In addition to celebrating India Independence Day, the Shiva Ji Mission School is taking this opportunity to acknowledge and participate in a number of other occasions. So the Just One team is also participating in a belated birthday celebration for Sai Maa and thank you to Just One, the recent recognition on the school principal and his wife by the Uttar Pradesh State government for their social services, and the Varanasi Lion’s Club ‘Plant a Tree’ program which will see a number of trees planted on the school grounds.
Once back inside the school grounds some of the students give dance and other performances in the center of the play area. It is a very simple celebration but filled with joy and exhilaration. Some of the men and women from the local neighbourhood also give performances including a comedy show and together an amazing atmosphere abuzz with joy and celebration is created.
The school is packed with visitors today mostly past pupils and the parents of children attending the school. In total, Just One feeds approximately 500 people the now traditional hot meal provided regularly at the school. Each person receives as much hot fresh vegetable curry as they can eat, as many freshly made hot fried bread (poori) as they can eat and a bowl of thick, creamy milk rice pudding (kheer) with peanuts. It is a delicious and filling meal for these people who are rarely treated to such nutritious food.
After the meal there is a special celebration for Sai Maa's birthday, which includes a thank you to Sai Maa for offering the Just One program at the school. A special area has been beautifully and artistically arranged with flowers and Maa’s photo. The staff of the Sai Maa Women’s Empowerment Center provide a huge birthday cake for the celebration, for sharing with all the students. The celebration includes the traditional Indian cake sharing ‘ceremony’ where the Just One team, guests and school principal are fed huge pieces of cake directly into their mouth – with more being joyously rubbed onto the face than entering the mouth to much laughter and shouting from all the students. After this everybody enjoys a piece of the huge cake and some prasad before leaving for their homes.