Keeping up two blogs and being a cancer buddy is taking up more waking hours than I have, and if I were to give up any more sleep I would collapse! Not to forget remote controlling project why and brain wrecking about its future. More than enough for even superwoman and I am far from that. The unexpected news about Ranjan’s cancer has also made me realise that we are not masters of our time. That is a secret only God is privy to. In trying to juggle all the roles I have had to suspend writing my second book after 100 odd pages. However this has to be done too, as is recounts the Project Why story and that is only in my head. So I beg your indulgence in case you do not see as many posts as usual as i plan, like any self respecting writer, to write for at least 3 hours a day. Hope you will understand!
Election time is looming large over us with almost daily rallies, shrill speeches that not say much more than one leader attacking the other in a perpetual cat and mouse game that turns annoying. Every party is blowing its bugle and enumerating its achievements and seeking our seal of approval that should translate in our vote on the right symbol. Some statements are so ludicrous that one does not know of one needs to laugh or cry. In a recent speech a young aspirant to the highest office stated: that when he had first come to the region, he had suffered mosquito bites and when he had consumed water in a village, it had got his stomach upset. “But I was happy. Politicians should know the hardships faced by people“. I heard the speech and it made me jump. To many questions begged to be answered: why after 60 years of Independence when the said politician’s party has been in the seat of power for decades does one not have clean drinking water for every citizen; did he know that it is this very water that gave him a stomach upset quickly cured by the best doctors, that kills 5000 children a day! And will having faced this hardship for one day make him do something to make things better. What he suffered for one day, millions have to bear everyday. Do our politicians realise how many of their voters spend their lives in survival mode in silence and dignity, pursuing small goals that they strive to realise? Not many, if any!
A well known magazine celebrates its 18th anniversary and in its special issue includes and article entitled: Eighteen yellow roses in a bouquet. They are the thoughts from 18-year-olds who have much to prove, to themselves and to the generations before them. They are stories of gentle and simple hope and I urge you to read them. I will profile the two that touched me the most.
Shamsher ( I chose to place his photo as his face touched me deeply), is a lad who had to drop out of school because of illness and poverty. He wants all Indians to be happy. His goal is to be a tailor and his idol the tailor master who is teaching him stitching.
Sunita was born in a Naxalite infested Gadchiroli and at 12 had to chose between marriage or forced employment with the Naxals. She chose neither and ran away and joined a boarding school. Her dream to be a police officer and her fantasy: to fly in the sky!
They are young Indians with simple dreams, dreams that could be fulfilled if anyone cared. Shamsher and Sunita are the true faces of India, the ones that have been let down but have not given up hope. The ones that build a life in spite of all odds. The ones we should all care for. But do we?
An article entitled Hands off do gooders caught my attention this week. It begins with the words: come April, big corporations in India will be mandated to spend 2 per cent of their profits on being responsible citizens. Even a person like me who has no head or concept of figures can work out that this is a hefty amount. This caught my eye as I have been deeply disturbed by the future of project why, more so in the wake of the present situation at home that has made death to real to me. As you know we were not able to raise funds to build our guest house cum children centre we had fondly called planet why! Then it may have seemed to many as complete silence. Yes silence it was, but not in my head where new options churned madly amidst a feeling of failure at not having been able to raise the funds we needed. Quite frankly it was a paltry sum for many, yet one that was as inaccessible as the moon for us.
The fault was mine as I should have put on my designer (sic) clothes and fluttered my eyelashes at page 3 does and maybe would have got a percentile of the big profits of corporate houses. This may have been possible in the era before project why, but when the need arose I had already mutated into a recluse. The big planet why dream had to be quietly entombed. Since project why has been running on auto pilot (not a bad thing). Every end of month the heart flutters a little when salaries and rents have to be paid and one heaves a sigh of relief when all monthly payments are made. Yet this cannot go on. We have to become sustainable and also have our own building as being at the mercy of landlords is not a solution.
What you see in the picture is a plot of land close to our women centre and to the Madanpur Khader rehabilitation colony. This means the it is legal and the people who all belong to underprivileged sections of society will not be moved (or so one hopes). Actually most of them were relocated from the Nehru Place slum and other South Delhi slums. This is not the case with Okhla where slums clusters can be razed any time and all our kids moved.
