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No matter how old you are, unless you have a childlike spirit in you, you’re surely missing out on the richness of life.

After continuous rain for the last few days, this morning brought us  its shining beauty: clear skies and golden sunshine. What made it even more special was that today was Gandhi Jayanti.

In our neighbourhood, an NGO runs coaching classes providing free education to poor and underprivileged children in our vicinity. Though children are economically poor, one thing they have in abundance is dreams. And their dreams are so closely tied to my childhood memories that I enthusiastically participate in all their programs.

Today, in celebration of Gandhiji’s birthday, the NGO has organized a ‘Swachh Abhiyan,’ a simple yet profound program to clean a one-kilometre stretch of our main street lane. Moreover, about 50 to 60 eager and enthusiastic children were ready to take part in this mission. The atmosphere was brimming with excitement, with the singing of national anthems and patriotic songs.

As we stood ready, cheers erupted, welcoming the children.However, just they are about to start, an unexpected turn of events emerged as a potential threat, jeopardising the entire program. Suddenly, a kind-hearted passer-by hurriedly stopped his car and approached me, whispering into my ear. He informed me that child labour laws in India do not allow children under the age of 14 to engage in labour. This revelation took us by surprise because most of the children involved in the ‘Swachh Abhiyan’ were under the legal age threshold.

A moment of realisation dawned on us. This crucial point had somehow slipped our meticulous minds.Although, it was an unforgivable mistake, fortunately, there was no breaking of the law. We need to think quickly to handle this challenging situation instead of dwelling on mistakes, as people nearby were watching us expectantly.

With no other choice , we all adults grabbed brooms and dustpans and began the Swachh Abhiyan. Though our enthusiasm ran high, we lacked physical abilities, especially when it came to tasks like sweeping and cleaning, which we typically left to domestic housemaids.

In the meantime, my hunger had intensified, as I had left home hurriedly without breakfast.

As anticipated, after just a few meters of cleaning, fatigue set in. Despite our eagerness to finish quickly, the physical labour proved to be quite challenging, and we were all in desperate need of rest. However, this experience reinforced us the importance of physical skills in a world that often prioritises intellectual abilities.

In the meantime, my hunger had intensified, as I had left home hurriedly without breakfast.

Finally, albeit with great difficulty , we managed to finish the cleaning operation, Now, It is time for the snack distribution, and all the super excited children are lined up for samosas. The delicious aroma of samosas filled the air, tempting my taste buds. Though in order of priority, the children’s quota comes first, my hunger pushes me to ask for a samosa without waiting in line. While my tingling tongue betrays me, behaving like a child’s, my introverted shyness forcefully overpowers my confidence. While I was grappling with these invisible and unexpressed emotions, the gentleman serving the samosas got a phone call. As I was standing close to him, he requested me to distribute samosas to the children while he took the call.

I knew this was a great chance to keep one for myself. However, when duty calls, sacrifices must be made. So, to resist my temptation, and console my hunger, a profound reasoning struck to my mind that serving food to others is a sacred act and a unique pleasure in today’s world, where being served is the norm.

However, when I got hold of the samosa box, I soon realized that there might not be enough samosas for everyone. The teachers were up next after the children, and there were four of them. My hope dwindled. I distributed three samosas to the teachers.

Just as I was about to give the last samosa to a teacher, she politely declined, mentioning her Jain dietary restrictions due to the presence of onion and garlic in the samosas. My hope sprang back to life as I realised that I could now enjoy the samosa.  But fate, as often does, had other plans. Just as I was about to leave, a child approached me with his sister, explaining that his sister had just arrived and had not received a samosa. A faint smile appeared on my face.

The true worth of our lives resides in the child within us. Remember, it is an integral part of who we are. Can’t we be childlike without being childish? Thank You.

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