The sustainability of project why has been foremost in my mind since the very day it all began. many options were tried, tested and rejected. Some had a longer life shelf than others. Some though doable were found to be not practical, others had scant returns. From our cloth bags almost 4 years back, to planet why, it has been a long journey.

But as we inched forward, I realised that sustainability did not mean securing funds alone. It also entailed passing on the mantle to a new order, one that would and should emerge from within to give the word empowerment its true meaning. We had to reinvent ourselves.

A lot of resistance came our way as no one was really willing to take responsibility. Every one preferred following orders. But the real litmus test of the model we set out to create lay in its ability to move be steered by the very team that held it together, albeit under the benevolent eye of a ageing lady.

For some time now a hesitant question had been doing the rounds, barely voiced but often though: what after Ma’am. Actually I wish people would scream it loud as it is a very real one. And I would like to see it reworded as who after Ma’am? And the answer I would like to hear is: us!

And though it was not quite said of formulated or even understood, the first step towards that day was unconsciously taken last week. During a meeting called to discuss are now almost legendary precarious financial situation, an idea was mooted by one of the team members. To save rent money why not approach the local councillor as apparently the first floor of the local community centre was apparently available. I initially recoiled at the very thought. It brought back thoughts I did not want to recall. The building he was mentioning held too many dark memories. And yet when I look back on those days, it also was the springboard to our freedom. So was this divine justice at play.

I also remembered that when the said building was being erected I had strongly held that being a community centre built with public funds, it had to be steered and managed by the community. When we had applied for it, it had not been in the name of our NGO but in the name of a community residents association. So was it not time to redeem that pledge. Things were coming full circle. Life always does.

Hence a plan was drawn. A posse of our staff – those who live in that area – would approach the councillor and make a bid for the building. And it is they who would subsequently decide to ask us to run selected activities in it. To some it may look a rather convoluted approach. Actually it is the first step to the empowerment I always longed for. The day when project why will be truly community steered had dawned.

Matters are still under consideration and there are many slips between the proverbial cup and lip, but I am confident we will ultimately overcome. The us I sought has come to life, now we need to nurture it and help it grow.



Little Radha is back. She was away for a whole month as she had broken both her legs after a stool fell on her brittle bones. Not easy to care of a little girl with glass-bone disease when you live in a tiny hovel with hardly any space to move. Ostoegenis Imperfecta is not easy to manage even in the best conditions, in Radha’s case it is quasi impossible. And yet her mother does her best in spite of having 5 other children and a drunk husband.

In spite of her distorted bones and her frail structure, Radha is one of a kind. A girl full of life and spunk whose only dream is to be able to walk. I do not know if inside her she knows she will never be able to; if she does she has never shown it. She is an avid learner and wants to live life king size. And perhaps it is this very side of her that makes me believe that little Radha knows she has little time.

Little Radha’s smile is a lesson for all of us. Her spirit and zest for life is contagious though heart wrenching. As I watch her dragging herself from one side of the room to the other or simply bending over her copy book, her tongue poking out in deep concentration I am filled with a sense of total helplessness. I know what awaits and I also know there is nothing or little I can do. So help me God!

a precious gift

a precious gift

I have been looking at your website, since I arrived in Delhi a few months back. I have been able to see with my own eyes how some kids are living in this area, and despite their hard lives, they still keep on smiling, which gives anyone the will to live and enjoy life in the simplest way. I am writing to you today to see if you need a person to help you time to time, I do not have a job here yet and therefore I am not able to donate some money, but I am willing to give some of my time, help or love if needed.

These simple words from someone I have never met dropped in my mailbox this morning. To me they were the most precious gift as they validated much of what I hold as true. Today’s world is engrossed in seeking things money can buy and hence is also blinded by its obsession to make more and more money. In that frenzy we seem to have forgotten that there are more valuable, rewarding and abundant things waiting to be discovered. The recent events have shown how fragile and shaky the gaols we seek are!

The smiles that greet me each day as I walk into pwhy truly remind us that happiness is not directly proportionate to the size of a wallet or bank balance. These kids have nothing to smile at were we to apply our canons of success. Some went to sleep hungry, others may have been beaten by a drunk father. Some cannot walk, or talk or even hear. And yet they smile with abandon at the slightest prompt.

We seem to have forgotten how to appreciate small things, how to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us, how to marvel at a flower just bloomed or bask in the morning sunlight. We have forsaken the simple pleasures that lie in wait at every corner of our lives. We are just busy counting our gains and losses. When we hear the word give we recoil in horror as we are convinced that everyone just wants our shrinking pile of money. We simply forget that there is so much more we can give: time, help or love as writes my young friend. These are far more precious than all the gold in the world as with these you give a little of yourself.

mummy and daddy I L U!

mummy and daddy I L U!