The plan that is churning in my mind is to sell our plot in Najafgarh as it has appreciated substantially and purchase a smaller plot. The remaining money would be used to build a centre tailored to the amount in hand. I believe it will be easier to raise funds for one additional room at a time according to the needs. At present we would like the centre to accommodate roughly what we run at the women centre in addition to a day care for special needs children and a creche. And in keeping with the sustainability need, have space allocated to activities that can be offered at reasonable prices. Though one has to yet defined those as this would be done after a survey of the area and the needs of the target audience, one is thinking on the lines of TV and AC repair, spoken English etc. These classes could also be held after working hours and on Sundays.
So to those who may feel that I am AWOL, believe me Project Why is on my mind day and night. I watch it running perfectly with a sense of pride and humility. What an incredible team we have! I must make sure to leave them a solid legacy, particularly to those who have stood by me through trials and tribulations over the past years. Something they can build on as no matter how hubristic one may be the saying: The King is dead Long Live the King is so true!
This picture may look a bit incongruous to illustrate any post. It was taken at Utpal’s sports day when the children released balloons in the air and one was a little late in clicking the camera. But the balloons triggered my involuntary memory and to took me back to my childhood and to a lovely movie that I saw many times: Le Ballon Rouge or the Red Balloon. It is a must watch film even after half a century! It i a movie that makes you laugh and cry at the same time.As a little girl the the red balloon had magic properties and the ability to follow and lead his friend the little boy. It had a mind of its own and yet got destroyed by an gang of bullies. But then when all hope is lost, balloons appear from nowhere and take the little boy on a balloon ride over the city. When I first saw the film I remember now how the smile came on a face where tears had not yet dried!
When the balloons flew over the hazy Delhi sky, I felt transposed to the moment when I first saw the film and all the balloons that came to wipe the little boy’s tears. I knew I had to take a picture of the moment, even if it was not a great one.
Project Why is my Ballon Rouge. It came one day into my life one day when I was lost and when all my feelings had frozen and led me for the past 13 years on a magical expedition that made me discover things are never knew existed but more than that on a journey within myself where I discovered strengths that I never knew I had. Today I fear for my Ballon Rouge. A simple prick could kill it. The balloons in the sky were a reminder of the fact that I need to anchor Project Why as soon as I can.
If you have 34 minutes, do see the film and try to imagine what your Ballon Rouge is!
Over the moon part 1 was on my other blog! It was about one man in my life. This one is about the other : Popples. Today was his sports day and PTM in his new school. The programme was from 9 am to 3 pm. I must admit I was a little apprehensive as the old biddy gets tired and the prospect of watching races was not very appealing as the day promised to be hot and Popples was not participating as he has been in school for less than a week. We reached around 10.30 am and tried to find our way to the grounds. We thought we would sneak into the back row as I do not like being late and Mamaji as usual had arrived late! Imagine my surprise bordering on shock when I saw the Principal’s Secretary heading our way. God I was embarrassed. She led us to the podium and Shaku Maa’m the Principal got up to greet us and sat us next to her in the VIP podium. I was giving dirty looks to Mamaji for having not got us there on time. Mayla, a young volunteer from Germany was with us. We watched the races and clapped with enthusiasm. I spotted Utpal distributing bananas at the other side of the ground where the children were seated. But that was not all, the three of us were even requested to hand out medals and cups. It was a great moment.
After the programme we were escorted to the Principal’s house where a table for 12 was laid and we ate a wonderful meal, the same one that was served to the children and the other parents. On the way we briefly saw Utpal who looked a little perplexed. I wondered why. After lunch it was PTM time but I spent a moment with Popples and he was all excited about the school. My worries were allayed. The Principal had told me that I could take him home for the night and he could come back on the school bus that comes near our house, but he decided not to. You see there was chicken on the menu tonight. He also told us that he would spend Diwali with his friends. He introduced us to some of them. I was over the moon. But there was more.
When we finally got to his teacher and I tried to be a little diffident in talking about his academic performance, his lovely class teacher told me was good in maths, very creative, excellent in art and a very obedient and helpful child. I could not stop my eyes from welling up. Was this the same child about whom I had been told just a few weeks ago that he was a liar!
The Colonel Satsangi’s Kiran Memorial school is a school with a heart. You see it was set up in the memory of a loved one and taken over by a daughter to honour her wonderful parents. To me it has the same spirit as Project Why.
I know Utpal will bloom in this school and find the right direction to fulfil his destiny.
It has been a blessed day.