chottey lal.. the larger than life toy man

chottey lal.. the larger than life toy man


When you think nothing can touch or move you, that your heart is safe and well guarded, beware: someone may have other plans for you. It happened to me this morning. This is how:

What made me decide to go fetch K and mr P, I do not know.. what made me say ‘yes’ to their desire to stop by a children’s park, I cannot say.. nevertheless I found myself in the GK II Park and that is when Chottey Lal came into my life..

Many of you have seen the khilona wallah, our very own toy vendor who ambulates in residential areas selling a medley of plastic toys.. or at least heard the strident whistle that often jars a lazy afternoon.. and most of our kids have, in spite of all the Mattels in the house, egged you on to buy the plastic wonders.. well as we got off our radheyMobile, a khilone wallah pased by and my bacchas wanted one.. I looked up and saw and old man and thought I would make his day by purchasing toys for 100 rs. As the kids were chosing want they wanted, I hear a rasping sound and discovered it was the old man who could barely breathe..

I helped him steady his toypole and would have fallen had Radhey not steadied me… the pole weighed a good 50 kilos far more than the frail man who lugged it.. what would make a man do this..

As Chottey Lal shared his story, I could not stop the tears from falling.. Chottey Lal was born in Lahore, his father was a kotwal. The family moved to Aligarh.. he reminisces coming delhi at 15 when the angrez left and worked for 15 years in Teen Murti House, in the times of Panditji.. I listen to him but my mind kept wondering what would make a man like him cart a 50 kilo burden walking miles to eek a few rupees..

My heart went out to him as I saw his wrinkle ridden face, emanciated body covered in layers of non-descript clothing, a whistle hanging on his chest.. we sat over a cup of tea as he shared his life: his son had job but not enough to feed the little family and he did what he felt he should.. for his grandchildren and others. He made 40 rupees on a good day, enough to meet the evening meal… I sensed his whole being straighten up when he rasped that he had never asked for help.. and I did believe him.. honesty oozed out of every pore.. I asked him how I could help, and his answer made my world stop: “just ask the gurdwara to allow me to stand there and sell my wares; a few days back they shunted me away and hit me”. He rolled up his trousers and showed me the barely healed wound.. I asked him if he has eaten and whether he carried any food. Chottey Lal proudly fished out a tiny packet of biscuits and a shrivelled orange.

We sat down to share a cup of tea and some bread.. By this time I knew that this morning my good friend the god of lesser beings had probably decided that Chottey lal’s days of carrying his burden were over. I had to find a way for him to retain his dignity and get his 40 rs a day!

We took Chottey lal home and met the family.. his son who earns 1500 rs a month as a courier boy – half the minimum wage – told us that his father would not listen to them. Everyone was extremely concerned but I smiled as I understood the stubborn little big man.. we agreed that he would sell his toys comfortably seated close to his home, and that he would get his 40rs a day for coming once a week and telling stories of the past to pwhy kids. Stories so precious and now so rare..

Chottey Lal is the best you can find in India, a man that should be an example to all those who want to live life the easy way..

I salute this larger than life toyMan

Note: I may start a new blog with chottey lal’s stories

heartfix hotel

heartfix hotel


When Sitaram walked into our little office almost three years go, he had hobbled for six years on his good leg from the proverbial pillar to post seeking the funds required for his son Raju’s operation. His determination and courage compelled us to act… Arun had to wait 14 years before fate conjured the right moment and brought this dalit family to our doorsstep.. one look at Arun’s smile and we knew we had to do something..

It was Sitaram again who brought Babli and her broken heart to project why.. no one had done anything for her for 9 long years as she was just a girl…and it was the look in little Chetna’s mother’s eye as she held on to her imprefect child after having lost her first born that made us act… and two days from mow she will have her angiography!

Many may wonder why an organisation whose main activity is education is busy being a heartFix hotel.. one does not have a logical answer.. maybe it is the conviction that if something comes our way, it happens for a reason.. just as Manu’s heart wrenching howls led to setting up pwhy’s first classroom..

Maybe it is the belief that every child has a right to live or is it the unfair reality that the miracles of modern medecine are only for the chosen ones.. I would like to believe that it is my friend the god of lesser children’s way of redressing torts..

And in running our heartFix hotel one has come to realise that indubitable fact that people tend to be more generous when asked to help in such cases.. so somewhere the why ruse is at work too…

Or to quote the now famous rang de basanti, it is not being able to remain silent when something is terribly wrong!

another smile in custody…

another smile in custody…


There is another smile that lit planet why for the past 6 months, a smile that conveyed warmth, compassion and befitted the spirit of pwhy!

Sophie came to us last summer and immediately became one of us.. so much so that we almost took her for granted.. not only did she reach out to the children and brought them wondrous experiences, but she was there whenever we needed her. Her numerous skills helped us in so many ways: she was our lenswoman, our chief decorator, our graphic artist and much more..

When Babli was to be operated, Sophie and her friend Gary were by her side and made a complex heart surgery seem easy and simple..

To me, she was the one I reached out to in moments of doubt and angst.. and she gently steered me back on course.. and gave my sometimes flinching courage the fillip it needed..

We got used to that smile and somehow made it ours, and when she flies out next week, that smile will be in our custody till she returns…

all of us at project why will miss Sopi Didi

the spunk of a smile

the spunk of a smile


For 28 days nanhe has kept his smile going.. through pain, humiliating investigations and now invasive surgery which has wreaked his exhausted body.. with tubes and drains hanging and the discomfort of bedsores, nanhe still smiles on..

True his smile is a little slower to light his pain ridden face, but it does each time anyone he cares for walks into the room.. telling us to hold on and not give.. as we are not home yet.. another major surgery to deal with his kidneys await and only then will he be able to come back to us..

It is amazing how much a smile can convey.. nanhe’ smile reveals the spirit of this brave child and holds many silent lessons.. it is for us to heed them..

Kim smiling valiant child, we need you more than you can imagine

parttime couples

Was flipping through a upmarket magazine and came across an article entitled: weekend couples, highlighting what was defined as ‘a new dynamisn in the intsitution of marriage with couples living in different cities’…

Once again we were faced with the now jaded reality of two Indias… Maybe for the urban midlle class, this is a new occurence but innumerable women in India have patiently endured the reality of living away from their husbands and carrying on their numerous activities, no less than any job… these are not week end couples but once a year couples…

Our cities are replete with men who have left their wifes in the villages and have come in search of jobs.. the wives may not have fancy careers, but they tend to the little land that is often the only identity they have, look after the children, care for the parents and face whatever comes by.. Once a year, their husband comes back for a short time, renewing the marital institution by often leaving the wife pregnant..

Give it a thought..