Monday, 14 December 2015


Three cheers for this young helpful doctor!!! (Nidhi in black jacket, at right)


Recently, when we had a Mega-Sports event at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Dr Nidhi Agarwal raised Rs 25,000 to buy sports equipment for the Badminton champions at PRC. A few months before that, we were raising money for stationery items for the kids at Sarva Seva Sangh. Nidhi helped us raise a solid amount for that too. When we organised a Music Show to raise funds for Sarva Seva Sangh, she was the first to buy a block of tickets, for her entire family, even though there was no way she could attend because of her busy clinic timings. When we organised a function for our cancer survivors at CPAA (Cancer Patients Aid Association), she sponsored the gifts for all the patients. It was Nidhi again who helped me to sell the beautiful paper bags made by the women of Maher as an income-generating activity. 

Nidhi and Utkarsh at Ganapati celebrations
Dr Nidhi Agarwal and her husband Utkarsh have, in the last two years, become one of the most helpful friends of Team Miracle, raising funds for every activity and organisation that we support, and spreading the word about our work. And this year when Team Miracle took up additional avenues in dealing with Solid Waste Management, to try and ensure a Clean Viman Nagar, Nidhi was the first to pledge her plastic, and even motivate others to start the activity. During Diwali, and later for birthdays the young couple have made it a practice to gift grains and staples to Maher or Sarva Seva Sangh.

Nidhi - organising a Christmas party for her little patients

A busy doctor who runs a clinic, Nidhi hardly looks like one, with her stylish cropped hair, her elegant attire, and the soft, sometimes almost inaudible voice! No wonder then that all her patients, even the littlest ones, are totally at ease in her clinic with nary a hint of fear or discomfort, a feeling many doctors seem to evince! And when this doctor organises a fun Christmas Party every year, with games and toys and chocolates, they look upon her more as a gift-giving Dr Santa.

Nidhi with gifts for our patients at a CPAA function

Being a doctor and doing good works seems to run in the genes, because her grandmother was a doctor, and her entire family has a helping attitude, something she absorbed just by observation.

“I always wanted to have my own clinic, so that I could heal people,” she says, narrating how her first patient was a tiny 3-mnth baby who had a severe case of wet eczema. “She was being treated by another doctor, but even after weeks of treatment, her sores wouldn’t heal, and were oozing pus and blood. I cleaned up her sores, and gave her some homeo medicines. In three days there was a difference and in seven days she was completely cured.” And for this, the young doctor charged not a single rupee, something which happens with unfailing regularity. Having seen her father help his workers and their children with money for food, and education, Nidhi too makes it a point not to charge patients from under-privileged backgrounds.
A true sport – bringing cheer to our PRC badminton champs

Nidhi says that meeting me was an inspiration, and it’s motivated her to enlarge her areas of social work…but for me she is like a Miracle addition to the Team that we call Team Miracle!!

Thank you Nidhi and Utkarsh, for all that you both do, in spite of busy schedules :) !!!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Leading from the front

GM also lends a helping hand at serving 
Hemant meets our bravehearts at the Paraplegic Centre

Leading from the front – Hemant Tenneti, GM Courtyard by Marriott, Chakan

Courtyard by Marriott, Chakan, has always been one of the most enthusiastic and generous helpers of Team Miracle, and spearheading this attitude is General Manager, Hemant Tenneti. Not a month goes by without a (as they call it) ‘Spirit to Serve’ activity, with at least one of the various NGOs that we support. What is even more amazing, but totally heartening is that the donated amounts are always far, far beyond our expectations!
Of course, as we all know, it’s the Leader who sets the trend for the rest of his Team, and here at this Hotel - it’s Hemant!  I think we have lost count of the number of deluxe Lunches and Dinners that Hemant and his Chakan team have brought along to Paraplegic Rehab Centre. And these are always supplemented with some really super gifts for all our sports champs! In fact, our bravehearts at PRC have also formed a special bond with Hemant, so much so, that they invited him to hoist the flag on Republic Day.
Lending additional value is Hemant’s wife Reshma, who also turned up for one of the PRC events.  Reshma chatted animatedly with the soldiers, and in a short while seemed to know everything about their families and hometowns.
Hemant also has a soft  corner for our street kids at Sarva Seva Sangh. He has invited them innumerable times to the hotel, where they are treated like five-star guests, seated and served in their exquisite banquet halls…and then loaded with expensive gifts.
We are also especially thankful to Hemant for having taken up another cause – of providing Nutrition Packets for the many HIV+ kids who are supported by SSS. 

