Sing a song of sixpence. For the past month I have been reminded of this nursery rhyme and feeling like its king: The King was in his counting house, Counting out his money and wondering whether the big black bird would come and snip away my nose! Like many nursery rhymes this one too has a gory double meaning and was a coded advertisement to recruit pirates at a time when piracy was outlawed.
My reference thank heavens is not gory but just adapted to the mind boggling situation I find myself in: counting money to meet the huge amount required to begin saving dreams and provide the suitable heir to project why aka planet why!
I am truly blessed as each time I feel a tad dejected, all I need is a walk through project why. This morning when I was greeted at the special section by the whoops of joy and peals of laughter as it was trampoline time. My eyes grew misty as I watched Preeti jump on the trampoline in spite of her useless legs. Actually I should have known she would do just this as is she not our very own incredible karate kid!
So the low spirits lifted and I felt imbued with a renewed determination to go on counting the money till the magic and still elusive figure was reached to enable us to secure the plot of land that would ensure that children like Preeti remain spirited and can life life with dignity and surrounded by love.
Many cannot even begin to imagine what life was a girl like Preeti can turn into once she loses the support of her mother. She could be used and abused or just be thrown out of her home by an unkind sister in law and forced to beg as was the case with Manu. She could also land in an institution where life is hell or is some ashram or the other where even hell has to be redefined. And yet Preeti just has useless legs. Otherwise she is just like any other 11 year old and deserves to live a full life.
And it is not just Preeti, but Champa, Ruchi and many others who are today at the threshold of a terrible morrow unless we do something. Planet why is our answer and we know that we have to make it happen.
Among the very serious questions fielded at me yesterday was the oft stated one about who would take over pwhy. Till date the question was asked by all and sundry buy yesterday it was raised by someone I hold in high esteem ans hence required an honest and well thought answer.
For a long time I have know that this is one issue that had to be addressed and resolved. The question of sustainability has kept me awake many a night and has troubled be many a times. It is very early that we realised that the crux of the matter lay in our ability to become sustainable and free of constantly having to sing for our supper each and every day. True that for project why to live on beyond my days on this planet two essential things were required: a committed team who would see with their heart to do the work on the field and an entity to provide the elusive supper!
The former was easily done. The later was easier said than done. The fund sustainability issue went through many trials and failures till slowly a nebulous idea emerged that of planet why and unlike others each time one thought of it the image became clearer and clearer. Today planet why is but a few hurdles away and it will come to be for all the right reasons.
So when once again the question about who would take over pwhy came my way again, I realised that it would simply be planet why. Strange? But do bear with me for a while. Unlike pwhy that needs to be fed every day, planet why has within it the ability to make its own supper and also provide many suppers to other pwhy activities thus becoming the lifeline of pwhy a task till now done by one single individual and thus making pwhy look extremely fragile and vulnerable.
But that is not all. Unlike other possible sustainability options, planet why is imbued with the spirit of pwhy. It is just not a commercial activity, but one that offers a haven to many lost souls, one that provides training and work possibilities to pwhy alumni, one that enables us to expand our activities and reach out to new children and empower new communities. But above all it is one that has immense potential of growth and thus becomes a constant challenge to those who will steer it and who will then hold their destiny in their won hands.
What better inheritor could I have found?
Yesterday was a very special day at pwhy. We were blessed to have the visit of Manmeet Bhai Sahib and Seema Bhabhi. I seek your indulgence for this rather personal post but I would failing the spirit of pwhy were I not to share this special moment.
Project Why would never seen the light of day if Ram had not been part of my life. And Bhai Sahib is someone Ram loved dearly and respected profoundly. His visit was akin to having Ram drop by. It was a rare privilege and a moving moment to have Bhai Sahib see the work we are doing and above all share his wisdom and give his advise and guidance. And for me it was a tender moment when I could for those few moments be once again a little girl hanging on to every word that was said and answering every question fielded by someone I held in awe. For the past 10 years or so I have been the one to have to answer questions, solve problems, defuse problems and it does get lonely up there. Yesterday I could revel in a few stolen moments of having someone tell me where I was wrong or what I was doing right.
Time flew by. And for many present nothing earth shattering happened or was said. But I could read between the lines, hear the words left unspoken, feel the immense love that filled my heart and above all feel that I was not alone, that all would be all right, every little hurt would go away and the sun would shine again.
Bhai Sahib’s visit was God sent or should I say Ram sent! For the past few months I had been battling impossible odds and yet I knew that that was the only road I could walk were I to be honest and true to all that I had been taught. And yet it had not been easy to go on. I needed a sign, a tiny pat on my back, a blessing whispered in my ear ans yesterday that is just what happened.
It was indeed a very special day.
In my last post I had vented some of my thoughts in response to a question I had been asked about feeling helpless at the plight of poor children begging at red lights and other places and of course one had to refer to the ‘two Indias‘ and the widening gap between them.
