Planet why is my most cherished dream but till two days back it was just that: a dream. True that I am used to dreaming and must confess that I have turned quite greedy as many of my dreams have turned into reality over the past 8 years, but planet why often seemed akin to the holy grail and I knew I was no Parsifal!
And yet, with a zeal close that of a knight with no armour I held on to that dream and pursued it as best I could because my holy grail was a cup full of lost smiles and hopes gone astray! I must confess that I rarely garnered the courage to actually spell out the astronomical figure needed to recover all these hopes and smiles but I persevered in my elusive search.
What I had forgotten along the way was that the quest was not mine alone; actually I was simply a channel, albeit a blessed one, who had to carry on what had been entrusted to me, and never give up, no matter what obstacles came my way.
Pwhy has been a journey interspersed with dreams and miracles and even the confirmed agnostic would be compelled to accept that this journey has been steered by an unknown hand who makes things happen!
A chance virtual encounter barely a few months back led to the the incredible: planet why moved from the realm of dream to that of reality as angels joined my quest and helped us secure an interest free loan to enable us to purchase the land where planet why will seed. They are now furiously at work so that we are able to repay back that loan and get the funds needed to build this blessed space where mislaid hopes and smiles will finally find a home and bright morrows will be crafted with love and care.
Angels look just like us; only you need to see with your heart to recognise them! And you do not thank Angels, you just carry on your work with renewed faith to hold on to their wings.
This morning S dropped by at the women centre to discuss our road map for planet why. It was not a matter of convincing ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, of the validity of the project. It even makes good business sense were it viewed solely as a business proposition. Actually it has to be so, as we need the profits to continue the work we began 8 years ago and graduate from the status of perpetual albeit high-tech beggars to that of people capable of fulfilling our dreams ourselves.
I have often talked about planet why and shared my vision trying to view it from all possible angles: be it the sustainability factor or the humane one. I have pitched it within the confines of social enterprise as well as that of what is now known as volontourism! Which ever way one looked at it, it always seemed to make sense.
As Anatole France said: To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. I guess one needs to turn the quote a little as dreamed and believe we have, now it is time to act!
I remember the days when I found it infra-dig to speak of money. I shudder to think of all that was owed to me that I never sought back. Then came pwhy and with it many little dreams that needed to be fulfilled; dreams entrusted to me by the God of Lesser Beings. And the only way to accomplish this daunting yet edifying task was to quickly give up what one considered demeaning and learn to beg. I must admit I learnt quickly and that is how we could achieve all that we have.
Today as we set out to translate another dream into reality I find myself faced with the necessity of taking a quantum leap in my new found profession as what we need today is a staggering figure with a string of zeros I cannot even formulate. And yet the dumbfounding figure pales in the wake of what it would actually yield: smiles on faces that had forgotten to smile, hope in hearts where there was only despair, shelter to those who live in constant fear and above all a tomorrow for those whose today has died.
Actually it is something was one has been doing till now but the target was small as it was just a matter of being able to carry on one day at time, one month at a time and so on for nearing nine years now! But this hand to mouth existence can only be temporary just as we are. What we seek now is secure all the tomorrows and moor them firmly so that little boys little Utpal can sleep in peace. That is what planet why is all about.
I know that there are people across the planet who know how to see with their hearts. I did find so many of them and they are the ones who made pwhy the vibrant reality it is is. I need now to just like the Little prince of St Exupery to set out on new travels and find the right ones. Past experience has shown that they are not easy to come by but dreams are never easy to fulfill and one does comes across businessmen too busy to look at you. But one has to persevere till the end and view the humongous figure as an aggregate of many smaller ones as my dear friend M put it.
I also know that simple humane stories of children will not suffice this time. So we do have our set of learned men furiously making plans with all the needed columns and projections to reassure the kind hearted persons who will be willing to invest in our dream to prove to them that it is worthy of their trust.
Nothing happens unless first we dream. (Carl Sandburg)
If I ever saw an angel, it was in your eyes. You’ve touched my life like an angel… Thanks for being there for me!
Four years back a little angel dropped into my existence. True that he was scalded and scorched and did not look very pretty but his incredible eyes were truly seraphic and in spite of the searing pain they held a message of love, hope and faith. I somehow knew he was blessed.
That day Utpal walked into my existence and life was never the same again. Miracles started coming our way and problems seemed to vanish as fast as they came. Project why grew in leaps and bounds at an astounding pace that left us all puzzled and stunned. Angels appeared from nowhere and nothing seemed impossible.
