Where is my mummy is the question a hurting child is too scared to ask. Yet it is written all over his face, in each of his seemingly incomprehensible actions, in his unexpected bouts of violence, in his baffling and sullen ways. Where is my mommy is the question this child wants to ask but is too scared to. You see Mommy has disappeared since last year without leaving an address or contact.
True this Mommy never played by the rule, was often violent and sometimes even uncaring but she was Mommy and she was there. Today she is gone and the young child is in pain. True he has a life on his own, goes to boarding school, has friends, has his Maam’ji who spoils him silly, has toys and cookies but something is missing. Till last year Mummy was around and even if she was not there all the time, the child knew where she was. Today he knows that there are no answers and hence does not dare ask the question he so wants to.
You see Moms are important. All his pals in school have one and they come to all PTMs and other events. They bring goodies and give hugs. True he has his motley family and his Maam’ji who never fails to turn up. But Mommy is different. When she was around he was the little man who admonished her when she hit the bottle too often, or was unkind. He bore her anger stoically even when he was tiny because he knew there would be hugs later. He was so proud of her when she checked into rehab and he prayed for her return. But that was not to be and things got so bad that he was the one who opted not to live with her. But he always thought she would be around, somewhere where he could see her from time to time to reassure himself that all was well. Today he is distressed because she is nowhere around.
When we rewrite a script gone awry we sometimes forget the essential. In this case the little boy’s new script had everything: a great school with huge playgrounds and fresh air, a home he could comeback to filled with everything a little boy would want and all the adults that scripted this new life felt that they had done a great job. But they forgot one thing: Mommy! All the child wants is to know where she is, and maybe to see her once in a while but we have no answers for him. Perhaps she will reappear one day. We are all hoping she does.
Mommies are important to a child and nothing and no one can truly replace them. Till the little boy’s mommy does appear all we can do is ease the hurt and love him as much as we possibly can. You guessed right the child is our very own Utpal aka Popples!
I read about Sindutai Sapakal many years ago when I had just begun the pwhy journey. Her story was God sent and somehow helped me getting over my initial reluctance of asking for money for my cause. She became the unacknowledged mentor I silently prayed to each time I needed to beg for funds. Her words and her story were an inspiration. When I was thrown out of my house I used to beg for a living. Even today I move around with a begging bowl. The only difference is that in those days I begged for myself but today I beg so that my children can be fed and clothed she says candidly. The children she refers to are the 1000 orphans she cares for. Many of them are today qualified professionals. Sindutai is truly an exceptional woman who changed the course of her destiny and came out a winner.
Why write about her today. I guess it is all a matter of synchronicity. Her story appeared in a leading magazine last week, as she has been the subject of a recent well received biopic, and reminded me of the importance of remaining humble at all times. But that is not all, somehow shortly after reading the article I found myself sharing with a dear friend the fears and worries I have about pwhy and its future. And as I voiced my apprehensions I realised that I too had a handful of souls that needed me long time. I was referring to the eight kids in boarding schools and to my band of special kids. No matter what happened, these souls had to be secured even if it meant having to move around with a begging bowl. And what Sindutai reminded one was that no matter what came your way in terms of accolades and kudos, you had to remain humble if you wanted to succeed in your mission.
Sindutai’s story also proves that you do not need to be rich and affluent to help others. What you need is the will to do so and hers is an indomitable one. Nothing deters this formidable soul as she carries on her mission. What an example she sets! I am glad that her story came back to mind particularly as I have felt my steps faltering in recent times.
I do not know if planet why will happen or not. As I have written earlier 2011 is the year I have reserved for seeing planet why happen. If nothing happens by 31/12/11 then we lay the idea to rest and look for alternatives. But whatever the alternative it has to ensure that the 8 kids and the 20 odd special souls are tended and cared for till they need us. It means that the begging bowl has to be kept polished and ready, it means that one has to remain on one’s toes till the very end. So help me God!
I have been so entangled and bogged down in trying to save the women centre that I have had little or no time to spend at pwhy. Some time back a volunteer gifted me a CD with pictures of Okhla. The CD lay unwatched for a few days, you see I was busy trying to save…
Yesterday I decided to have a look, mainly to see if there were any pictures I could use. I inserted the CD and clicked the open icon and clicked on the first image. It was a picture of a bunch of girls laughing and smiling and I must confess I too started smiling. It was infectious. How happy they looked. I started clicking on other pictures and all I found were smiles and more smiles.
Whatever the age, be it girls or boys they were all beaming. Needless to say, for that instant at least, my blues lifted and I felt elated. Soo many smiles as my grandson would say. I spent a long time looking at the pictures, allowing myself to enjoy the moment to the hilt. Then slowly as my thoughts wandered a little I felt an immense sense of pride: was this not something I had created. It was indeed time to allow myself one of those rare pats on the back. Were this not all kids who had been saved in the nick of time from a terrible fate. How could I forget how boys like these had been used by lurking predators to push drugs or steal from the waiting trains on the nearby tracks? The danger still existed as children who were not at school or at pwhy, were still found hanging around the tracks waiting to grab whatever they could. As for the girls, they simply turned into surrogate parent to the young siblings missing school at the drop of a hat.
True we do not teach every single child of the area. We do not have the resources to do so. But the 200 or so who come to pwhy are safe at least for the time being, and have reclaimed their right to be children: the proof being all the incredible smiles the wear all the time.
The Okhla kids are an incredible lot. They not only study well but also partake in a host of activities be it art work that is auctioned in far away lands, pen pals they write to regularly or theatre they are getting almost professional at! They are a pure delight to watch and they remind us that project why rocks.
