From shelters and slums, they gather to sing for Gandhi

By Rahul Vaishnavi, IANS,

New Delhi: Many of them have no families and stay in shelter homes while some are physically handicapped. But despite the odds, these kids are all set to pay a musical tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary.

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Around 300 kids, a majority of them from shelter homes and slums spread across the city, gather at Gandhi Smriti here for rehearsals as they gear up for Sunday’s celebration at Rajghat – the memorial to the Mahatma – on Gandhi Jayanti.

According to Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti (GSDS), the rehearsals began Thursday and will continue till Saturday. The 30-minute show will feature songs and bhajans on Gandhi with an aim to inspire the youth to follow the path of peace.

“Every year we had students from public and government schools, but this time we focussed on shelter homes and slum dwellers as these kids hardly get a chance to showcase their talent,” GSDS director Manimala told IANS.

Said 17-year-old Savita who is visually challenged: “Although I can’t see what is happening around me, the bhajans and songs on Gandhiji are very soothing and inspiring. I am very excited to sing at Rajghat.”

The Class 12 student of Rashtriya Virjanand Andh Kanya Vidyalaya in West Delhi’s Vikaspuri is a resident of Uttar Pradesh but she lives in the school’s hostel with several other blind girls hailing from across the country.

“This is my first visit to Gandhi Smriti and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I will definitely participate every year from now on,” said Savita’s best friend Bineeta, who stays in the hostel for the blind and whose family resides in Orissa.

For 14-year-old Srikant, it is an opportunity of a lifetime to sing at Rajghat before a host of luminaries he has only seen on TV.

“I have never got a chance to get involved in something special like this. I am cherishing every moment of it,” said Srikant, an orphan who walks with the help of crutches.

“I have read a lot about Gandhiji and I would love to become the country’s prime minister someday to bring about a change,” added the teenager who lives in a shelter provided by the NGO Salaam Balak Trust in north Delhi.

As the songs reverberated in the air during rehearsals, visitors, especially foreigners, thronged the Kirti Mandap auditorium at Gandhi Smriti, merrily clicking pictures and showering the kids with praise.

The kids particularly are having a gala time as in between the singing sessions, their teacher Sudhanshu Bahuguna, a Delhi-based classical singer and composer, doesn’t forget to tickle their funny bone with witty one liners and comments.

“I’ve been training kids here for the last 15 years and this has become my passion,” 46-year-old Bahuguna said.

According to Bahuguna, he is relishing this year’s experience to the hilt because of the deprived kids who are “very hungry to learn something new”.

“Despite the challenges many of them face everyday at such a young age, they have not lost hope and are very hungry to learn something new,” said Bahuguna who is one among the 25 members of classical group Swar Trishna.

“I salute their spirit,” he added.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at [email protected])