Sunshine Story: Members of social media group celebrate birthdays of 40 street children

Slum children have their cake and eat it too, thanks to Happy Birthday Bharat

The Oberoi Mall, Goregaon traffic signal was the venue recently for the birthday celebrations of approximately 40 street children who live under the Western Express Highway flyover. There were 15 young men and women between 22 to 30 years of age who had gathered with a birthday cake and bags filled with clothes and shoes.

TIME FOR GIVING: The Happy Birthday Bharat Twitter and Facebook members distribute T-shirts to the slum children below the flyover near Oberoi Mall in Goregaon. PICS/SAMEER MARKANDE
TIME FOR GIVING: The Happy Birthday Bharat Twitter and Facebook members distribute T-shirts to the slum children below the flyover near Oberoi Mall in Goregaon. Pics/Sameer Markande

These youngsters are part of a social media group called, Happy Birthday Bharat. For the past one month, these people who have become acquainted via Twitter and Facebook have been celebrating slum childrens’ birthdays across the city every week.

Cake cutting
Every Sunday, the group with members from different walks of life get together at a new location in the city to celebrate birthdays. Piyush Chudasama, a member of the group says, “The initative first started in Delhi with Avijit Bajpai celebrating the birthday of street children there. He posted about it on Twitter — @HappyBdayBharat. and since we follow him, a few of us in Mumbai decided to start celebrations here, too. We also have a Twitter handle and Facebook page where we post the location of the birthday celebrations as well as pictures of the same.”

TASTY TREAT: The ‘Happy birthday Bharat’ cake
TASTY TREAT: The ‘Happy birthday Bharat’ cake

Sharad Jain, another Happy Birthday Bharat member says, “We all contribute money and buy a cake on which we write ‘Happy Birthday Bharat’ which stands for the unknown kids who represent the India of tomorrow. Interestingly, these street children do not know their birthdays, or their age. So, all of them have never cut a cake, nor celebrated a birthday. When we celebrate their birthdays, there is this joy on their face that makes our day and week.”

LET’S CELEBRATE: The birthday of more than 40 slum children was celebrated last Sunday by the 15 youngsters
LET’S CELEBRATE: The birthday of more than 40 slum children was celebrated last Sunday by the 15 youngsters

For Hardik Joshi, it is about spreading smiles. He says, “We just want to make these children happy. When we are here they must play, enjoy themselves and feel as though that day is their birthday and this is their birthday party. We give the children new clothes and shoes so they get gifts on their special day. We also distribute chocolates to them.”

Party time
“These children are made to feel special, just like most people do on their birthdays with cakes, chocolates, new clothes and a party. We generally gather in places that are near the signals but away from the traffic so that we don’t cause any disruption,” says Kunal Bauva.

Preeti Parekh and Saloni Verma who were attending a Happy Birthday Bharat party for the first time say that their Sunday was turned to a Funday by seeing the joy all around. Parekh says, “Saloni saw their Facebook page and liked the initiative, so we decided to come today. We were just observers; hopefully soon we will also be contributing.”

Verma adds, “The children have never seen or tasted a cake in their lives, to be able to give them a moment of joy feels really nice. I liked that the cake they get is the tastiest one from a premier cake shop. Even the clothes and the shoes that are given are branded. Seeing young people do good work is inspiring.”

“We are all working and so Sundays are the best day for us to come together and celebrate the birthdays. The number of people attending the parties is increasing by the day. We started as a group of a few members and now every week, we have had the numbers increasing. What is nice to see is that there are many new people coming and the friend circle is increasing,” says Chudasama.

Making memories
While birthday celebrations are an annual event for most, for these street children it is a once in a lifetime happening. Joshi says, “These children spend their time begging on the streets, selling wares or looking after their siblings. We spend an hour or two with them as we make friends with them and aim to spread joy among these little ones.”

Pushpa, a street child says, “I have never celebrated my birthday before this. I don’t even know how old I am. But I liked the taste of the cake and the new clothes and shoes I got. I sell balloons and flowers at the signal and make Rs 100 on an average. I had a great day today.”

For Rahul, another street child, it was a day he will never forget. He says, “Sometimes people from the mall give their leftover cake and chocolates when I beg. But this was the first time that someone bought a cake for me. I wear torn clothes and don’t have shoes. But today, I got a T-shirt and shoes for the first time. It is nice to have something to call my own for the first time ever.”

Jain goes on to add, “We want many more young people to join in. We had Happy Birthday Bharat celebrations at Andheri East, Jogeshwari, Kandivali, Powai and Mira Road before this. Next month, we will move to streets in the Central suburbs and celebrate birthdays there. Our next Sunday party is at 11 am near Fun Republic, Andheri (W). Some members will go to Pune to start the movement there as well.”

“So far the planning is done via a Whatsapp group that we have and we share details on Facebook and Twitter. The youth involved are from different walks of life — some of us have our own businesses, some of us work, and some are students. If more people join in, we can give the children more goodies. We are thinking of including education to the initiative, soon. But let’s see how this goes first,” ends Bauva.

Happy Birthday Bharat on social media
>> The Twitter handle is @HappyBdayBharat.
>> The Facebook page is Happy Birthday Bharat (India).

Timeline of the Birthday parties
>> June 21: Near Hiranandani, Powai.
>> June 28: Near Bisleri factory, Andheri (E).
>> July 5: Near Mahindra and Mahindra Factory, Kandivali (E).
>> July 12: Near Mira Road Highway.
>> July 19: Near Oberoi Mall, Goregaon (E).
>> July 26: Near Fun Republic cinema, Andheri (W).

Celebration routine
>> The group meets at a particular location and time which is decided and posted on their social media pages.
>> They cut a cake, distribute chocolates, clothes and shoes to street children.
>> The Happy birthday song is sung for Bharat which is the name that is also written on the cake and stands for all the street children.
>> The birthday celebrations happen every Sunday.
>> Similar celebrations happen in other cities in the country too like Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Indore and Bangalore.

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