Seeing these smiles made me realise how much I miss the days when I could spend more time with the children but also makes saving pwhy more vital than ever!
By the stroke of a pen the Railway Minister made me and other women my age senior citizens two years before time. Wow! So I am a senior citizen or should I say I have grown old overnight. But lets get serious. Over the past few weeks many incidents have happened and each points to the fact that my time is now short. Be it the visit to the dentist who decreed I may loose some teeth or reconnecting with people from the past making life come full circle.
I am not one to fear death. I know it is inevitable. Many ancient civilisations urge us to prepare for it, some even define the right time and it is always when all your duties on this earth are over. These often relate to your progeny and their well being. The twist in my case is that I have a rather unwieldy and large set of offspring’s: the pwhy kids!
I wrote a post in a lighter vein about a year ago. It was entitled what is on my bucket list and somehow addressed the same issue: what is left to be done before I am ready for my curtain call. I guess what I wrote then is still relevant. The only difference is that today it seems more urgent as I sit battling to save my women centre. The reality is that I should be battling to secure pwhy as a whole. I know I have been trying for years to get planet why off the ground as it seems to hold the answers to all my problems, but maybe the fact that it has not got off the ground is a pointer to the fact that I am barking up the wrong tree.
Maybe it is time to reset course and head in the right direction. Maybe it is time to ask oneself whether planet why will be the happy home I want it to be or would metamorphose into a lifeless but safe bank deposit that would pay its monthly dividends with regularity to allow the show to go on. The show having of course would have to be rewritten to fit the size of the monthly return. Maybe time has come to rewrite the script. Some of the script has alas be rewritten by the God of Lesser beings when Manu left us. Perhaps that too was a pointer one did not comprehend. You see since its inception as a mere thought, Planet why was always to be Manu’s home.
On my bucket list is the future of Manu’s friends, the morrows of Utpal and his pals and of the hundreds of children who count on us to help them change their destinies. Somehow I cannot exit the stage without having secured at least the first two. And being human there also remains some personal wishes: seeing my daughter settled and happy, watching my grandson grow a little more, taking a long due holiday with my life partner and writing at least one more book the one that tells the pwhy story. Is the God of Lesser beings listening!
Subsequent to our appeal to save the women centre we have reached the half way mark. This is wonderful indeed but not quite enough as we cannot save half a centre. How could we possibly do that! You cannot ask half the children to go, or pay half the rent. Come to think about it you cannot ever save half of any living thing and the women centre is just that: a living and throbbing place. So we need to go all the way failing which we would need to shut it forever.
I should be elated as normally any fund raising appeal yield 10% and we have got 50! It would be so easy and fulfilling to say mission accomplished and bask in the feeling that the centre is saved. A peek at our account would tempt us to do so. But we have to beware! You see some of you have paid for a month, but others have done for six or even a whole year thus creating the illusion of abundance. We have to keep on remembering that we are only half way there. And that if we do not pursue our efforts diligently we are just delaying the inevitable.
What we still need is 200 people to give the needed amount every month. So the search is on for the missing 100. The question is how will we get there? I was at a loss when a mail dropped in my inbox asking me to share a story, the story of two wonderful people who help us every month: here it is in their own words:
Three years ago we visited Delhi and spent four days working for Project Why. Like many before and since we were struck by the magic that is Project Why. When we arrived home we decided that we had to do something to help. The visit albeit short changed the way we thought and lived our lives. We realised that material possessions were not that important. We realised the difference between need and want so now we ask ourselves do we need something or want it. Very often if the answer is want then we don´t need it or buy it.
We started by making a donation each month but quickly decided this was too easy and we should do more. We had a large collection of books, DVD´s and CD´s many of which we didn´t read, watch or listen to. We took these to our local Rastro (car boot). Inside we inserted a label explaining that the proceeds would be sent to Project Why and requesting that when they finished reading the book that they return it so we could sell it again.
It started slowly but people did bring back books and they were sold for a second time. Gradually more people brought us books some of the people who arrived with books were once total strangers to us. We have also provided each month a small leaflet explaining the work of Project Why and including the web address. We have made and handed out small bookmarks. Many people have shown an interest and stop to talk. We have also received small donations. Only a couple of people have shown any animosity to the cause. Each month there is a raffle with the proceeds going to charities nominated by those who attend naturally we manage to arrange that Project Why benefits about three times a year and one woman refused to buy a ticket because of where the money was going. If you think she was stupid then she was even more stupid than you think because the charity that month was not Project Why which was the previous month. Another person refused because charity begins at home. We live in Spain as does the potential customer so when he was asked where home is he responded England. During the last two years we have managed to raise 1900 dollars through the Rastro.
We have benefitted too we now have a larger circle of friends than before and the last Sunday in the month is a very enjoyable social event for us. We always feel very humble when somebody arrives with a bag of books.
We mention this because it is a fairly easy way to raise money and is something that others could do . If you want to try something similar try looking at the feasability of a pitch at your local car boot sale it does not have to be just books anything that sells will do. We are currently investigating that subject to scrounging sufficient items would it be worth having a stall at a local carboot sale the next time we return to England. If you come across somebody selling items for Project Why in the Hull area then it could be us.
We write this only to encourage other supporters to try something to help Project Why and also to see if we can exchange ideas. We feel that we can do more and would like to do so therefore if anybody has any good ideas out there let us share them. We need to save the Womens Centre having seen the recent pictures on Facebook how can we let them down.
Andy and Irene
These words warmed my heart and made me believe that though the road seemed long, we would make it.