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With Spain, a rainbow run

Rhythmic Flamenco steps from Andalucia, in the south of Spain, in sync with the vigorous Red Indian Dance form. Heady Afro beats dovetailed seamlessly into Celtic chants and The Pirates of the Caribbean crossed swords with The Lion Hunters of Masai'

For the boys and girls of New Light, a community development and HIV/AIDS awareness programme working with sex workers' children and local youth of Kalighat, it was the joyous culmination of three weeks of greasepaint and rainbow costumes and an unbridled song-and-dance routine with foreign friends.

The New Light Carnival, conceived, choreographed and presented by a group of Spanish volunteers (at Muktangan on Monday), was an attempt to add a splash of colour to these kids' forlorn firmament. And the 30-odd visitors from motley callings, touring under the banner of Madrid-based support body Accion por la Infancia, enjoyed the comradeship as much as their young mates.

'This was an amazing experience and will remain one of the most important chapters of my life,' gushes 27-year-old journalist Yaiza Santos, part of the Spanish armada, who plans to do a piece for arts and culture magazine Letras Libres once she's back home.

Marco Mendeh, who teaches 10-year-olds the clarinet and assorted instruments at a public primary school in Madrid, had set off to do a somewhat similar schedule with the Kalighat kids. 'It was kind of more rewarding though, since the children were more responsive,' smiles the handsome Spaniard, flicking his wavy locks.

For friend Sonia, a maths teacher by profession, communicating with the kids as she took them through their paces for the Chinese dance and The Bedwin Feast, was mostly achieved through gestures and body movement. 'It's a pity I don't speak their language and couldn't pick up subtle vernacular nuances,' she laments.

Yaiza's friend Javier Pinto, hailing from the same city of Aranjaez, near Madrid, can catch a phrase or two in Bengali, though, having worked with the New Light children for the past two years. And Calcutta has grown on him. Says the 26-year-old architect: 'The sound of a falling tree is always louder than the sprouting of a thousand saplings. There's so much more to this city than meets the eye.'

Marco agrees with Javier that the Mother Teresa image doesn't do justice to 'this fascinating city'. He, like Yaiza, would love to come back and soak in more of the street experience and 'feel the pulse' of Calcutta.

'I, indeed, hope they return, because it would mean so much for our kids, who would miss their Aunties and Uncles,' says Urmi Basu, executive director of New Light.

Urmi is among the 11 individuals doing similar work across the world featured in La Libertad Del Compromiso, the book penned by Accion president Hernan Zin.

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