For Farah Tafty (20) birthdays have always been more about giving, rather than receiving. Since the past 10 years, she has been celebrating her birthday, amidst underprivileged children on Mumbai’s footpaths, handing out packets of food and Frootis to them.
Distributing food packets at Fountain. Pic/Shadab Khan
The heartwarming exercise started, when Farah, a slow learner was just seven years-old. She and her mother, Morvarid Tafty, were driving to their home in Colaba with a case of mangoes in the backseat, when a beggar-child came up to them at the signal, asking for alms. Dismissing the child with the standard 'maaf karo, aagey jao,' Tafty was about to drive off when the signal turned green. She then noticed that Farah had already rolled down her window, and handed two mangoes to the child. "I said very good Farah, but why did you give it without asking mummy?," remembered Tafty. "Because they are hungrier than I am," came the swift and mature response. "I will eat two mangoes less."
Sunshine days: Kids grin and bare it. Pic/Shadab Khan
On Wednesday, on a mercilessly hot May morning, Farah marked her 20th birthday with her mom, doing what she has since a decade, putting a smile on the faces of street children. Food packets piled high in the back seat of the white Toyota, the Colaba residents drove down to Fashion Street, to distribute the birthday treat amongst these street children.
As the car pulled up, towards the footpath, more than 20 children, sporting wide grins on their faces in anticipation of the treat rushed towards the car. Tafty made the children sit in a line on the footpath, while Farah handed out food packets and Frooti. The kids waited patiently for each and every one of them to be served, surprisingly displaying good ‘table’ manners, and then dug into their food with gusto. Soon, what started off as a gathering of 20 swelled into 40. Some parents joined their kids, and we had an impromptu choir on the footpath. The sound of the busy Fountain traffic and the kids singing, "Happy birthday" and "tum jeeyo hazaaron saal," came together in a typical Mumbai jugalbandi.
The children had a happy look on their faces as they wait for their food packets. Pic/Shadab Khan
Naneshwar, the father of one of the children, who levels tar on the roads, said, "It's not everyday that we get such food." What struck one was that the Taftys also made the Swachch Bharatiya Abhiyaan, more than a political mantra, with plastic bags for the kids to put the empty packets in.
Post distribution, one discerned a change about the children. Their sluggish grumpiness had turned into cheerful smiles. Little brown limbs waved frantic goodbyes as the car turned the corner and sped away, proving that the way to these kids, who live a rough life on the roads, hearts, is through well-fed stomachs.