Yesterday a ex-volunteer dropped by. He had spent a month a year back doing his internship with us. Since he has obtained his degree from a foreign university and secured a prized job in a high profile NGO. He is part of the fund raising team of that organisation.
The NGO is question is steered by a celebrity and hence has a fair amount of celebrities associated to it. It somehow seems politically correct in today’s day and age to be associated to a charity. Charities now are businesses or a bizMess, something I discovered many moons ago. It is not a matter of doing something for someone, but to be seen doing something for someone.
My one rupee a day programme failed because of a lack of understanding or was it simply because I did not find a celebrity to champion it? Anyway it was just a battle lost, the war is still on.
Coming back to the different funding options shared by our friend, I must confess that each one seemed inadequate and totally out of sync with the spirit of pwhy that I value and defend. Some were too onerous, others unprincipled. I was loathe to spend donor’s money on PR blitz or similar issues. And did they really ensure long term sustainability or were just once again short term options needing to be reinvented each year at abysmal cost.
That was not the pwhy way. We would continue our virtual and new tech begging till we found the right option: one that would dovetail into our work and enable it to grow and prosper. One that would include all those who are the heart and soul of pwhy.
I am now convinced more than ever that planet why has to happen. It is the only way to ensure that it is the pwhy team and beneficiaries themselves who steer their fund raising once the planet why is a reality. It thus becomes their fight their responsibility and their challenge and their achievement.
So help me God!
It is time to look ahead … easier said than done particularly at a time when our vision has been clouded by recent events, and our dreams obscured by the weight of unforeseen worries. I am reminded of the words of Florence Scovel Shinn: Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement.
It is imperative and essential that we at project why hold on to our vision even if at this particular moment in time things, to say the least, look bleak. It would be easy to throw up our hands and be satisfied to muddle on as best we can. I presume this would be an acceptable option if all we were thinking of was just our limited selves. But that is not the case. Any failing on our part will jeopardize too many dreams.
It is time to look ahead.
We are faced with the daunting task of ensuring that our day-to-day work goes on unhindered and at the same time garner resources for our new dream. In other words we need to raise a substantial or rather astronomical amount of funds and our track record is to say the least rather pitiful. True we are a good hand-to-mouth organisation and have always met our needs thanks to great friends and well wishers. However this will not do to meet what lies ahead.
The past few days have been spent brainstorming. The challenge: find new ways of fund raising, ways that would go beyond crisis management and would not depend on one individual. Ideas are being debated passionately and we await the results with bated breath.
I decided to take a trip down memory lane and review our past efforts, as to many, we may look like an organisation that never pondered on the issue of long time funding. I had almost forgotten our cloth bags, our chocolates, our soap, our jewels and all else, all sacrificed to a variety of alters. I had even forgotten the passion with which I had tried, sadly in vain, to push my one rupee-a-day-dream, one that sat on our site for along time but found few takers. I remember how elated I felt when after receiving an award, I had hoped that this may perhaps bring the dream closer, but soon realised that people had moved on to greener pastures. And yet how could one give up. New ways had to be found, new battles won. We had to become sustainable. And slowly planet why was conceived as perhaps the way to solve an issue that had been disturbing us for a long time….
The trip down memory lane was an eye opener. We are still faced with the challenge of ensuring that project why lives on. That is it is freed from the shackles of being dependent on one or a set of individuals. The one rupee option is one side of the coin, planet why the other.
I was recently given John Wood’s book that outlines the long term vision of Room to Read. I pondered over it a long tome after turning the last page. Would it be possible for us to come up with a similar funding pattern. Sadly no! Unlike RtR we do not have tangible options that can be replicated by quantum leaps. Buildings that can bear names. And though we are in a land that boasts of perhaps one of the largest number of rich people, we are still in our infancy when it comes to parting with a few pennies for a less fortunate soul. My mind goes back to the day or rather night when we needed money for one of our broken hearts. I was at a party hosted by a ‘friend’ and where most of the guests were ‘rich’. Still naive and unworldly, I interrupted the revelry and asked all present to part with whatever they had in their wallets to save this child. Needless to say no one came forward.
Yes we have been blessed by the number of kind hearted people the world over who have always come forward when we have sought their help and they are the ones who have made pwhy the vibrant and beautiful reality it is. But we also know that this funding model is fragile and would not withstand the test of time.
Looking ahead, what still stands in my mind as a possible way out is our planet why vision, no matter how battered it may look at this moment. It is one that can take care of our tiny yet critical responsibilities while allowing us to continue our work. It is one that can allow Manu and Champa to grow old with dignity and surrounded by love, one that can shelter any child or women in need. Our work in many ways remains intangible. No extra buildings to bear testimony of the coin received and yet for us it is invaluable.
I would be thrilled if someone could show me a way to the yet elusive but needed option to secure our morrows. I am still looking
Little Pooja’s demise has stirred up a host of questions, all seeking answers and most sadly finding none. Once again what perturbed me the most was the total absence of dignity in dealing with the mortal remains of a child particularly in a land where rituals seem to rule life’s every moment. Yet when it comes to a child, they become disturbingly absent.
