There have been many rewarding moments at pwhy, but yesterday was a very special one.
I looked for quotes to begin this post and found two by unknown writers:
” God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very like their mother’s”
“Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”
Almost a year back I had to take the heartbreaking decision of separating a mother from her a child. I did as it was a step towards bringing together once again a little family that life had blown apart. The mother went into rehab and the little boy just 4 to a boarding school. Months went by and one healed slowly while the other carved himself a place in an alien world. A month from now they will be reunited for two weeks.
Uptal is what he is, because even in her darkest and most sordid hour, his mom never stopped loving him and I do not know why but I feel that it his her face that comes to him in his daily prayers. Only he was able to see her true worth passed the flaws that she did not hide.
Yesterday I went to see her in the idyllic surroundings where she now lives as she slowly makes her way into a new life. It was a joy to see her smile and to watch her long lost daughter finally rediscovering an almost forgotten mother.
It was a special moment as not many had really understood why it was so important for me to help Jhunnu turn a new leaf. Even if I were not to succeed I wanted him to know at a time when I may not have been around that I did give it my very best. I guess that in her most sordid moments only Utpal and I saw her flaws as a gift and never gave up. We have a long way to go and she is is very fragile but somehow yesterday I truly felt that we were out of the woods.
One day, I my dream comes true the little family will be reunited and strong. I just pray that I live to see the day.
There is a little girl named Yashaswini! you can spot her in the front of this picture. She belongs to the side of the fence where everything works in your favour. She has smart educated parents, a place in a good school and everything a child needs to grow.
Saturday was a 4th birthday and she celebrated like she does every year with her very special friends: the special section of pwhy. Shalini and Manu, Umesh and Anuraag, Ruchi and Preeti and all the others. Some are over 20, others more her age but they are all different in some way or the other. Some cannot hear, others cannot talk, some can barely walk but come rain or storm they are all there with her every year.
Her mom decided some years back to give her a b’day with a difference. A day out at Delhi Haath with this motley group of children. It is time for a a ride to the place, a treat of their choice, a birthday cake and even a return gift. And then time to play like all kids do, before saying bye and see you next year.
Every one is dressed to a T though to the uninitiated it may not look to be. Even Manu who never wears shoes has donned a brand new pair. And they have played by the rules as they did not forget their gift: a nice cardboard house made by Rinky on which everyone signed!
I do not know what made Yashu‘s mom decide to bring the two Indias together for her child’s birthday but I salute her for that as I know that it is maybe one of the greatest gift she gave her child.
As they played blindman’s bluff all differences are forgotten; they are just what they are children having fun, never mind if some of them had to wait scores of years to reclaim their right to be a child.
This is a very precious moment, and only the very privileged can see its true meaning!
Happy Birthday Yashu!
Yesterday a news item caught my attention in more ways than one. A Bombay couple had challenged the high court on the ban on gender choice. They wanted to chose the sex of their third child needless to see they wanted a boy.
According to this educated couple: In their opinion to have a male child in India is better, as they say the country is not socially or economically ready to accept a female child.
The same item reminded sotto voce that 2500 girl foetuses are aborted every day! This case raises a plethora of questions and may have far reaching consequences. It is not just one isolated case that concerns a well to do family with two daughters but one in which the respondents to the petitioner are all the unborn girls of India.
A wrong decision in this case may increase by quantum leaps the 2500 foetuses that die everyday. That the petition should come from an educated family is even more disquieting as it cuts the sails out of the uphill and often impossible task of trying to convince the larger population of the importance of the girl child in any society.
Furthermore a wrong cannot be made right just by numbers and absurd equations: you can chose the sex if you have one, two or x amount of daughters. It is evident that for that family getting the right sex entails taking on a formidable adversary – nature – and may result in killing many a girl foetus on the way.
Maybe the couple in question also forgot that their chosen child will one day need a wife! It is true that even among the well endowed a daughter-in-law is looked down upon if she cannot produce that male child, but one would expect young educated couples to be able rise above this. The fact that this couple chose to seek legal absolution for such a dastardly act is even more chilling.
I hope the court takes all this into consideration and pronounces a judgement that will once for all protect the already precarious condition of the girl child in India.
The last few posts have been grim and even seething so it was time for a breath of fresh air. I found myself humming a song of yore years that sprung from the recesses of my mind. Its just another day in paradise, said the refrain. And if my memory does not fail me the paradise in question was dotted with pizzas, kids screaming and phones rigging.
