It has been exactly 17 years since you left and there has not been a single day that you have not been on my mind. Our journey began almost 58 years ago when I clutched your finger as I saw the first light of day and breathed my first whiff of air. It is your hand I held as I took my fist step and you I looked up to each time I needed to be reassured or praised. And even though you are gone I still feel your presence. Somehow I never let got of that finger.
You taught me everything but above all Papa, you taught me to look with my heart, something I held on to and never let go. And that made the rest easy and possible.
If not for your my life would have remained barren and empty. You gave me the strength to walk the high road no matter how difficult the journey, you taught me not to give up on dreams how impossible they seemed and the belief that the morning always dawned no matter how long the night.
Yesterday I received an award recognising the work I had done for the last ten years. This one is for you as you are the one that made me worthy enough to get it. Today thanks to what you taught a little girl many little lives have changed and many children smile and believe in tomorrow. And I see you in each and everyone of them.
Today again I look up to you to be reassured. The journey is still long and I need your strength to ensure that my steps do not falter and that I reach the end of the road.
I miss you
The award ceremony is over. The lights have dimmed and the next morn dawned. There was no glitter or glamour. An informal press conference in a sunny garden, the actual award giving in congenial surroundings and a day long conclave on corruption. It was all in all a simple yet memorable event. And what made it so was not pomp and show or sheer numbers but the kind of people present. It is probably the first time I had the privilege to be with so many souls who saw with their hearts.
There was the special band of organisers that were undeterred by the fact that no sponsors had come forward and determined to make the event memorable and follow their dream and honour those who shared it: the remarkable young man who withstood months of detention and then celebrated his freedom by helping others regain theirs, the slum dweller who broke the circle of poverty and decided to help other children form slums do the same, there was a group of young men passionately fighting for the dreams of millions of marginalised children and a princess from a faraway land giving hope to little girls. And these are just a few. They came from all walks of life and all parts of India and other lands. They had come together to right every wrong in whatever way they could. The mind of people not deterred by obstacles big or small, not swayed by cynics or doomsayers. They believed that tomorrow existed and was just a night away. And that had all come together to proclaim this loud and clear.
It was wonderful to be in a space where only positive energies had right of way. The mood was upbeat and buoyant. True people shared their problems but the solution was a sentence away. And if one did not work, one knew there were many others that would be tried till the problem was overcome. What a gathering it was. One that spelt hope and promise.
For me it was a privilege to be there though I felt very small and humbled. Yet I came out of the experience a changed person. I realised how much more there was to do but for the first time nothing seemed daunting or impossible, I just knew I would reach the end my journey.
In a few hours I will be awarded the karamveer puruskar. This award is meant to recognise individuals who have been pivotal for leading change beyond their business as usual by being committed on individual levels to work on social issues.
You may be wondering why this post this morning. One should have written it tonight or maybe tomorrow, when the glitter of the event would have dimmed and only memories and snapshots remained as testimony of the day. And yet I felt the need to share a few thoughts before the event, the lights, the glitter. Tonight people will speak of the achievements and make them sound extra-ordinary.
As I scan the past ten years of my life, the ones that brought me to this day, I feel no sense of great achievement. I just did what I had to. There was no choice. Manu had to be given back his dignity, Utpal has to be saved from his terrible ordeal, Meher had to be given a second chance, Babli could not be allowed to waste her brand new heart and Manu, Champa, Anjali had to have a home. And today little Sohil needs surgery or else he may lose the only chance he has in life.
As I said there was no choice, no option. One could not look away and walk on. One had to stop and do something. That was all I did: stopped! Nothing extra-ordinary in that. Today I pray that I have the strength and courage to continue doing so, each time a deafening why is heard.
The field was barren, rocky, uneven, patchy and strewn with empty plastic cups and bags. The players: a bunch of slum kids, an eager young German football fan and a business school student from France. The day was sunny and spirits soared high.
Welcome to the project why secondary kids first football match of the season: an initiative of young Lukas, a volunteer from Koln who is with us for a couple of months. And there are more to come.
Unfortunately I was not there but the pictures and the excitement of young Lukas as he recounted the event were sufficient to know that it had been a great game. I was thrilled to learn that the children played extremely well and that some were good enough to be in a team. And yet I knew that these kids would never make it, not because they lacked talent or motivation, but simply because once again we as adults had failed them. The state of the field – actually the sports ground of the two local secondary schools – said it all. Barren, rocky, dirty. Such is the state of sports in state run schools in spite of hefty budgets. And slowly with time the enthusiasm and talent dwindle and vanish and with them the dreams of simple children.
And yet all is takes to reignite them is a young boy from another land who dreams football and comes from miles away to share his dream with children from a Delhi slum.
Our Okhla centre has a brand new computer class! Well it is what only pwhy would call a class. It consists of one old laptop and a very motivated young teacher, a rickety table and a bunch of starry eyed kids.
Some time back, Dipankar the secondary teacher at Okhla hesitantly asked whether we could start a computer class. He told us that there was not a single computer learning facility in the vicinity and that the children were very keen on learning computers. What children ask, children get is that not the pwhy motto! But how would we conjure this one. Our main computer centre did not have a single computer to spare and the newly set up one at the women centre barely had enough resources to meet their requirements. But there is a god that listens to children and a little miracle came our way: someone donated us an old laptop. That was enough for us to launch our Okhla Cyberwhy!
So in the midst of a garbage dump, inside a rickety structure, on a shaky table sits a prize possession – a laptop – and around it sit a bevy of eager kids rearing to learn what they know might hold a key to a better future. It is a sight to see and savour and yet it also makes us wonder at how little is needed to transform lives and how little is actually done. These children who come from the poorest families also have dreams and aspirations and it is for us adults to fulfill them. But do we? That is the question.