Reshma Tenneti hands over prizes

Reshma too serves lunch, garnished with love 

Hemant is one of the most quiet and self-effacing (but most effective) persons I know. So I sent him a few questions for our Blog. Here are his replies (unedited):

  • Why did u help out so readily with PRC for Team Miracle…and then with Sarva Seva Sangh?Two reasons: Firstly, it’s an essential part of Marriott Business Council strategy to contribute to the community in the best possible manner.
  • Secondly:     PRC , the first time , I was not sure what to expect, but that place is in a different league. It is not for residents of PRC that we do what we do, it is for our own selfish motive to be honest. The inspiration to live life has a different definition there! And personally I have tremendous respect for the Armed Forces (Reshma is from Armed Force background as well). I think whatever we can do to thank them, we should and still it won’t be enough.
Same case with Sarva Seva Sangh, the minimum we can do is to bring smiles on those faces, you guys are doing the rest!!

  • What else (or who else) would you like to help out? Honestly there is no bucket list made !! Anything that I feel strongly for !
  • What are your other interests …as regards ‘giving back’?At some point in time in my life (hopefully soon !) I want to teach areas where it’s a challenge to find teachers, the future lies in educating people and passing on knowledge and I will be thrilled to be a part of it !!

  • Ur philosophy in life?Very common ones !!!Work hard, be honest to yourself, focus on the process excellence and not results, and love your family.
  • Anything else you wish to add?
  • Life becomes very meaningful every time we work with you. You guys do an absolutely amazing job. Thank you for everything,
Hemant, we from Team Miracle, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your immense help and kindness!!!

The Chakan Marriott team - smiles of satisfaction

Sunday, 19 July 2015


Here, drink your fill

A happy occasion for the beggars

Smiles of satisfaction at a work well done

Lopa & Arin Dubey


Tue 17 Feb, 2015, Shivaratri

It was rather late in the evening, and at Ganapati Chowk, Viman Nagar, which also has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, it was the usual sight. A long line of devotees, snaked its way outside the temple, each clutching in their hands the flowers, fruits and milk required for the religious rituals. And as usual, there were the hordes of beggars waiting patiently for the odd coin or piece of fruit that would come their way.

What was unusual was the sight of a small group of smart young women, offering milk in plastic cups to the beggars and their children, who were lapping up this treat with obvious relish!

Surely they’d got it wrong?! Wasn’t that milk supposed to be poured over the Shivalingam? “No,” they asserted, “we’ve got it right! We are sure Shivji will be pleased that it’s being put to good use, and providing nutrition to these hungry beggars, rather than flowing uselessly down the gutters!”

Logically, many of us have had similar thoughts, but it needed someone like these go-getters – Madhubanti Pandey and her friends Priyanka Bhutani, Swekcha Vaidya, Sakshi Pathak and Nidhi Motwani - to act upon it. All working professionals, they had come straight from office to pay obeisance at the temple, when this sudden idea occurred to them.

But didn’t the devotees argue with them? “Strangely, they complied with alacrity. Many of them confessed to feeling guilty at wasting all that milk. Others were glad that someone else too, had thought of it. After all, we didn’t ask them to stop the practice totally. They sprinkled a few drops as per ritual, while the rest went to feed a hungry beggar. In fact, a few ladies, who had kept certain mannats, even went to the extent of buying fresh packets of milk to give the beggars.”