Yesterday once again a story was aired on TV aptly named the Real Face of India. The story began thus: In the state of Andhra Pradesh, there is a swanky international airport, a controversial one, and on the other side, there are school students taking their board examinations in knee deep water. One would be justified in thinking it was a joke of some kind but sadly no! The pictures actually showed children giving their Board examinations with their feet in water! And if that was not enough in another school kids were made to write their examinations in a pitch dark room by candlelight! In a country where the marks you obtain decide your future I wonder what would happen to these children.
I also wonder if this is the India we hoped for. One where some are reaching the sky while others are being pushed into deeper holes. Talking of holes one cannot but think of the little Vandana who fell into a 45 feet pit and was rescued only 28 hours later. The question that one needs to ask is why was a bore well left gaping and who was responsible.
But it does not end there. Young Rinky brutally thrashed by her teacher for having chosen another tutor dies in hospital this morning after long months of agony. Wonder who will pay for this death.
Yesterday Roshni who works at our women centre, has seven children and barely survives, told us that the reason she had put her daughters into a private school – read teaching shop – because they did not have birth certificates – the poor woman did not know that an affidavit would have solve the situation – had also to send them for tuition to the class teacher. I wonder if they would have met the same fate had she refused to do so.
Is this the India we want for our children: one where corporal punishment is the order of the day one where an insensitive administration forgets to cover the holes they have dug, one where children have to write their destiny defining examination in the dark or in water!
Yesterday TV channels were all praise for the Army team that rescued little Vandana. We salute them too but is it not ironical that soldiers have to be called to cover up messes made by the so called administration? Who will hold the administration responsible.
Yesterday again TV channels vented their anger on Rinky’s death and demanded answers from the faceless, heartless and soulless administration. Many luminaries joined the show and every one agreed that education stinks, that children are innocent targets, that teaching is now a simple commercial activity – but does one beat one’s customer -. One anchor was honest enough to say that the nation will express its outrage and anger for a day or so till the next news comes to hog the limelight. Ominous words they were as while Rinky’s pyre still smoldered the same channel had to – TRP obliges – shift Rinky’s story from its lead to replace it by the very juicy interview of a cricket biggie caught in a net of corruption.
The children of India – oops I should say the children of one India – have been let down by each and every one. Whereas the constitution guarantees them free education, schools run by the government are in an abysmal state and children are brutally beaten each and every day in all schools.
Vulnerable children are beaten mercilessly as a nation watches and does nothing.
Where are we going…
Is this the India we want
During a recent interview an eager young journo kept asking whether I did not get disturbed or feel helpless at the sight of all the children I saw at red lights or other places begging. He was quite bewildered when I told him that I did not, I simply felt outraged.
And that too for more reasons than one!
First and foremost this was the wost form of child labour but one that did not seem to be addressed at all by the powers that be. It was undoubtedly the easiest one to be identified as it happened not behind close doors or dingy sweat shops but out in the open for everyone to see! And yet no one seemed to care. Moreover it was one that we were all guilty of abetting as most of us did give that coin, perhaps to get rid of the pestering child or whining mother or perhaps simply to ease one’s conscience. And as long as the business was lucrative it would carry on.
My mind went back to an incident that occurred many years ago when I was accosted by a beggar woman. I did not have any change on me so I looked at her and simply told her that I was sorry I did not have anything to give her. She held on to my hand and told me that I had given her a great gift. I was needless to say bewildered. Seeing my confusion she smiled and told me: You looked into my eyes child, and acknowledged me as a fellow human . People normally throw some money at you but never dare look at you. This was probably one of the greatest lesson I got in my entire life.
Herein lies the problem that plagues our society. The divide between rich and poor is getting wider by the day and the rich have lost the ability to look into the eyes of the poor that are actually everywhere. Do we see the families working relentlessly in the biting cold or scorching heat on all the fancy new constructions that are mushrooming in our city; do we see the children at red lights peddling their ware and realise that they are children just like ours; do we look at the road side slums that have been in existence for decades as we drive pass and wonder at all the babies born amongst the fumes of cars revving at the red light and at the plight of people living under the constant fear of demolition?
In our nine long years of trying to make a difference, of striving at building better and brighter morrows for what we call underprivileged children we have faced and surmounted many obstacles. And it has been the most rewarding time in our life in spite of all. But if there is a sense of helplessness or frustration it foes not stem from inability to help each and every child. It does not require to be a rocket scientist to know that one person cannot solve all the problems that plague our society. What is infuriating is the fact that what disturbs us leaves others cold. What is enraging is that people around us have lost their ability to see, let alone act. What is bewildering is that hep is not forthcoming and that instead one is treated with a string of cynical lectures.
No I do not feel helpless, I feel actually feel terribly sad that most of us have lost the courage to look deep into the eyes of a poor child. Perhaps because we are terrified of getting lost in them.