In Focus

Planting joy in the lives of BPT gardeners, ragpickers and a fruit-seller!

By Manu Shrivastava

In this festival season, amid the scare of the new COVID-19 variant and the restrictions accompanying, if there's one thing that keeps the hopes high, it's that random act of kindness that worked in miraculous ways to keep up the cheer so needed at this time. When everyone was going about their business, a few Colaba residents got together to 'spread the cheer' and throw a pre-Christmas party for those who couldn't afford one.

SPREADING THE CHEER: Margaret D'Souza (extreme right) distributing goodies to the children of the gardeners
Colaba Post Office resident Margaret D'Souza had been visiting Colaba's Bombay Port Trust (BPT) garden for 25 years for her daily brisk walk. However, only recently, after the two lockdowns, she noticed a few resident gardeners tending to the plants and taking care of the garden with their shoulders drooping without anyone as much as even glancing at them. "I thought of doing something for them and their children, particularly during the festive season when everyone around is celebrating with friends and family," says Margaret.

BONHOMIE: The informal bash was held for gardeners and their children, rag-pickers and a fruit-seller
"As a child, I would actively participate in carol singing and would collect children for to sing carols on the streets, in the bastis of Colaba, and other spots," she maintains. With a determination to make it happen, Margaret approached her close friends, asking them if they would like to 'sponsor' something for these gardeners and their children for a "pre-Christmas party," as Christmas itself was a family affair and celebrations would be "within" one's home. All her friends suggested that instead of sponsoring them individually, they'd pitch in the money and she could buy whatever was appropriate for the occasion. 

FRIENDS IN DEED: Margaret's friends pitched in to make her wish come true
So, yesterday, after weeks of preparation, on 22 December 2021, Margaret and friends, Doreen, Helen, Maureen, Salvis, Judith, Brenda, Caitlin and Nesya, landed at BPT Garden and offered goodie bags to the four women, eight men and seven children from the garden. "My friends helped me without asking anything as they all want to do something good..."

And, that day, not just they gardeners but "the fruit-seller who'd sell his wares outside the garden and a few ragpickers from the area" were given the goodie bag and some gift cash too. An active community worker, Margaret has always been a frontrunner when it comes to uplifting the lives of the less-fortunate ones. "I have been an active volunteer teaching domestic help and children of municipal school English language for more than four decades," she says.

Colaba is what its people make it and it's because of the older and original residents that the character of the historic zone is maintained. It's this spirit of bonhomie and belongingness that is the need of the hour, especially after the dreadful months of the pandemic.

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