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Cinema Paradiso is a touching film. It is about youth, friendship, hope and the magic of movies. Cinema Paradiso is also the name of our new cine club that was inaugurated yesterday with a special show for our very special children.

The idea of a cine club for slum kids was first mooted by our dear friend Xavier many years ago. I must confess that the idea seemed rather incongruous to me as I struggled to survive perfecting the art of a hand to mouth existence. But Xavier held on to his dream and he is one who makes dreams come true.

The dream did come true as a sparkling home theatre was bought and set up in our new library. After many discussions it was decided that the cinema club would be inaugurated with a screening for our very special kids. This was because most if not all of these children have never been to a movie hall and are never likely to. This was also because these children are never taken out of their homes or given any treat. So yesterday as the clock struck ten, the 20 odd kids were bundled up in our three wheelers and taken to the library located a short distance away. There was palpable excitement as they put on their shoes and set off for the short journey. There was even more excitement as they entered the the small room and saw the screen on the wall. They quickly sat down, eyes wide open staring at the images on the screen. After s small introduction where each word I said was greeted by warm applause and vehement nods of the head, it was show time: one the menu a 1915 Charlie Chaplin film.

The kids sat mesmerised, laughing at each slapstick moment. Everyone was having a ball, even those who could not hear. The giggles were infectious and we laughed with them, more moved by their enthusiasm and joy than by the on goings in screen. Everyone has a great time. It did not matter if you could not hear, speak, walk, talk: the show transcended all barriers. It was a runaway success.

Some may wonder why have a library filled with books in an alien language an a state of the art home theatre for a bunch of poor slum kids. I must admit that there are many who think this way, the kind of people for whom charity is a good way of getting rid of your rubbish and easing your conscience. In their parlance beautiful, enriching and elevating pursuits are the prerogative of the rich and not fit for consumption for the poor. But we at pwhy differ and believe that every child has a right to get the best of everything. So our little library and small cine club aims at just that: bringing to deprived children a little bit of the magic of books and the wonder of the silver screen.

Welcome to Cinema Paradiso!

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