It has become an annual feature now,not only looked forward to by all of us at Max India but also our neighbors in the office complex and Novartis our partners next door. So, what are plans for the Big Day we are asked days in advance.

As the office decoration starts happening a couple of days in advance , the rooms are given a thorough cleaning and preparations begin in full earnest to welcome our regulars and our special guests for the day.

I am not sure if most of you know that our office is located in one of the most picturesque corners of the city. Overlooking the Arabian Sea and a well revered place of worship, the Haji Ali Dargah.

The Dargah is situated well into the sea and a pathway about a km long leads to it crossing the waters. On high tide days the path is submerged. On most other times it is teeming with pilgrims on their way to the Dargah and service providers to the pilgrims. Amongst these service providers are young boys and girls who, along with a parent or an older sibling or companion take care of providing cool glasses of lemonade to the thirsty public, mind their footwear outside the place of worship, sell garlands and other worship material , newspapers and magazines at the nearby traffic signal and / or run other odd errands .

Not all of them go to school and if they do, it is a most erratic schedule. They are hardworking, gritty, most times left to their own devices not having , many times a household that has a regular income or even regular supervision of a designated elder in their scattered family.

Their interdependence upon each other is all the more apparent and it is poignant and touching to see the older ones take such affectionate care of the younger ones in their group.

These are the children who are commonly classed as Street Children and have no organized schooling or any other kind of social structure to fall back upon. They are prey to life style habits that leaves them vulnerable to many health issues the most prominent being addiction to tobacco.

Abdul, a heart breakingly young but proud leader of his band of twelve peers was our contact in this group and he and his young friends were our guests for the day. From the minute they walked in, full of laughter and good cheer, they won our hearts and those of our visitors. By 1 pm we were Standing Room Only, with our neighbors, FOM city chapter leaders and Novartis friends all in attendance.

A special Tobacco Awareness session had been prepared for the children and a short sharing of testimonials by patients present. Both groups reached out to each other, the street children and our patients and it was heartwarming to see a special bonding happen with information being exchanged about the different parts of the country each one came from. The map on the wall was the meeting ground.

Max’s story was shared and his birthday cake cut. Goodies eaten and more goodies carried away in their special FOM bags but not before some shaking of a leg to cool Bollywood numbers.

I will let the pictures tell the story of how a motley crew came together to celebrate life and love of Max in the Max India office and left us all so proud, so humble and so happy.

Viji Venkatesh