The idea of the Maitri Dinner was rooted in a successful Daan Utsav last October, after which volunteers had unanimously agreed that they should cook for the children at least once every 3 months. 19th June was that Sunday. We were late! We asked the children what’d they like to eat. The reply was deafening! It rang in our brains and settled into our consciousness.

“Paav Bhaaji!!”
420 children. 90+ volunteers. 120kgs of vegetables. 3,500 pieces of Paav. 

Paav bhaji for all!!!

19th June, 2016. A day we, as volunteers, experienced countless moments of giving and receiving; gratitude, love and pure service. A lot of us did not realize that a simple act of cooking would be so enriching; not only to the 420 children at the home but also to the 90+ volunteers who showed up with super enthusiasm!

We set out with a few intentions – to see the children smile, make them feel special and present them with an opportunity to enjoy a meal with dignity. Along the way, we realized – all over again – that when intentions are mindful, hands join in.

19th June, 2016. Yet another day we realized that anything is possible. Big numbers, bigger hearts! Volunteers started pouring in from 11:00am onwards. Dark gray clouds loomed all day with occasional drizzles, but the volunteers’ enthusiasm levels kept soaring.
We began with setting up the tools for cutting and chopping. Falguni took command; no questions were asked. Without her, we may not have been able to imagine a meal so delicious and so abundant for 420 kids, let alone cook it! Volunteers kept pouring in to seamlessly integrate themselves into different things that were happening. They were as abundant as the rain.

Cleaning, peeling, chopping, mashing, blending, running, organizing, smiling, boiling, cooking, singing, playing, drawing, decorating, dancing, sharing, laughing, slicing, buttering, serving – being.

120kgs of vegetables in various shapes waited their turn to become Pav Bhaji by 14:00. This did not seem like work. We were serving the children, each other and ourselves.

In the afternoon, Pehli Baarish, an all inclusive band of Trinayani NGO – rocked the floor. The response was overwhelming. The children danced their hearts out! =) It was futile to try and keep up. A big thank you to Ritika for making this happen!

Yet other clusters of volunteers were busy ripping, slicing and buttering – toasting 3,500 pieces of Pav, while another group toasted them over and created magic while placing them in huge vessels. The supply chain kept things flowing smoothly from the chopping room to the kitchen. The weight of the vessels or the occasional drizzle were embraced along the way. Sandwiches and Chai flowed too, to keep the volunteers going.

Another group of volunteers got creative in crafting decorations for the Bay room. They created some flower decorations and paper decorations that photographs may do more justice to than words.The children ran out of the main hall to play in the evening. The children and the volunteers had a great time playing a myriad of games – kho kho, badminton and football among them – under a slight drizzle. Splattered with mud. Plastered with smiles. All of them.

The children who helped us to cook were just as engrossed as the volunteers. The decorations went up. The vessels were filled. The garnish went on top. The plates were set. It was a sight to see. We had not seen the children’s home look so beautiful in a long time! Sharing smiles and food :)

All was set around 19:30. Hot, steaming bhaji. Delicious, buttery Pavs. Hard drops of heavy rain. While it drizzled all day long, right now it was pouring, it seemed like The Universe was testing us. The volunteers didn’t think twice before lifting the hot and heavy vessels and running in the rain to transport the food to the different sections of the home. Two tapelis(big vessels) here. A handi (big vessel) there. A bucket in yet another direction.

It was worth it. The eagerness, excitement, and smiles on children’s faces while being served Pav Bhaji. The joy and reciprocity of the children wanting to feed the volunteers. The children ate until they were ready to burst. They tried but could eat no more. This was followed by laddoos, duly finished, and ice cream that disappeared too. It was blissful for the volunteers as well as the children.

It’s the month of Ramzaan and one child who had kept a fast brought a whole box of water from their ration to share it with the volunteers as they ate their dinner. To see a child who has limited stuff and lives in scarcity on a daily basis share from his own ration moved us all.

After dinner, volunteers, along with a few children, ended with a quick round of sharing. One child expressed his gratitude and said that the day had been made special due to the volunteers. Some cleaning later, we wrapped up at around 23:30 at the home. We then distributed the remaining pav bhaji, in packets, at different points around Mumbai.

Presence makes things possible!

Magic manifests when people gather to create a shared vision. What we experienced that day was the coming together of people to celebrate a day of giving, receiving and sharing. Smiles. Special-ness. Food with dignity. For the children, for each other and for themselves. This was a glimpse into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, to paraphrase Charles Eisenstein.

While serving pav bhaji, a child asked a volunteer, “Didi, will you please feed me one bite with your hands?”