This picture was taken at the Diwali evening puja . My grandson praying! Watching him was a truly special moment. Such innocence and belief. I wonder what the barely three year old was asking God. I would have given so much to get into his tiny head. I am sure that God heard this very special petition. But it will remain a secret between Agastya and his special God. Was it a visit to the toy shop or his favourite pasta for dinner? Keep guessing grandma you will never know. And come to think about it is better to keep the mystery, it makes it that much more precious.
But do the Gods listen to adults when they petition him. Jim Morrison felt otherwise if you remember the opening lines of the Soft Parade. Are prayers useless and superfluous. I do not know. All I know is that there are times when I send my entreaty to someone I call the God of Lesser beings. And since project why began I believe I have been heard more than once.
Over the past decade we have had some very challenging moments, moments that left me no option but to pray for a miracles. And they occurred one after the other. Children got their heart surgeries, Utpal found a school and a home and above all we kept running day after day, month after month. I asked and He gave. It was as simple as that.
Yet for the past months or even more I have been praying for planet why and this time I have received mixed messages. Sometimes it seems just around the corner. But just as we think we are home, something happens and we are back to square one. Is there a sign I am not comprehending?
Our gang of eight are back to school after their Diwali break. They dropped by on the way to fetch Utpal and say hello! Boy they have grown. It is truly amazing. They looked happy and eager to go back to school with their quilts, their warm clothes and many stories to share. Yash even had a burn on his leg courtesy Diwali crackers and proudly showed it to me as if it was a battle scar. I refrained from any comment to avoid being a wet blanket.
Manisha was all smiles though she waylaid them for the snap. She was happy to go back to school and meet her friends. Meher was her ebullient self and had her own tales to tell. Nikhil has lost some weight and seemed more active. That is good as I was a little worried about him. Babli was serious as usual, much the big sister responsible for the brood. Aditya and Vicky were poker faced a far cry from their habitual naughty selves, guess it was to impress Ma’am.
Utpal of course was a busy body, making sure all packets and bags were loaded in the waiting car, very much the man of the house. And why not, the only home he has now is mine and he is entitled to after all he has been through. He has truly earned his right to reclaim all he has been denied for long.
There they were with their dreams and hopes. I watched them pensively. Maybe I was the only one to realise how fragile and tenuous their dreams were. They all depended on my ability to secure them. The thought frightened me. It was such a huge responsibility. When the journey began with Utpal it was just a case of force majeure. We had no other option. Then came a man with his set of dreams and four more kids joined Utpal. The man walked away without a word and I was left holding the baby. They became five. Three more were added again because there was no other honourable way. What future did Meher have with her scars and Yash who had been abandoned by all. And when a kind man came offering a future to little Manisha could we refuse. Had we done so instead of being top of her class she would have joined her mom picking rags on the street. So we became eight.
True there are kind people who ensure the fee money. But over the years the fees have increased with the cost of living and fees alone do not meet the needs of a growing child. Those who have kids will understand me. There are shoes to be brought as feet grow at the speed of light and clothes winter ones and summer ones, toiletries, uniforms, books, school bags and more. They have to be fetched and dropped at each school break necessitating two vehicles now. All this adds up, yet all this is needed. And to the cynics before they materialise I would like to say that yes they deserve the best even if they happened to be born on the wrong side of the fence. When you assume a responsibility you go all the way. Selective benevolence does not exist.
It is with our eyes wide open that we decided to educate these children and nothing can or should come in the way of our commitment. So help us God!
We have a new teacher in our primary section at Govindpuri. But this one is truly special. Wonder why? Well she has been a student of project why since, hold your breath, she was in Nursery. Anita is a true alumni of Pwhy. This year she cleared her class XII boards and is now enrolled in B com 1st year at an evening college.
Anita lives in a slum. Her father has a small job in a factory and her mom is a housewife. She has two younger siblings. Anita has worked hard to reach where she is today and is determined to carry on and change the course of her life. We are very proud of her as she is an example of what pwhy can and does achieve.
Anita is the perfect example of what a small effort like ours can do. Our presence ensured that she sail through school with all the support needed. She passed every class with good marks and succeeded in her XIIth Boards. Today the job she has with us ensures that she can continue her education without being a strain of her family. Far from that. She even contributes to the household expenses.
Anita is a true project why success story, one we are very proud of.
I think both Formula 1 races and philanthropy can and should coexist in society. In fact, the former should actually facilitate the latter. When there is prosperity in society, charitable donations should go up was the comment left on of my recent blogs. I would like to clarify that I am not against Formula 1 races or any pursuits of the rich and famous. I do not bear grudge to anyone for spending their money. Prosperity is something we all strive towards and wish for. But I am not the only one to question the wisdom of hosting such sport against the backdrop of poor India. Some have bemoaned what they called the misplaced priorities and superficial showcasing that India’s recent economic growth has come to symbolize, in spite of deep poverty and chronic malnutrition.
The jury is out on this one. I quick frankly agree with those who call this a superficial showcasing. And my reason for doing so may seem odd. Were charity to follow the exponential growth of prosperity I would have no problems at all. But the situation is quite different. It seems that as prosperity increases compassion plummets. And thus all the showcasing becomes suspect. Is it a novel way of concealing reality if not from others than at least from one’s self. So swanky malls, exorbitant stores, F1 Racing and more of the same becomes a wily way of blotting out the other realities: children dying, rampant malnutrition, extreme poverty etc. The rich seem hungry for new thrills and the sky is the limit.
The question is how does one get the privileged to understand that prosperity cannot coexist forever with abject poverty. To think it can is nothing short of suicidal.
In the time you will take to read this blog, let us say one minute, four children will die across our country. Yes you got it right: 4 children die every minute in India. The killer: malnutrition! Of course you do not die of malnutrition. But a malnourished child’s immunity is very low and s/he is more likely to fall prey to diseases like diarrhea and malaria which he s/he is unable to fight. So in fact four children die of preventable diseases every minute in India. Can you read this statement and simply move on. I cannot. The death of any child is something that is and should be unacceptable. It should make us look up and then hang our heads in shame.
Yesterday the lead item in news bulletins across the country was the death of 12 babies in a hospital in Calcutta due to negligence. The hops ital of course has been given a clean chit. One commentator expressed outrage not simply at the untimely death of these infants but also at the total lack of indignation be it from civil society or from the authorities.
These two stories have one point in common: they happened to children on the other side of the fence, those who bear the label: poor. Children who simply do not exist to those who have a voice and the ability to express their opinion. 4 children a minute due to malnutrition, 12 children in a hospital due to negligence, 500 children in a remote town due to encephalitis are not numbers sufficient to make us shed our cynicism and apathy. However when a child from the other side of the fence was kidnapped a few years back everyone stood up and screamed. The administration moved heaven and hell to find the child. So my question today is how many poor children must die before we stop pretending that we cannot see. Today rich India is busy preparing for its first formula 1 race. The roar of cars speeding is too loud for it to hear anything else, certainly not the tears of a mother who has lost her child.