Magic at Maher
Co-director of Magicians Without Borders, Tom Verner, and I spent a delightful four days in Pune performing mime and magic shows for the Maher Foundation, founded by Sister Lucy. Maher has over thirty centers for women and their children who have suffered abuse, and other communities of folks in need. One of our shows was for in center for women, men and children with mental disabilities, as well as seniors.
There were lots of smiles and much laughter at our tricks, especially when their friends were invited up to be on stage.
Hundreds of children giggled and cheered at the various Maher centers in towns and villages. A group gathered too in their local park for a show with the elders enjoying the antics from the sidelines.
Gandhi said that “India is in her villages” and we found there certainly is a beauty and charm to the small communities where Maher has some centers. Of course there ares one problems which is why Maher has a presence there. It felt like a special privilege to be where time has stood more still. The people were very gentle and appreciative and all ages showed their playful side.
‘Rangolis’ are designs of brightly colored sand, prepared for Diwali on the floors and doorsteps (top photo of blog) to welcome guests to centers and homes. In lots of the places we visited Children sang us welcome song, and we received a red ‘bindi’ painted on our foreheads. (During the shows these would invariably smudge and we’d look like we’d had an accident.)
Karan and Chandni, friends from our partners ‘Our Children’ in Mumbai, graciously housed and fed us, and drove us to shows. They are in the center of the photo, next to Tom. Hira (next to me) is Sister Lucy’s right hand lady and a very kind and selfless soul. She looked after us with with much of the devotion she shows to the people in her care.
Karan brought a helicopter drone with him to each performance and it delighted the crowds with it’s aerobatics (pictured here in front of the Hanuman Temple in one of the villages).
In a tribal village we watched with awe as some women passed with water pots in beautiful saris. after our show I could find only one of my shoes where I had taken them off to enter the building. Then I spotted the other. To my horror it had been chewed by one for he many dogs that roam free. I’m rather fond of this kind of shoe, and besides my flip-flops they are my only footwear here. I was a bit gutted. We all had a laugh though, and to put things in perspective they cost in the US the equivalent of 2 months wages for millions of people in India. I’ll try to find a shoe mender to patch it up and be thankful. The third pic is of an ox-cart, painted for Diwali.
A spontaneous show for traveling farm workers capped our visit. They are currently cutting sugar cane in the area and with the last light of the day we set up in the field where they are living, among their tents and tools, cattle and carts. A circle of folks gathered as the sun was slowly setting, and the universal language of laughter and magic filled the air. For Diwali, Maher would be giving them saris, toys and sweets.
We felt some reluctance to leave the smiling faces and warm and caring milieu of our Maher hosts to travel back toward Mumbai. Maher draws folks from all over the world to work among the people in the various centers. We met some folks from around the world who are volunteering at Maher. Hira, and Sister Lucy, left us with the following words: “You are God sent people for us, you gave so much enjoyment to our children and women. We will miss you so much. Please come again.” Magicians Without Borders will return for sure to marvelous Maher and support with our love, laughter and magic the tireless work they do daily for so many suffering people. The magic is alive!
Wednesday November 11th was the New Moon and the central day of Diwali, the Festival of Lights. There are colored lights and lanterns everywhere, and most doorways have rangolis painted before them. The people perform a puja or ritual in their homes in honor of Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity, and Ganesh the elephant God who removes obstacles. We were invited to join our friends in Pune for puja.
Back in Mumbai…
At night during Diwali there are lots of fireworks. The apartment building we are staying at in Mumbai had a designated area below for the residents to set off fireworks. There were sparklers, loud firecrackers, colorful spark showers and rockets. 2 rockets came straight up to the 27th floor and exploded a few feet from us. Pictured below is a small pre-Diwali gathering of friends: our hosts the Our Children NGO partners, to whom we are very grateful for their support.