Utpal is home for his Diwali break. Home this time is the women centre without mom as she is back in rehab. Home is where his toys and preferred TV programmes await his return, where the fridge is laden with his favourite goodies and where his pals both big and small look forward to his homecoming.

On his way home, Popples dropped by my home. He sauntered in a huge smile on his face, a twinkle in his eyes. After some hugging and cuddling, he fished out a folder sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. It was a Diwali greeting card, the kind every school child makes: some glitter, a handful of lamps, candles and diyas carefully coloured with crayons, and the customary Happy Diwali in curly letters. Inside the card was a simple message: Rose is red, sky is blue, Mummy and Daddy I L U.

As I read the words, my hear missed a beat. I looked at him and softly asked him: is this for me? The answer was a simple: yes.

I was moved to tears; my throat choked painfully. I just hugged him tighter unable to utter the words I wanted to. He simply held on to me tight. Then like all little boys he wanted to know what i had got for him and whether there was an orange – his favourite fruit – in the fridge. Needless to say there was. We spend some time chatting and he told me about his maths test that had been held the same morning and in which according to him he had secured 10/10! After a while he wanted to go off to the women centre and watch cartoons.

I sat for a long time, his precious gift in my hands. I wonder whether he understood the meaning of the words he had scrawled, whether he realised that there were things in his life which were different. Did he feel he was missing something is pals had. Or was his still too young and had just made the card without grasping the meaning of the words. Or was it that he felt that it was meant for the people he cared for and hence for his maam’ji! I knew the day would come when real questions would spring in his mind and when answers would have to be found.

My thoughts went back to what I had written in dear Popples: Popples you will have to, one day, write an essay about your family and you will find it very hard to do it because if you do what big people ask you to, then you will be writing a pack of lies, and if you write the truth, your little friends may not quite understand. But I want you to know that if you begin by writing lies then you will have to do so all along, whereas if you say the truth and even if one person sticks by you, you will have won!

God bless India

God bless India

God bless India were the words chosen by the Orissa nun who had been mob raped in August to end the almost half an hour statement recounting her horrific tale. In a controlled and choked tone she related how she had been abused, humiliated, violated and defiled. Her narrative was graphic. She described everything she was subjected to including the total apathy of the police.

I sat in total silence, dumbfounded and shocked. Her last words carried terrifying portent. Which India was she blessing? The one that had stood silent and watched her ordeal? The one that had refused to give her justice? The one that claimed thousands years of civilisation and tradition but could not protect one of its own? Or the one that today was using her harrowing ordeal to garner political brownie points?

Which religion are we defending as we chose to violate a woman of faith? In which God’s name were such acts perpetrated? And what makes seemingly innocuous human beings commit such horror?

The questions are endless, the answers few or empty. I was shocked beyond words by the pathetic and pitiable defense put up by a guest at a talk show debating the issue: the rape has not been proved he shouted. I would like to ask him what more proof did he need than the woman herself saying on national TV that she was raped. Need I remind him that it is not easy for any woman to come out in the open, least of all one who has taken wows of chastity? But who is listening, no one is really interested in the plight of the poor woman. Every one is seeking his pound of flesh.

There are more disturbing questions, the ones that address the cause and not the effect, the ones that are never asked for fear of revealing what we are not ready to hear. Why is this happening? What is making people act in such dastardly ways? What is ailing our society? What lies behind it all? Where are we heading?

who invade the privacy our homes through innumerable TV programmes and intoxicate us with nonsense? I wonder why not one of them has ever denounced such And again I have no option but to resort to my leitmotif: the widening gap between the have and the have nots, the absence of any self respecting system of education, the total abdication by the powers that are to address real issues. Such are acts are indeed whipped up by some vested interests but are executed by disgruntled and weak individuals seeking instant gratification and unless we address the problems of such individuals we will never be able to reverse the situation. But again who bells the cat: a hijacked education system that has lost its way and instead of bridging gaps is playing to the gallery and widening them; religious Godmen who invade the privacy of our homes through innumerable TV programmes. I wonder why not one of them had ever denounced such despicable acts.

Unless we garner the courage to face real issues, such acts will continue. Another headline will replace the story of Sister Meena, actually it already has and even those of us who were moved to tears by the tale will move on. Such is life. I wonder how many more such horror stories will it take to awaken our collective conscience.

God bless India said sister Meena. I wonder which India she was referring to.