There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.
One of the most difficult moments we have faced at Project Why is dealing with the death of a child. Children are not meant to die.
But sadly they do, even today. Five thousand little children die everyday because we adults have not played by the rule.
Because those that are meant to protect and ensure they get an environment in which they can grow and thrive, are busy filling their
own pockets or passing laws that never get enacted as they should. Five thousand children die because of lack of proper food,
clean drinking water and good medical facilities.
Over the years we lost some children. There are some that passed on without a murmur and may at best live in the memories of their loved ones, if they have any. But in India death takes on a different hue when it occurs in poor homes. There life is a battle for survival and survival is such a hard task master that it takes away from you many luxuries, grieving being one of them. And in a culture where there are no graves and where children are simply buried on a river bed or thrown in a river, they often or never get their place on a wall with a drying garland of flowers around their neck. Often there are no pictures of them.
But for us they were project why kids and hence their existence had to be commemorated. We would like to honour their short lives in this page.
Sonu contracted polio at a very young age, at a time when polio eradication was not as aggressive as it is now. His family was very poor and did the best they could, but Sonu’s emaciated legs just froze in a sort of sitting position. He was unable to walk and had to be carried. Sonu was one of the first students we had in our special class. He was very bright, had a smile to die for and was very gentle. One day he caught a fever and did not have the strength to fight it. He died in the almost foetal position in which he had braved this world and made us all better humans. He was 18.
Rohan and Puja
Rohan and Puja were students of our creche. They were cousins barely a year apart and were both delightful kids. One day they went to the
temple near their home and never returned. One of their shoes was found near an open drain at some distance. The approach to that drain was
through an expanse of bushes and trees across a busy road in no way accessible to two tiny tots. The children had definitely been
abducted and then murdered.
But the lives of two slum kids does not warrant any serious attention from the police and in spite of our best efforts the case was closed and
the deaths deemed accidents.
Arti and her two older siblings had no mother and a drunk father.
The first time we saw them was in the dead of winter. They were in their minuscule home, that was so small that the father
who was tall slept with the door open and his feet hanging out of the door! Arti had a tiny sleeveless frock on and her lips
were blue. The other two siblings were also barely covered and the father was tottering on his feet. The first thing we did was
buy clothes and then tell the father to bring them to the project the very next day. Arti joined our crèche and was happy.
One summer morning Arti came to school as usual. She had candy floss in her hand and was happy licking it. She went to her class and was absolutely normal. Some time later she started having loose motions and vomiting and we tended to her as we normally did. When it was time to go home she was laughing and playing again. Later in the night she got sick and her father took her to a local doctor or quack I guess who advised him to take her to hospital. The hospital is a good 40 minutes ride and little Arti did not survive. She was declared DOA!
What killed Arti? Why did she not make it? Perturbing questions more so because nothing has changed. Was it the loss of a mother when she was barely a few months, poor nutrition and inadequate care given by a sibling just a few years older? The terribly unhygienic conditions in which she lived? An alcoholic and abusive father who beat her mercilessly? The quack that was unable to treat her? The distance at which the hospital was located? Or simply because she was starved of love! We will never know. But we are all collectively responsible for Arti and all the 5000 and more little children under the age of 5 who die everyday in our country because we have not got our priorities right.
Arun was not our student but the nephew of one of our staff. He lived in a small town not far from the capital city. Arun was 14 when he came to us
He was an unassuming child who spoke softly and seemed to have perfected the art of being almost invisible. Arun was born with a defective heart
and should have been operated upon years ago but the family was never able to garner the funds needed. He had patiently held on to life. The last
time the money had almost been collected, his grandparents passed away and the money was used for their funeral rites. Such are the ways inIndia.
Then the father lost his job and two sisters needed to be married and his surgery was no more top of the list.
When we heard his story we decided to help him and he was operated upon successfully and returned to his hometown. After some time he began to work to help his family.
Three years down the line we came to know that he had passed away. He was barely 17.
We never came to know the reason of his death.
Rajani was another special child who passed away. She was 11. She was the grand daughter of the head of the Lohar clan that lived
on the roadside and where we held classes. She was a beautiful child but had severe mental retardation. No one in her clan really
understood why she did not walk till she was three or never really learnt to talk like others at her age. Her mother left her
with her grandparents, who showered her with abundant and almost suffocating love. There was no one to tell her grandparents that
she needed special care and intervention. She grew terribly spoilt, everyone ready to give in to her whims and fancies.
When we first met her, she was a smiling child, but terribly shy and scared of strangers. Rajani did not know how to look
after herself, was not toilet trained and had no social or life skills.
Anil was born with a congenital heart defect. Every breath he took was an effort and he could barely retain any milk. He needed surgery and
we managed to raise the funds but the little soul gave up before we could help him.
She tiptoed on to our planet quietly almost as if she wanted no one to notice her lest we let her walk into our hearts.
She would slink softly behind her loud mother hiding her face lest you lost yourself in her huge melting eyes..
She would sit in a corner patiently waiting for us to finish whatever we were doing. Sandhya knew she was a temporary guest.
Sandhya was what they call a blue or cyanotic baby, where the heart is malformed and the blood deprived of oxygen. Since 1944 a simple surgery called a BT Shunt can repair the damage. For Sandhya's family the cost was exorbitant, but friends pitched in and she was operated upon. However she did not make it.
Saheeda was a beautiful young girl. She was hearing challenged and in a country like India where inclusion is not practiced, she
was never able to go to a regular school and build a future. She was one of our students and though sometimes a little stubborn, she was
pure delight. She had learn stitching and was all set to begin a beauty course which would open new doors to her.
We had gor het a state-of-the-art hearing aid and she was discovering new sounds and learning to speak.
One day she went to the village and contracted fever and was hospitalised but was not getting better. The state of medical facilities
in our villages is rather poor. Her family brought her back and admitted her in a hospital but it was too late.
Once again God had other plans.
Nanhe was one of us for six years. For six years his incredible smile made us forget our worries and woes. He could not
speak, barely walked but was able to lighten up the darkest room.
Nanhe was born with a simple mind and a broken body where everything seemed wrong. In his short life he lived with excruciating pain and was subjected to humiliating investigations, painful jabs and uncounted operations. But he never lost his smile
One may wonder what a little broken soul like Nanhe could mean to us, how a little seemingly useless being could become such an important part of one's life. It is once again a matter of looking with one's heart. Nanhe was undoubtedly an Angel that the God of Lesser Souls sent our way. His message was simple and clear: no matter what, life is still beautiful and no matter how bad it looks, it is still worth a smile. And the little chap lived by the book: even in his worst moments of pain, he never lost his smile. And when you looked at him smiling you suddenly felt uplifted. No matter where and when, in a hospital ward where he lay or in his tiny hovel Nanhe smiled.
Today he smiles in heaven.
She was as tiny as this picture when she quietly flew away. She too was born with a defective heart and could barely breathe. She needed
open heart surgery that her parents could not afford. We set out to find the needed funds but she had decided otherwise. Shortly after
her angiograpgy she gave up and left for a better world.