As I sit in the very first hours of this New Year crafting seemingly impossible dreams I can feel his presence and know that these dreams will come true. What I seek today is a way to make all the little dreams that the God of Lesser being has left in my custody come true and even if what we seek has a staggering number of figures, they pale in the wake of what they would actually yield: smiles on faces that had forgotten to smile, hope in hearts where there was only despair, shelter to those who live in constant fear and above all a tomorrow for those whose today has died.
Planet why has to become a reality and I know that a little angel is at work to make it happen.
Utpal is also a little boy just like others and today as a special treat he goes to see Hanuman returns with his pal Kiran and his ageing Maam’ji before he returns to his boarding school.
A recent investigation aired on national TV brought to light the horrific reality that prevails in a government home for challenged children in India’ capital city.
One wonders why these children of a lesser God are often treated in such a way and makes us question the validity of the so called welfare programmes run by the administration. It also highlights the plight of such children in a country like India, something we have been painfully aware of, and that led us to create our special section almost 7 years ago. It also validates our commitment towards setting up planet why, a place for such children as they grow into disturbing adults.
Why is it that time and again challenged children are treated in cruel and callous ways?
For us at pwhy the special section is by far the happiest and most rewarding experience. It is a motley crew of 20 children and adults who come from different worlds but become one as they enter their little world.
Manu who you see in the picture was once begging on the streets in spite of having a family. people use to deride him and kids pelted stones at him. Today he has friends and is slowly learning to be independent.
It did not take much to achieve this. What was needed was the will to do so. At the pwhy special section children learn to read and write, to dance and play; they learn cooking, basic stitching, and have a host of other activities but above all they learn to laugh and be happy and reclaim a hijacked childhood.
You can share some of these joyful moments by clicking on the pictures below.
It has been 8 years since pwhy began and it has been 8 years since I have spent almost every waking moment worrying about funding and devising ways to meet the monthly requirement to keep project why alive.
Right from day one I knew that we had to one day become self sustainable though one did not quite know how this would be achieved. Along the way we tried out a plethora of ideas, each one seeming to be at the some time or the other the right one! We embarked on many ideas from pots and bags to bio diesel plant nurseries via chocolates. But each though successfully implemented never met the required target of sustainability.
And as each idea failed, the saga of funding became more demanding as demands increased each day. It became a real challenge to find the required amount and it was anever ending race that I still run. Some time back, one struck upon the idea of hospitality as a possible sustainability option and though the idea was daunting, it seemed to be one that refused to go away, no matter which way we looked at it.
As luck would have it, a volunteer came by project why last month and was to become a catalyst in our quest for sustainability. Barbara was not only a dynamic volunter but turned out to be the pioneer of social entreprise in the UK. As we got to know each other better and shared thoughts and dreams, she introduced me to the idea of social enterprise and showed me how our idea of planet why fitted within it. It was heartwarming to feel that one was one the right rack and that panet why was actually a social enterprise.
This of course strengthened our resolve to see that planet why becomes a reality.
In a previous post, I had related how tings had changed in pwhy calling for a realignment of our forces and the need to reinvent ourselves. As fate would have it, I fell sick soon after writing that post and was forced to remain away from pwhy for almost three weeks.
Seems like this forced absence was god sent as it cleared all doubts I may have still had about the ability of pwhy to run without my presence. It ran probably better than I could have imagined! My efficient team handled every situation with efficiency be it the presence of three volunteers or site visits over and above the day-to-day running of each of the 12 centres. If there were any crisis, these were resolved without my ever getting to know about them.
As I tiptoed back into pwhy, I realised that it had finally come of age. Everyone seemed confident and the place ran with clockwork precision. I was briefed about some of the decisions taken in my absence and was pleased to see that sound solutions had been found. Staff had been relocated in some instances to meet new requirements and new activities had been launched with the help of our volunteers. I was also informed of the outcome of a day long workshop where they staff had shared their experiences and come up with new and better options. Time tables were being reset and streamlined. The new centre that had 40 kids when I left now boasted of 80! A better place had been found in Govindpuri and the shifting scheduled for this week. Come to think of it I almost felt de trop!
It did seem too good to be true and one could have been tempted to sit back and bask in this new found sense of achievement at least for some time. But how could one forget the reality that loomed large albeit faraway. The day was not far when many slums would be relocated and the necessity to ensure continuity needed to be addressed. One had to start working on possible options to meet the situation as and when it arose and that I guess is what one will have to start working on.
It is true that pwhy and its 12 centres can run on their own but that is only possible as long as required funds are available and even if individual centres continue to function even if they are shifted to new places, pwhy’s existence depends on its ability to create a long term sustainability project.
The one we have thought of is planet why but it requires a huge initial investment. We do hope to be able to one day see this dream come true.