In half an hour, the group had collected upwards of 10 litres, which the beggars gulped down hungrily. But now that the idea had caught on, the milk came pouring in, and even the beggars couldn’t drink any more. The group was in a quandary because they had no utensils to collect all that milk - more than 32 litres!!! And, what would they do with it?

It was almost midnight now. Madhubanti called up her sister and brother-in-law, Lopamudra and Arin Dubey. They hurried there with large cans,bottles, pateelas, whatever they could lay their hands on. Arin contacted Sharmila Mazumdar. Sharmila, who runs her own social group ‘Upasana’, and also helps with our Team Miracle activities, called me up. I suggested Sarva Seva Sangh - a children’s Shelter?

It was past midnight, when they finally delivered it…and for 3 days, the little kids there got a treat of thick nutritious curd rice.

This group of young women have resolved to repeat their action next year, but yes, they’ll be better planned! As for Arin and Lopa, they are already into a number of welfare activities privately, and also from the office CSR front. A few months ago, they visited a Deaf & Dumb School in Shirur, where they distributed snacks and donated fans for the classrooms.

Arin has another idea up his sleeve. Appalled at the quantity of food wasted by restaurants at the end of the day, he is trying to find a way to have these delivered to needy people. Bakeries are another source he plans to check out.  (We would welcome any useful ideas connected to this)

In the meantime…Hats off to this gutsy group for taking a much-needed step forward!!!


Friday, 19 June 2015


Woolly caps galore!

Happiness for Sasmeeta means soft rainbow coloured sweaters for little kids 

These residents of an old-age home pose happily in their warm woolly caps
Yes, of course we could all use some help. There isn't a person alive without a need. So don't ask the silly question, just figure out how you're going to help and do it!” - Richelle E. Goodrich.

It's nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime,” - Joan Marques.

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” - Winston Churchill

Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give,” - Ben Carson

We could fill up an encyclopaedia with more of these beautiful quotes about the joys of giving, but while most of us end up only reading them…or at the most, posting them on our Facebook pages, Sasmeeta Srivastava takes this advice to heart, and actually acts upon them! She has indeed found her own unique way to help, and her days are an endless chain of happiness, because each day is filled with the act of giving.

What does Sasmeeta do? Every day she knits…and knits…and knits. She knits woollen caps and scarves for the old and sick, and little sweaters for babies and children. And she gives every one of them away – sometimes at hospitals, or orphanages, or old-age homes. Sometimes maybe to the child of a domestic help, or even a needy person on the street!

Starting last year in September (2014), Sasmeeta has lost count of the many caps and sweaters she has crafted in the past nine months. “At a random guess it could be a 100 sweaters and more than 200 caps,” she beams, her needles clicking furiously as she strives to complete her latest project – 40 caps for a Home.

Working with, and for the under-privileged has always been a way of life for this intrepid lady. Hailing from the North, Sasmeeta ran an NGO for tribals (in Madhya Pradesh) along with her husband. But when he passed away, she gave that up, and was appointed Chairman of the Social Welfare Board. After a three-year stint, she spent another five years on an assignment for the Women’s Development and Literacy Mission, followed again by six years as an Advisor at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

10 years ago, her mother, who lived in Pune, fell seriously ill and broke her leg. By now, Sasmeeta’s children were grown-up and working, so without a moment’s hesitation, she gave up her work and moved to Pune, to nurse her. And even when her mother passed away, she remained in Peshwa City.

But what could she do the entire day? Having worked throughout her life, she found it difficult to sit around idle. TV or kitty parties were not her thing. She had always loved knitting. The soft texture and the rainbow colours of the yarn send her into raptures. In Delhi’s bitter winters, she had given full vent to her passion, knitting dozens of garments for friends and family. But Pune wasn’t cold enough! One hardly needed a warm sweater even on the coldest winter day.