I let myself be carried by the mood of the song and slowly the day gone by at pwhy seemed just that kind of paradise which just like the song writer I wouldn’t trade for anything.
The morning began just like many others with the customary Namaste ma’am or good morning ma’am that have become so much part of my life that I had lost the ability of savouring. If one was shouted by a simple minded girl, the other was barely whispered by a child with severe behaviour problems; if one was accompanied by a tug at my shirt the other was said with eyes firmly fixed on the ground; and if one was shouted by a deaf girl another was murmured by a spastic child. This beautiful and unique chorus was performed on cue as I climbed up the stairs to my office on the rooftop.
As one settled in the office, on cue again came the hot cup of tea made by Amma and that brought to my mind the struggle it had been to do away with caste and creed problems over the years. Then slowly the motley pwhy crew made the climb to the top to mark their attendance, some heaved and sighed and got my normal: you should exercise a little. One after the other irrespective they came by silent witnesses of the long road travelled to weave together this incredible pattern that reflected India’s true essence. We had nomads and tribals, the lowest and the highest caste, all creeds and ages held together by the pwhy dream.
As each set out to their posts, someone remembered that the water heating rod had to be set for Manu’s bath before the daily power cut: yes the very Manu who only a few years back roamed the streets unkempt and dirty in search of food. And today was special as all the kids of Manu’s class were off to Delhi hath to celebrate the birthday of a 4 year old who since she was 1 celebrated them with these very blessed kids.
They day had begun in earnest. Someone remembered that a TV crew was dropping by to interview little Deepak’s family, yes the very Deepak whose heart was now fixed, reminding me of the laudable fact that 11 such kids had dropped by our planet.
From the ground floor came the sounds of the creche babies singing their morning wake up songs, and the hustle and bustle around me bore witness to the simple fact that a perfect paradisaical day had begun.
It was only 10 am.
The next hour saw the special kids set off in the two hired vehicles, the TV crew appear and be whisked away to Deepak’s home. Time to catch another cup of tea and plan the rest of the day. A visit to all the centres, nine in number now, a search for a room for Manoj’s mom not to forget the table that had to be yanked up all the way to the top floor as it could not go through the staircase…
Yes it truly was just another day in paradise, one that I would not trade for anything…
When you think you have seen it all, and feel smug in the false notion that you have created the required roadmaps, in a land where women are dispensable you are least prepared for Act II of what you believed was a one Act play with a doable denouement!
Yesterday I watched little Manoj dance and even gave my self a tiny pat in the back as memories of him flashed in my mind. A phone call brought me back to reality as I was told that Manoj’s mom 7 months into a unwanted pregnancy had landed at home with a swollen face and broken lip. The abuser was none other than her husband.
An article I recently read caught my attention as the author stated: 0ften a girl is brainwashed from infancy.. and I guess she is right, but there comes a moment when all the brainwashing and conditioning pales under the ignobility of the abuse suffered. That day the battering of her over abused body was the last straw, and the tears that welled Manoj’s mom’s sunken and anemic eyes were ones of anger and rage.
The story withheld till now poured out in chilling words, and that story was not just hers but the story of many women in India. She was barely 16, when she was married to this man, by a widowed mother who had the use of only one arm and three younger children to bring up. She had no option but to agree to the road map set for her. The rest is predictable a child before she attains the age of 17, an alcoholic man who is more abuser than husband or father. A weak child who can barely walk or stand at 2, and an unwanted pregnancy that she is forbidden to abort by the one who owns her body and soul all this laced with brutal beatings that dot her life with obsessive regularity. Days where she and her child go hungry, when rent being not paid lead to changing rooms constantly till you find yourself in an airless hole. No home to go back to, no family no friends.
You get a job and you work with a smile so genuine that even the most sensitive does not see your pain. You hide the unwanted pregnancy from fear of losing your job till it shows and you are exposed! You still try and whitewash the abuser as you have been conditioned to do but then all that was possible when there was no love and support around you. But when you see someone is listening your crushed spirit hidden in the deep recesses of your soul decides to break all the carefully built walls and set itself free.
However what are your options in a land where a single woman let alone a single parent is anathema. Where with a small child an an unborn one you have nowhere to go and are not coward enough to end your life.
Manoj’s mom is not an individual case, it is the story of many women in a land where in spite of venerating Goddesses we have forgotten the Goddess that lies in the scarred soul of each woman. And I am not talking of poor women only.
We may be able to help Manoj’s mom but the question that arises is what do you for the millions others.