“Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” – Barbara Bush
This year, I had been waiting for Santa on Wheels (SoW) since October. Having missed it in all the previous years, I just knew for a fact that I had to be a part of this wonderful initiative this year. Breakfree Journeys initiated SoW back in the year 2009. All you have to do to be a ‘Santa on Wheels’ is: take a bag of chocolates or biscuits and go around any area of the city you choose and distribute these treats to the kids living on the pavements, traffic signals and near places of worship on Christmas day. So on December 15, I confirmed my participation for SoW within seconds of the event announcement by Breakfree Journeys.
Rushikesh, our Man in-charge (MIC), created a google doc to maintain a database of all the excited Santas. This document was shared on the SoW event page on Facebook, to enable all the Santas to identify the locations covered by others. The Santas were free to join other Santas who were going to be in the same area as them! The distribution areas were soon segregated by Rushikesh and contact numbers were exchanged with other Santas for better co-ordination while visiting common areas. The MIC had also prepared a pointer list, based on past experience, to help all new Santas prepare better for the event. On Christmas eve, we received confirmation text messages from Rushikesh along with plenty of encouragement!
Boy, we were prepared for Christmas, weren’t we?!
Come December 25 and the excitement for SoW was apparent on every Santa’s face! I was to cover the Bandra area with a couple of friends – Rhea and Azmeen.
Rhea and I visited Mount Mary’s church around noon. With sweet packets safely packed into our bag (An input from the MIC’s pointer list), we started our distribution drive with homeless children residing outside the church premises. The glimmer in their eyes was hard to miss!
It being Christmas, there were plenty of vendors outside the church, catering to the many tourists and visitors who had thronged the basilica to offer their prayers to Mother Mary. Next, we looked about for the vendors’ children kid-vendors. There plenty of them! As we distributed sweets to one of the young lads selling paper windmills, he guided us to his family sitting across the street and asked us to give chocolates to his siblings, too. What a gesture! We were amazed, yes we were! The little ones’ excitement knew no bounds when Rhea and I got the chocolates out of our bags. They were so happy, and their happiness brought million dollar smiles to our faces, too! It was probably the first time someone had come for them- to meet them, to give chocolates, to spread cheer among them!
Having covered the area outside the church, we decided to head to Bandstand and St. Andrews church at around 1 pm, to see if we could distribute any more chocolates around those areas. After a successful morning stint as Santas on Wheels, we finally returned home- feeling happy and elated. We had experienced the beautiful joy of giving!
For part 2 of SoW, I met Azmeen at 4.30 pm. Both of us had other commitments post 6 pm, so we thought 4.30 pm to 6 pm would be a good time to do our bit to spread a smile on Christmas.
The Santas (Azmeen and me :P) began the evening round at Mount Carmel church and walked through the by-lanes of Bandra, going all the way to St. Peter’s church, Hill Road and Almeida Park. It did get a bit tiring for us, because almost after an hour of walking, we had managed to find only four to five kids. Undeterred, we walked the circle around Almeida Park and returned to Hill Road, walking towards SV Road. As we walked, we distributed chocolates to some homeless old women we found on the streets. The expressions on their face – surprise, shock, awe and gratitude in its purest form – left us overwhelmed! There was one lady in particular, whose eyes grew big with surprise and she exclaimed ‘Oh!!!” with her eyes moistened with tears. She folded her hands with gratitude and kept thanking us for the chocolates. That reaction from her made us understand the value of what we were doing. One packet of chocolates cost us only Rs. 100. But every chocolate that each of those persons got, was priceless for them. It meant the world to them. Their Christmas indeed had been made merry!
Rejuvenated and further encouraged with the unexpected, yet wonderful response from the old woman, we continued walking through Hill Road. We found quite a few kids outside Bandra Police Station, who were more than happy to receive chocolates from two young Santas! A little further, at Ram Mandir, we distributed a few more chocolates. We also asked a nearby food stall owner if there was any place where we could find more such kids to distribute chocolates to. He said we would find plenty of kids outside Jari Mari Mandir at SV road.
It was already 5.45 pm, so we made a dash for it. We found a few street-dwellers on the platform just before the temple. The kids were just so adorable! They certainly weren’t expecting anyone to come and see them, which explained their reactions when we happily handed out chocolates to them with a “Merry Christmas”. The gorgeous young girl (with a beautiful smile) was so excited about having got so many chocolates, that she started wishing us a “Melly Chlismas”, with a beaming smile! The family could not believe that it really was Christmas and were so genuinely grateful to us for having brought them sweets!
That little one, with her happy smile, sure made our SoW experience one to remember, always.. I am sure Azmeen would agree!
From there on, Azmeen and I parted ways. That was the end of our SoW experience, but the beginning of a much deeper realisation. At the end of it, I realised just how lucky I am for everything that I have. Suddenly, all my grouses and complaints looked so insignificant. There was so much in life to be thankful for. We have everything coming to us so easily, that we just take it for granted! I realised that even a small gesture of kindness and compassion by us can bring about a big, positive change to someone’s life. A small deed of kindness can make someone smile. A small act of selflessness can make someone believe in the power of love. A small gesture that hardly costs us anything, has the power of becoming a priceless memory for someone else.
I experienced the joy of giving.
- While we distributed Chocolates and cakes, there were other Santas (with a big, big heart) like Radhika (who was also dressed as Santa) and family, who distributed not just sweets, but also books, crayons, stationery and blankets in the Mira Road-Bhayander area.
- Our MIC Rushikesh, along with Namrata and Ishaan, covered the Kandivali, Borivali and Dahisar areas. He also teamed with Rithika to spread joy and happiness among the kids in the Fort area.
- Mihir and Niraja covered Ghatkopar, Chembur, Sion and the Central suburbs along with Rushikesh. They also joined Najma for a while at Bandra, to cover Carter Road and Bandstand.
- Abhay and Ameya did the South Bombay stretch whole-heartedly!
- Winnie, Aniketan and Renu distributed chocolates, books, blankets and other utilities to kids in Malad. They also conducted a small diya-making workshop for the kids!
- Maybritt happily covered the Malwani region.
- Valroy and Natasha were the super excited Santas you may have sighted at Andheri East.
- Shamali had a wonderful experience in playing Santa at Chembur.
- The very enthusiastic Jason dressed up as Santa and covered the Lalbaug area.
- Richa and Amrit were two Santas who also donned their creative hats to wrap chocolates and biscuits in beautiful gift-wrappers and distributed them in the DN Nagar and 4 Bungalows areas.
(Please let me know if I have missed mentioning anyone. Every Santa on Wheels deserves a special mention! :))
You can find all the Santa on Wheels photos here.
Thank you, Rushikesh, Breakfree Journeys and all fellow Santas for a wonderful experience! 🙂