One rainy day, as she was leaving some instructions with the Society watchman, she discovered he was suffering from a bad cold. “After midnight, the temperatures drop so rapidly, Madam,” he said in between bouts of coughing.

“Why don’t you wear a cap?” she insisted, and soon realized that even that meagre investment on a woollen cap was beyond the poor fellow’s reach. …And then an idea struck her. She rushed up to her apartment, dug out her knitting needles and set to work on her little remnants of wool. By evening it was ready – a colourful cap, warm and snug.

At first, the watchman couldn’t believe that the cap was a gift. Free! Why would anyone take this trouble, just for him? His next reaction was unmitigated joy, followed by pride as he now strutted around feeling warm, as well as smart. In fact, the neighbouring watchman noticed this, and asked him, “Will your Madam knit one for me too?”

The next day ‘Madam’ fulfilled his wishes …and from that day there was no stopping for Sasmeeta. She knitted a few more for others who worked in her building, and the neighbouring ones. She knitted for their little babies and children. And when she  ran out of people to gift her creations to, she visited orphanages, old age homes and hospitals.

“I realized that babies, children, old people and the sick are the ones who really need caps,” she states in her matter-of-fact voice.

When she ran out of wool, she scoured the markets of Pune, visiting Yerawada and Tulshibaugh. On her last visit to Delhi, a few months ago, she took along an empty suitcase, which she brought back crammed with colourful balls of yarn. Any friend or relative from the North is requested to bring along some more. “And I’ve told everyone, that if they want to gift me something for Diwali or birthdays, what I would love most is some more wool!”

While Sasmeeta insists on giving credit to her friend Mrs Pathak who inspired her, she has also been instrumental in inspiring others. She has successfully gathered together kindred spirits - avid knitters from her Senior Citizen’s Group - to ‘form a ‘knit for a cause’ group.

“We knit and gift to old age homes for the poor, orphanages, poor cancer patients in hospitals, our watchmen and children of our domestic help.  It’s a win-win situation. The knitters keep fit in body, mind and soul and the needy benefit from our efforts,” she says, a happy smile lighting up her face.

Well…what are you waiting for? Would you like to join this feisty group? Or maybe find your own unique way of helping the less fortunate?!


Tuesday, 27 January 2015


File Photo

These are s few stories of men we met and spoke to, on our visits to the Artificial Limb Centre. As you can understand, in order to mention confidentiality, we cannot give actual names. But the stories are TRUE!


Let us, for the sake of anonymity and safety refer to him simply as ‘Mushtaque’. There are many like him living in Poonch, Rajouri, Sopore, Anantnag, Gandherbal or the many other remote terrorist strongholds of Kashmir. But the militants have not been able to influence them with their rabid or radical anti-Indian rhetoric. On the contrary, these men are brave and patriotic…and, much more than any of us, they have proved their patriotism, often losing life and limb in the process.

Mushtaque is one such person. He’s a simple man, an average poor man trying to make a living for his family. When his son, fired by patriotism, joined the Army, the family gave him a warm send-off. They were proud, but they made no fanfare about it, their pride burned brightly in their hearts – after all, they lived in the midst of informers and militants.

And one day, they came calling. With guns. They roughed up the father, kicked him around, hit him with their boots and rifle butts. “How dare your son join the Indian Army! Send him a message to come back, or we will teach you a lesson,” they threatened.

“I will not,” said the father. “I’m proud of what my son has done.” His face was bleeding, a few teeth had fallen off, he had bruises all over his body, but he remained defiant.

“Think about it, we’ll be back,” was their parting shot as they melted away into the dusk.

The father said nothing to his son who was training far away. A week later, the militants knocked again on the door. Fierce and ruffianish, they glowered viciously and barked, “Tell your son to leave the Army immediately, come back and join us.”

“No,” came the defiant reply.

They burnt his house down, every last bit he possessed; they set fire to his little patch of grains. But his son, far away in training, never heard any of it.