Everyone has a right to live and die with dignity and yet dignity is something we are so reluctant to give to another as if the very act of giving required its share of arrogance.
Somerset Maugham said: It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. Pooja’s death was a poignant reminder of the catch word we all seem to forget: dignity. I too find myself in the wrong. Was it not the total lack of dignity in Manu’s life that moved me enough to set up pwhy? And is it not dignity that is the real albeit intuitive motivation for planet why? When and why did dignity get sacrificed at the alter of sustainability and other supposedly more commercially viable notions? Another why that needs to be answered.
Little Pooja’s death brought back to life with deafening silence the real reason of planet why: a place where anyone can preserve his or her dignity be it a Manu or a Pooja.
Anything that does not grow dies where the words almost whispered by S, as I sat helpless hearing the ominous words that were slowly but surely obliterating my carefully constructed dream of many moons. A dream that perhaps seeded when the little face on this picture had lost his smile or maybe the day I first heard Manu’s heart wrenching cries.
The dream at first was barely coherent but it lived for a long time in my heart, a disquieting reminder that something was missing in the work I was engaged in. An intangible prompting urging me to conjure the absent link that would complete the picture.With each passing day and ensuing task the dream was spurred on and started assuming substance and form and above all a name. I simply called it planet why and to me it was just a logical extension of project why. And though by force majeure it could not be located in close proximity to pwhy, it shared the same spirit and was fired with the same passion and motivation. If project why was a place where dreams were crafted , planet why was where they remained safe.
As I sat defenseless watching my dream dissolve, my mind set on a frantic flight seeking desperate answers: where had I gone wrong; what had I missed; why was this happening. A new why that had to be answered as in it lay the safety of all the answers we had sought till now. It had all seemed flawless, cogent… The assault of words carried on mercilessly barely giving me time to keep up. The place was too far, the staff was not willing, the idea had not been shared, people had not been heard… I listened in silence, holding on the tears that were threatening to fall as words the heart could not express.
It was then time for alternatives, suggestions, other possibilities..
I sat and heard them all, processing them to the best of my ability and attempting to see if they could replace the dream. Anything that does not grow dies and yet each option proffered excluded growth and though attractive in the present moment was doomed to die. Something needed to be done, the dream had to be saved, too much depended on it.
A day has gone by. I have tried to process all I heard. I must admit that much of what was said made sense when considered within the realm of today: the today that hues the reality we see: the choice of place does seem incongruous for a guest house we hope to fill to capacity. The distance seems alarming to anyone who simply walks to work. The list goes on: it is true that I bear the guilt of pushing my ideas and not giving time for people to react. It is also true that I often do not word things appropriately. Whatever the reasons and the past errors it is not time for recriminations but time to come together in solidarity as no matter how perfect a dream it cannot become reality without the conviction of all concerned.
However as one held guilty I think I do have the right to pen a defense. Planet Why came to be because one took a quantum leap into the future in more ways than one. I understand that there is a sense of comfort and reassurance in the present day scenario. Pwhy looks manageable and viable. Planet why was conceived for the day when the need may be felt for a larger place that one owns and where one can grow; the day when all are tired of seeking rented space or angry at seeing our special kids now adults not being welcome. Come that day land would be a chimera. Our rock pile was certainly what not I would have wanted had I got all the cards in my hand but was the only one that fitted our tight pockets and one that is poised for a sparkling make over. One can never chose the ideal situation and perhaps the end of a dream came because we do not have the ability to look at the future.
I also fully comprehend that no one would like to invest in a dream that looks very fragile and shaky at present and deprived of its sustainability element planet why loses its raison d’etre and looks like yet another liability. I more than anyone am loath to take on any more than we have. The task of meeting the present requirement is already weighing on my tiring shoulders so I should be the one to refuse any added burden. Then why am I finding it almost impossible to let the dream go? Why is it that just like on many occasions in the past when my team seemed reluctant to take on an new task, I feel compelled to soldier on. There is no urgency, no child hurting, no cause to defend and yet the drive is much the same.
I know no one wants to see pwhy die for want of combattants to use the famous quote from Corneille (Le Cid Act IV, Scene I) and yet unless we think of a doable alternative this may just happen. In my 9 years of begging I have seen that if there is nothing new on offer, sources dry out. One has to reinvent oneself all the time even if it means taking on a new responsibilities. Once again we are faced with the sustainability issue. And one again I am at a loss. And yet anything that does not grow dies
Some ideas were mooted but quite frankly each seemed daunting. One of them was that of ISR (Individual Social responsibility). I have been saddened by the total lack of heart I see and the total lack of compassion. I had placed great hopes in my one rupee a day dream hoping it would change attitudes. I was shocked at myself when as I sat redoing my website I wondered whether it still had a place in it. The ISR idea was welcome but then why did it seem jaded.
As I write these words I am at a loss to find answers and yet they need to be found as this is surely the most important why in our journey.
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)
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.