turn up for any of our functions, wherever it be.

Back home in time to celebrate Diwali with my family, I was reflecting how blessed I am to be a member of TMF family, how fortunate to be able to experience such a different day with such sweet and special children and their parents, on Max’s Birthday – A Celebration of Life, in all its varied hues.

Reported by Beena Narayanan, TMF

Link to the photos :  Click here