“A person taking stock in middle age is like an artist or composer looking at an unfinished work; but whereas the composer and the painter can erase some of their past efforts, we cannot. We are stuck with what we have lived through. The trick is to finish it with a sense of design and a flourish rather than to patch up the holes or merely to add new patches to it” wrote Harry S. Broudy. These words came to mind as I sat this morning browsing the pwhy pictures taken last week.
Had someone suggested a few months back that one would soon be seeing Manu around a table sharing a meal with his pals in a proper home, I would have smiled and told the person to stop dreaming, reminding him or her gently that dreams took time to become reality. It would have been akin to fast forwarding a film to reach the end without living through the story. And yet the picture you see is no trick photography, it is reality, one anyone can share each and every day. The foster care was not even an idea in our minds, at best it was a distant and impossible dream.
For the last week or even more I have been avoiding the much needed task of setting out to seek help for pwhy. Strange as I thought I had overcome my almost innate reluctance to ask for money and should and could have picked my virtual begging bowl without fuss, any time needed. But I guess inborn feelings stay longer than one thinks.
But what needs to be done, has to be done. I knew time was of the essence and the task I had to be undertaken. And in order to do so, it was time to take stock of the past. In Broudy’s words I knew that nothing could be erased or painted over and that the work had to be finished with flourish and honesty.
So here I am again seeking support to see pwhy through. Have we reached the middle of the road? I think we have. Much of we set out to do when we began had been achieved in ample measure. The class X results declared yesterday reinforce the point. All the children passed and in in both class X and XII it is a pwhy student that topped his school. Many had made the journey from street to home and many other achievements big and small dot our firmament. We have met every challenge that came our way and have done our best in finding the right solutions. The sustainability issue that had for long been our Achilles heel, has now been addressed as we have bought the land needed for planet why. There is no looking back!
However as I write these words we are in a tricky situation: that of having to raise funds both for the building and the day-to-day running of the project. And our needs have grown as many new whys dropped our way and could not be cast aside as that would have been defeating the very spirit of project why.
We do manage to raise a substantial part of our needs but still fall short. Perhaps the reason for this stems from what I will call the soul of project why. For almost a decade pwhy has been able to survive and thrive because it is infused with goodwill, one that has come from the innumerable kind souls who have answered each and every call for help. Were it to be fuelled by impersonal sources – no matter how regular and steadfast – alone, it would cease to be.
To many this may sound preposterous and even old-fashioned in a world where success is measured by the weight of bank accounts and the size of buildings. But for me that is not so. The mere fact that we have been able to grow and thrive is the direct result the immense love that we have received from people the world over, many of whom we have never seen. Our success is the outcome of the trust and belief that had come with each coin dropped in my begging bowl. We have reached where we are because pwhy has never afforded itself the luxury of sinking into comfort zones that would rob us of our very individuality and make us pallid clones of others. It is but natural and essential that we fall short, as this is what will enable us to always remain who we are. Ours is a work where patches and holes are banished, and each corner of the painting or note of the symphony is part of the whole.
On a personal level it is also essential that I retain the ability to beg humbly and shed any misplaced arrogance no matter how innate it be. Only then will the intangible and indescribable riches that are vital to the very existence of pwhy continue coming our way
It is now time to finish the story with flourish, one that cannot end without the presence of each one of you.
This is a picture of Neha and Aditya taken almost three years back in happier times. Since a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. In those times questions were simple and solutions easy. Even mummy learnt to smile as she picked up the pieces of her broken life and wove them bravely into a new one.
Barely a few back just was working and had gladly accepted that Aditya become part of our foster care programme as she knew that this would give him a better future. Everything seemed almost picture perfect as we sat content in what we thought was a befitting conclusion of a journey started many months ago. We had conveniently forgotten about the big picture being busy putting final touches one the tiny one we could see.
Neha had been complaining of back aches, one that even compelled to take a break from the gruelling hours she put in at the beauty parlour where we worked. We advised her to se a doctor and take some rest. Nothing could have prepared us for what was to ensue.
One morning Neha came by asking for help as she had been asked to have an MRI and did not have the money to so. In spite of her smile, we could see the pain and knew that something was wrong. When the results came we were shocked. Neha had advanced tuberculosis of the spine and many of her vertebrae had collapsed. The diagnosis was confirmed by a bone specialist. it was a miracle that Neha was still walking. She needed immediate immobilisation and even then the prognosis was terrible: risk of paralysis, permanent damage to the back and poor chances of recovery, septicemia from the risk of any of her abscesses bursting .
She was advised complete bed rest for at least 3 months as any movement could entail paraplegia. Neha has no one; even her mother has walked away from her life. Her only family is 5 year old Aditya. She needs to get back on her feet; anything short of that is a death knell.
As I write these words she lies in terrible pain in a room at our foster care. In a few days she will be moved to a room on the ground floor of the dame building. A day time nurse will look after her and at night a distant relative will take care of her. Neha weighs a paltry 32 kilos. The ordeal that awaits her is terrible and she knows it.
I have often prayed for miracles but am at a loss as I do not know what to pray for. Even the best case scenario is short of what Neha needs. A deformed back or life in a wheel chair is no life at all for this young single mom. What we need is a real miracle, the kind that is not fabricated by us humans but one that only He can make true.
A miracle for a little boy who plays and learns unaware of the reality that may become his!
So help me God!
