To many die hard project why supporters planet why is an aberration. I can understand their reaction as at first sight the two may seem totally incompatible. I beg their indulgence and beseech them to keep in mind that both emanate from the same source and have come in much the same way.
If project why saw the light of the day as a result of a chance encounter with Manu when a deafening loud why screamed for an answer that needed to be found, planet why was perhaps conceived more gently as a result of a string of quieter whys in no way less poignant.
Fate has played a curious role in my quest for answers to disturbing questions that have come my way in the bemusing journey called project why. It has set the course of this journey and steered it in directions that I could not have anticipated.
The vision of a man hobbling into my office with the help of a huge stick led us to create our heartfix hotel. At first this new venture of ours did seem to many yet another aberration. Such large sums of money to be spent on saving one child, a child whose future was uncertain, one that would just become one of the many millions barely surviving. Yet we did not give up and today over a dozen such children have had another go at life waiting for their destinies to unfold.
To some our decision of putting Utpal in a boarding school and helping his mom overcome a severe addiction and a debilitating psychological ailment was one more exorbitant deviation, but we again stood by what we believed to be right. To us it was simply a matter of finding the right answer to yet another why, a why that we never went seeking but that came our way as if guided by an invisible hand.
Hence slowly project why took a life of its own, one that often defied all logic, but one that I knew was the work of a far greater force. Time carried its inexorable course. Project why grew from why to why and with it the realisation of its extreme fragility and precarious nature that rested on the failing shoulders of an aging being bringing the inevitable question of its ability to fulfill all the responsibilities that laid upon it. What would become of the Manus that had come its way and of the hopes and dreams so tenderly nurtured.
Yet another answer needed to be found and it was planet why: a place where dreams would be secure. The journey seemed to be reaching its logical end. But fate once again, or the unseen hand, decided otherwise. The sheer magnitude of what was at stake was frightening and yet not accepting the challenge would have gone against everything we had stood for till then and negated the very spirit of project why.
To me project and planet why are intrinsically linked; the only difference being that the later has to have the ability of outlive me, and hence have foundations solid enough to weather any storm that may come its way.
“Creation is a manifestation of the one’s many ideas… every idea one step away from being alone… The meaning is for us to discover. Creation is only a stimulus. All we have to do is respond. And respond well. Everything is a great question waiting for a great answer.” Al Raines
These words dropped quietly into my inbox this morning. A quote from a just published book appropriately called Soul Search Engine. Prophetic words for one who spent the night searching for answers and wishing for sibylline insight.
Project Why has, over the past 8 years, sprung a string of questions needing answers and we have have to their best of our ability attempted to find the appropriate ones. Some have been easy, some more demanding and some even troubling. Yet each one has been portent of a stronger will, a greater manifestation, and each no matter how difficult or seemingly impossible has found a relevant answer.
The past weeks have been a roller coaster ride where dreams and reality have somehow taken a life of their own and left us all breathless and bewildered. We find ourselves with more than we visualised and planned. The foster care programme was not part of our original plans. And yet when it come our way we somehow knew it was to be. No matter how huge or daunting there was something compelling us to embrace it. It was a great question that required us to find a great answer.
From the instant we decided to once again walk the road less or actually never traveled, we have been faced with a deluge of adverse reactions, some biting , some more gentle; some steeped in cynicism, some simply seasoned with caution. This of course led us to try and assess the situation in the hope of discovering the true cause of such a backlash.
What we are trying to do is simply give a few children a chance to a better morrow. It was time to delve further and find out the reality. Somehow the situation was akin to the one I had faced many years ago when the apparently harmless work I was doing had led to a vicious attack from local powers that be. At first I had been perplexed and at a loss to explain matters. I was only attempting to educate slum children. I understood later that the real reason for the onslaught was that I had dared disturbed the existing social fabric and what was held against me was that I had empowered people particularly by giving teaching jobs to people who were meant to do menial ones.
Once again by giving hope to a few children of a Lesser God we were again guilty of the same deadly sin. One did not disturbed existing patterns. To have the audacity to do so was anathema to everyone. In a land where society has been divided in every which way possible, comfort zones have been created and we have all sunk into them, this is part of our atavistic fears. What is troubling is that this attitude is prevalent not only with the illiterate multitude, but even with the likes of us who are supposedly educated. There are things good for us, and things good for them. My child had the right to an IIT whereas their children can only reach the portals of a Polytechnic. What is even more disturbing is that in spite of the apparent economic and social growth of our land, the disparity between them and us has grown with quantum leaps, part of a tacit covenant.
Thus any attempt, no matter how tiny and infinitesimal at truly bridging the gap is bound to be met with strong resistance. Sadly few will have the honesty and courage to accept this fact and will find a host of reasons to explain their reticence: too much money spend for too few, money that could be used for a large number and so on. One will just have to find the right words to counter the attacks and maybe gently lead them to some honest soul searching.
That much for the biting and cynical detractors, but we also need to address the fears and apprehensions of the gentle critics urging us to caution. And I must confess that at the initial stages I was one of them. It is easy to help children the way we have done for years. Giving them a few hours of sound learning and happy moments and seeing them go back to their homes is a safe option. But when one takes the step of wrenching a child from one world and taking them to another, the equation changes. We are not talking of a few hours but of long years, each with its set of challenges. And even though we can sit and plan to the minutest detail, there is no guarantee that things will go our way. We may hope and think and pray that things go well, they may also go wrong and it is essential that we build safety nets at each step to counter them. What me must never forget is that each child that comes our way becomes our responsibility one that we have to fulfill all the way finding the best solution to every problem that may appear.
