Growing up in Ranchi, the capital of the relatively newly created state of Jharkhand, I had still not seen every festivity and its celebration from different states. This was in spite of the fact that the city had several large industrial units, and therefore has an enviable agglomeration of people from different parts of the country.
The festivals that I have memories of were those that were celebrated in the missionary schools and the ones that were celebrated at home. In the growing up years, Pongal was not one of them.
For the first time, I had an opportunity to celebrate Pongal with the children of a school at Nemam Panchayat in Thiruvalur district of Tamil Nadu.
Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB), in partnership with Nemam Panchayat and the district administration, had helped in reconstruction of the classrooms. The library was restored, school furniture donated, books and bags were given to the students and the aanganwadi centre was also restored. An aanganwadi is a rural mother and child care centre started by the government in the 1970s.
Every year, as part of its community action programme, Coca-Cola funds several other requirements of the school at Nemam Panchayat, including the repair and maintenance of the school. For example, in 2015, as part of the Support My School programme, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages constructed the drinking water stations and separate toilets for boys and girls in the school.
Officials of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages join the school during the festive occasions and it was my fortune to be part of the group for this year. The pictures tell the story of how special the day is for the people of the state, something I learnt as I participated in the celebrations.
The joy of sharing their happier times, and being part of the festival celebrates has been inexplicable. We may not be present at the school, but every year when it is time for Pongal, we will be part of the celebrations. After all, some of us at Coca-Cola have learnt from the children!