One day Popples you will meet mrOcean. Many of your friends live close to it and many have promised that they will take you there one day…
These words were written almost 2 years ago and are now there for all to read as in dear popples. I must confess a little sheepishly that I had then hoped that I would be the one to make the introductions. But that was not part of the larger picture. Mr P met mrOcean last week when he was in Mumbai spending a few days with his new. friends: Abhigyan, Mrinal and Vedika. I wonder what went into his little mind when he saw so much water. I guess we will never know. All I know is that they will be tucked away in his little mind to be recalled at the right moment, when he is in need of reassuring himself.
Utpal has had an ace holiday in Mumbai. One replete with memories of things he never knew existed: a flat on the 22md floor, a shower cubicle, swimming in a pool with goggles, the feel of a real family with a father, mother and grandparents, a train ride over. And to crown a trip in a plane, like the ones he sees flying over his school every day. And of course the huge helicopter balloon he had to give up to enter the plane and that the misses terribly.
I know he was a handful to his impeccable and kind hosts but what a holiday it was. The kind he could not have ever conjured even in his wildest dreams. Here are some stolen moments:
I would have never believed that one day I would be seeking help to fund the surgery of a man! Most of the hearts we have fixed are those of children, barring Nutan who was a mom and her children’s life depended of her survival. She was taken care of and is now back in her village.
Rekha was a young spirited girl when she got married to Basant a kind hearted man. Life was going on well. A few months later she suffered a terrible fever. She survived but the drugs given to her were too strong and led to her losing her sight and hearing. For some months the family took her to a bigger town and yet another. But to no avail. Everyone told them that her eye sight was gone forever though perhaps something could be done for her hearing.
Basant’s family then tried to convince him to send her back and find another bride. But this man was made of another mettle. He stood his ground and told them that she was his wife for the better or the worse and that he would stand by her till the end. The young couple set home and in years to come three children were born. Basant tended to Rekha with affection and tenderness. He looked after her and helped her in all chores, even those considered infradig by his peers. Whenever he could he use to try and seek specialists and even took her to Bangalore in the hope of restoring her sight. Their meagre savings dwindled fast.
A few months back he had brought her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences as he had been told of a possible next procedure that may restore her sight. One morning he got up with excruciating pain in the chest. he was diagnosed with a heart condition and was told that he may need open heart surgery. An angioplasty was performed and a stent was inserted in the hope that things would settle. But things did not work out and the pain came back. He needed open heart surgery.
The cost was prohibitive: 100 000 rs!
I would have never thought that I would be the one appealing for help for basant. there are many reasons for this. One is that he is the sole support of Rekha and her three children. Were anything to happen to him, she would suffer a fate worse than the darknes she lives in and her children’s future would be jeopardized. But that is not the only basis for my appeal. There is a much deeper one.
Basant is the kind of man one does not see in India, particularly in Bihar where he hails from. No man stands up for his wife, more so a blind one. And to do so with compassion, love and tenderness is unwonted. Were anything to happen to him, Rekha would be derided and shunned as a harbinger of bad times. There is much more at stake than just a life.
I hope we will find the support we need.
The project why journey has been astounding in more ways than one. At every step, miracles big and small have dotted its path with regularity making one believe that the big picture theory really exists.
When we began the foster care programme, there was a huge debate about how to select the handful of kids that would launch the programme: social profile, performance, home situation.. The options were many. Finally four children were selected. Aditya and Babli being two of them. At that time none of us was aware of the real reason.
A few days back Aditya’s young mother came by our office. We could see the pain written on her face in spite of the smile she bravely put on. We had known that she had left her job as she had been complaining of back ache but nothing prepared us for what was to come. She wanted help to get the expensive CT scan her doctor had asked for. The scan was done and to our utmost dismay she was diagnosed with advanced Pott’s disease or what is knows as bone TB. Many of her vertebrae had collapsed and huge abscesses dotted her spine. The prognosis was not good: she could suffer paraplegia and septicemia.
Aditya’s mom had no support system as after her husband’s death she cut off her links with her own family. She had decided to bring up her child alone and after training as a beautician was working in a parlour earning enough to survive. Two months of sick leave had depleted her of her meagre savings. And to crown it all, her landlord had asked her to vacate the tiny room that was her home.
Aditya’s mom is at the foster care for a few nights. We will take her to hospital and start her treatment. Will she be saved is another part of the big picture cannot see. We will do our best and hope that things go well. We do not even want to think about what could have happened had things not fallen in place. We only know Aditya is safe and his mom in good hands.
When we invested in Babli’s tiny heart, we thought that like in all other cases she would thrive and grow after her surgery and fulfill all the dreams that she had conjured in her head. The script went awry many times and each time, we intervened in the best manner possible, or so we thought. On the way, we did wonder why, unlike other children, Babli was not growing, but felt that it was due to poor nutrition and care.
When we were about to launch our foster care programme, someone suggested Babli as one of the inmates. In spite of her advanced age, we all agreed that it would be a great idea, as the child was intelligent and would benefit from such a programme. A few days after her joining our housemother shared her concern about Babli’s constant bed wetting. Yesterday she was taken to the doctor and diagnosed with hypo parathyroid, a rare condition stunts growth and depletes the body of its calcium retention of the body. It can be treated and reversed with proper life long medication. Babli is now having all tests and investigations required and should soon be on the way to recovery and to leading a normal life.
When we selected Babli and Aditya we were totally unaware of the real reasons that had guided these two children our way. Today we know…
Wondrous are His ways…