“These people will kill you. At least inform our son what’s happening. He can come back and find some work locally,” begged his wife.

“Quiet woman! What do you understand of these things? Take pride in the fact that our son has enlisted – to fight injustice, to fight bullies like these,” he said, determination writ on his face.

The father knew that the men would come back. He waited, outwardly calm. A week later, they came, hurled abuses, hit him and kicked him. “We give you one last chance. Will you tell your son?”

“No,” came the defiant reply.

They bound his hands behind his back, hung him from a culvert, and with their Kalashnikovs pumped at least 200 bullets into his legs in full view of the entire village. “Let this be a lesson to you all,” they screamed and went away.

The villagers gently took down the limp body. The legs were totally blown away, but he was still alive, barely.

They rushed him to the nearest hospital, informed his son. The brave jawan arrived with escorts, took the father to the Military hospital in Srinagar, then to Jammu and Delhi, where the military doctors gave him the best treatment possible. He survived, but lost his legs. Fitted now with crutches, he goes around with his head held high.

We bow our heads in respect – to this bravest of fathers, to the most patriotic of Indians!


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Happy Birthday Revaa!

Invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha as we begin the program at PRC…(and there’s Rasika just behind her with her loving guidance)

The jawans at PRC are mesmerised at Revaa’s flawless rendering of ‘Ekdantaya Vakratundaya’

And now it’s time for some light music on the synthesizer

Rasika gets to know the little boys at Sarva Seva Sangh

Fr Babu blesses Revaa for her act of sharing and caring. Nayan from SSS also wishes the 'Birthday Girl'

She is the youngest member to help Team Miracle. Last year, when she was just 8, Revaa was part of an entertainment program which we held at the Paraplegic Rehab Centre. It was Revaa who set the program in motion with a soulful rendering of ‘Ekdantaya Vakratundaya’ invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha, and later followed it up with two songs on her synthesizer. All of us were mesmerized at the little girl’s flawless and unfaltering enunciation of the Sanskrit chants, and her air of assurance as she stood alone on that wide stage. This was on 14 Dec, 2013, and for her, it was a Thanksgiving for her birthday, which she had celebrated a fortnight earlier on 30 November.

This year, Revaa decided that while she would invite only a small group of close friends for her home birthday party, she also wanted to interact with those who are not so privileged. Accordingly, a week before her special day, Revaa arrived with her mother at Sarva Seva Sangh with a large bag of goodies for the little kids. The children at the SSS shelter crowded around them joyfully, for a visitor is always welcome…and one bearing gifts even more so.   

Of course, the mother’s guiding hand can be detected throughout. True to our Team Miracle’s chain of activities, Rasika and Reva’s active participation and teamwork is nothing sort of a coincidence…or shall we call it a Miracle! Although Rasika is just a few years older than my daughter, we had first met as colleagues at the Indian Express. We then lost touch as she got married and we both joined other writing opportunities. It was a chance meeting at a wedding which brought us together again.

As usual, it was a ‘What are you doing’ approach. Rasika loved the concept of our Team Miracle, and I was struck by the intelligence shining out of the then-three year-old Revaa.  Thereafter, I followed Revaa’s activities in school and at home, and what amazed me was the way Rasika introduced her daughter to so many activities at home – blending academic learning with creative arts, and also celebrating the best of our traditional festivals and rituals, with a wide and loving circle of friends and relatives. As she was generous enough to share these activities with me, I was always left yearning, “I wish I had thought of this when I was bringing up my daughter!”

Even now, with an extremely busy work schedule, Rasika still manages to inculcate a wide range of noble ideas and make high thinking a way of life for little Revaa. She shares, “Revaa and I said a little prayer at our home puja-place before we left to meet you - ‘All around we see people who have so much more than us. Instead of looking that way, we say a huge thank you for letting us have enough to be able to share some of it with those who don't even have that much.’ This thought is what I hope will guide Revaa in her future years too - especially when she's earning her own money.” 