The easy way could be to once again find a via media, a solution that would assuage the situation and allow us to sink back in our comfort zones but can we actually do so now. It is once again a matter of some serious soul searching!
Citizen why is the name of a new blog created by our dear friend and supporter Andy. The base line of the blog says: A place for the people of Planet Why to share their stories.
I met Andy a few months back on the net, in one of those dark moments when one is desperately looking for help wondering how one would get through the night. Andy immediately offered to help, and as time went on I found myself sharing may of my dreams with him.
Andy was perhaps the first one who urged me to hold on to my dreams, particularly the one of seeing planet why become a reality and promised to help in any way possible. he even wrote: As things move forward on Planet Why I’d love to come and visit to help in person, if that would be alright.
True to his promise Andy came and is now an integral part of pwhy. When he suggested he start a blog where those who came to planet why could share their thoughts and stories, I was thrilled as I have always held that pwhy is what it is because of the spirit and love of all those who have come by and shared some time with us, all the precious Citizens of the incredible place that is planet why!
As I read the first posts on this new blog, I also realised what an invaluable mine of knowledge it would be for us, as we see pwhy through fresh eyes and become aware of things that we did not know and look at ourselves as others see us!
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral wrote St Exupery. How right he was.
For me this piece of barren line ceased to be barren from the moment we decided that it was the one chosen to hold planet why. From that instant in time reason took leave of absence and the heart took over. Never mind if one did not know how or when; never mind how daunting the task at hand looked; never mind the obstacles that could come our way, planet why was a reality that just had to happen.
Another beautiful quote of the same author flashed in my mind: if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea and I realised that this was what lay between today and the day when planet why would be a vibrant reality: my ability to get people to long for planet why as much as I did.
No mean task in a world where people have long forgotten the beauty of simple things and lost their ability to think beyond their own needs. And yet beautiful things live on and miracles happen. Just a few days back I would not have believed that I would be standing at the edge of a dusty road looking at a piece of barren land. Just a few days back I was simply trying to figure out how we would go through the next month and the next… the rock pile just remained a hope, a dream, a longing, a prayer… one that I had left to a higher being to fulfill.
The road to this dusty road has been a long one. For a long time I did try to get others to long for it just as I did, but at some point of time I surrendered the thought to the wind knowing within myself that it would ultimately land safely some day. It did, far sooner than I could have imagined and in the most unlikely way possible leaving us all speechless.
The journey is not over and much remains to be done. But it will all come together as long as we keep on longing for the essential, as long as we keep looking with our hearts and as long as we keep on taking one step after another in the right direction.
When Utpal fell into my lap almost 4 years ago he was scalded, swathed in bandages and quite frankly not a pretty site. And yet as I held his fragile body and looked into his incredibly beautiful eyes I knew this was no ordinary child but a very special emissary who had landed my way for a purpose.
As years went by his bag of miracles unfolded and each time something extraordinary happened one felt one had finally unraveled the reason of his appearance in our lives. But as time went by we realised that we would never be able to keep up with him and he would never cease to amaze us.
When we had conceived of planet why and dreamt about it we had never imagined what it would turn out to be when it actually happened. Frankly we were quite content with the image we had conjured and in fact felt it was larger than life. A place for our lost souls was more than we could hope for. But for our little miracle man it was not enough. He had done his bit by sending a set of angels our way but with them came a rider: over and above shelter for our lost souls, we would need to ensure that more kids like him would one day be able to wear smart school uniforms and attend schools that actually were not meant for them and have pals they could laugh and play with.
So be it. You cannot argue with orders that come from blessed souls;you just have to obey them and give them your best though you are more than a little perplexed about what and when the next diktat would come.
Today we set out on our new mission with a song in our heart, a prayer on our lips and renewed determination to see planet why become the hallowed ground we hope it will as what is at stake is far more than anyone can imagine!
To many this may just look like a barren piece of land, and it is just that if you look with your eyes. But today I ask you to look with your heart just as a little prince did in a marvelous fable and said: What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere…
If you do agree to look with your heart then this ungainly piece of land will soon transform into a place where dreams come true. It all began almost 8 years ago with a disturbing encounter between a middle aged a woman and a young man abused hurting and forsaken by all and a preposterous dream: to give this man a real home. At that time the dream did seem absurd;just a meal or a set of clean clothes was what reason dictated but the woman was a dreamer and the dream refused to go away.
The meal was bought, the clothes too, but it did not seem enough and a journey began as somehow she felt that the dream would be fulfilled when day would break, it was just a matter of getting through the night!
It was a long night, and along it more dreams came each of them as impossible as the first one particularly if you allowed yourself to look with your eyes, one just had to keep the heart wide open. Many little hurting souls joined the bandwagon and midway remedies were found and applied but the dream refused to go, on the contrary it became larger and bigger: a home for all the hurting souls, a smile on all the faces that had forgotten to smile, a haven for all those forsaken by their own!
And as it became larger, the woman realised that it was now way beyond her league but she knew she had to just get through the night: day would break. And all through the night she kept praying as she knew that now the matter was not in her hands anymore. And then one fine day Angels appeared and decided that the time had come for the day to dawn.
So look the the picture again: this is where planet why will soon become a reality. This where Manu’s home will be, where Champa will roam freely, where Nanhe will smile away and where Sapna will jump to her heart’s content and many more lost souls will live a dignified and happy life. But the Angels did not want to stop at that, this where many little Utpal’s will don their smart school uniforms and leave for school and one day will stand shoulder to shoulder with those born on the other side of the fence.
So this is no barren piece of land, this is sacred ground, a place where dreams come true, where angels do not fear to tread, a place where the day finally breaks.
Dreams do come true; you just have to get through the night!