By Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman:
“Only Connect […] Live in fragments no longer.” – E. M. Forster.
When I think about gifts, I think of my late father, and Santa Claus. As I grew up, I found out, it was my mother in disguise. Santa’s best friend, the tooth fairy, who left me glitter and little presents every time I lost a tooth, also turned out to be aforementioned Santa-impersonating parent. The gift didn’t matter, really. The act of gifting was beautiful and an aesthetically-rich journey in itself.
A few years later, my father unfortunately passed away from cancer. I’ve done more growing up since then, but I never forgot the joy of receiving a wrapped present. I decided to find a way of saying thank you to my parents, and bring that joy to the world at large. And that’s why I started “Bat Santa”, a Christmas giveaway project, named after what friends and family call me.
These days it’s easy to feel disappointed in humanity, and that’s why it’s so important to put out positive energy into the world. Since I started the giveaway a few years ago, it has impacted the lives of thousands through the simple act of gift-giving. My team and I choose vulnerable communities and areas, and customize our gifts to best suit recipients. For kids with cancer, we have games and stress busting toys; for children in slum regions, we have art supplies and personal safety classes (with bonus Bollywood dancing sessions); and for seniors (our senior bats!), we bring music, company, and essentials.
The giveaway was planned for December 13 to 21, and it was intense work! On many occasions, my team and I were wrapping 350 gifts a day! The success of the project came from reaching out to my amazing community of friends, activists, and other good samaritans on Facebook, many of volunteered to help me prepare.
Bat Santa started off in my home city of Kolkata with the Mulvaney Old Age Home for homeless, friendless or widowed women. Afterwards, we travelled to Mumbai to conduct more epic giveaways. One of my first stops was in at the Suryoday School for children living with disabilities. Another was a giveaway for cancer patients in Hyderabad.
But this year saw a whole new chapter for the project. On Christmas Eve, Bat Santa conducted a Huge giveaway among more than 800 people onboard the Jagriti Yatra. The 15-day long yatra, which covers 8,000 km, passing through 12 cities and towns, was started in 2008 as a way of “building India through enterprise.” It was a year later, in 2009, that my application was selected for the NGO-run initiative. This year too II was a facilitator along with 480 other yatris, determined to take the Bat Santa Giveaway to many, many more places!
What really motivated me was the fact that there were so many potential recipients I could reach in just 15 days, and it makes this a record of sorts.
On the yatra, I’m getting to so many social entrepreneurs in different cities who were real role models. Something that really made an impression on my is how 50% of the yatris are women!
Christmas festivities are coming to an end today, and winter is in full swing. I hope Bat Santa has managed to light little sparks of happiness and warmth in hundreds of hearts, and I hope they glow all through the cold weather.
To know more about Bat Santa, and my other projects, click here.