Such words of wisdom! …And as we from Team Miracle pray to the Almighty to shower blessings on Revaa on her Birthday, we hope many more among you will come forward like her and Rasika, and celebrate your birthdays, wedding-anniversaries or remembrance-ceremonies with the less-privileged.

Sarva Seva Sangh is a home for underprivileged children and ‘children at risk’ - street children, children who have lost one or both parents, children of sex-workers, children who are abused (sexually or otherwise) at home, as well HIV-affected (parents with HIV) and HIV-infected children. Based at Wadgaonsheri, SSS helps to rehabilitate, empower and educate them. 1,600 children benefit under their umbrella. While some stay at their various shelters, some get hot mid-day meals, some get snacks and informal education, while others get Nutrition packs. For more info, you can visit their website:

Friday, 25 April 2014

CPAA - Overcoming Cancer & Bringing Hope into their Lives

Sufala gifts a rose – a symbol of hope - to this young boy
Veena Gaikwad cheers up a patient with gifts and smiles 

Roses and gift packs for each patient on the occasion of Rose Day 

An Awareness and Detection Camp in progress

Team Miracle helps CPAA’s ‘Make a Patient Smile’ program with our very own Musical Group

22 Dec, 2011. Although 5-year old Deepak* sat quietly in his mother’s lap, it was evident that he was enjoying the Christmas Party. His eyes followed the Musical Chairs, and his face lit up when Santa gave him sweets and a brightly-wrapped gift. Deepak had been discharged just an hour ago from hospital, after a long chemo session. He was supposed to be going straight home, but he had heard his father saying on the phone, ‘Sorry madam, party nahi aa sakta’. He immediately understood that CPAA was organizing a party, and, having attended their lively get-togethers earlier, he had stubbornly insisted on coming to this one. So even though Deepak was so exhausted, his father had given in.

As for us, we were happy that the little boy was there. We didn’t know it then…it was his last Christmas party!

Celebrating special days like Diwali, Christmas, or Women’s Day is just one of the ways for CPAA to spread some smiles among the cancer patients who come to them for help. CPAA (Cancer Patients Aid Association) which first started in Mumbai, followed up with a branch in Pune. The patients they help, come from the lowest socio-economic strata of society – daily wage labourers, vegetable/fruit sellers, maids etc. As it is, life is difficult for them – meager wages, insufficient holidays, no savings. And when cancer strikes, they are at a total loss. While there are days when they barely manage a proper nutritious meal, the costs of  treatment are prohibitive! It is here that they turn to CPAA for help.

CPAA helps these poor patients with medicines, money for treatment, and also with monthly supplies of grains and certain dry food items to provide some nutrition. Sanjivani who has had a breast removed needs a prosthesis; Bhau who now has a mechanical voice box cannot afford the special cleaning brush. Sometimes, a patient may just need a few pain-killers.

Maharukh Mehta, who heads the Pune office is forever juggling finances in such a way that no patient is turned away empty-handed. She is helped tirelessly by social workers Sumangala, Veena, Najiya, Sufala and Asha who try to get in more donors, visit patients and also hold Awareness & Detection Camps.

The work is arduous… and when they lose a patient, the mood in the office becomes grey and bleak. “There are times when we call up a patient to invite her/him for a party, and learn that he has just passed away! It feels terrible,” says Maharukh.

Not all cases are doomed. Many of them recover. 5-year-old Sumaiya’s leukaemia has been subdued, and for that, we also thank one of our Team Miracle helpers, Tenaz, who had partly funded her treatment.

Would you like to save a life? Would you like to give some hope? Even a little goes a long way. Life is not in our hands…and even if the patient you fund finally passes away, you can at least find solace that your gift gave a longer lease of life…or a less painful end. There are many more avenues to help …just get in touch with Team Miracle…and we will open a vista of ways to spread kindness and create smiles!

* Name changed