little red bag revisited

little red bag revisited

I wrote about this little red bag many moons ago! After delivering its contents to Utpal’s dorm in school, it returned empty and sat in the linen cupboard waiting for its next mission. A few days back I retrieved it from the top shelf .

Om march 17th it will set off again to Uptal’s school and for there will accompany him to Karam Marg where little Mr p will spend a whole week with his mom and his sister. I have been filling the little bag with many things: clothes for him, and some for his mom and sis’, a pot of his favourite chocolate spread, and a few toys as it is his birthday on the 20th, one we will all be celebrating with him at K marg.

What an incredible journey this five year old has made in one year. His last birthday was celebrated in his home with his parents and some of us and I still remember how happy he was with the battery operated motorbike he rode with glee. A few days later his crestfallen face said it all: his bike had been sold for a few pegs of hooch. A week later hell broke loose as his mom sunk as low as one can imagine and he watched helpless from the arms of an unknown man.
In one day he lost everything his home, the presence of his mom and the man who he called papa.

But Utpal is one of a kind and he bore it all with dignity well beyond his age. He spent time at home and then on a fateful July day his bag and him walked through the gates of his new school where he walked into every one’s heart.

Nest week after a long long year utpal will sleep in his Mommy’s arms. For me it is probably one of the best moments of my life as I see this little family scattered helter skelter for reasons beyond any one’s control reunite amidst the greenery and the ducks of karm gaon.

I have filled his little bag with surprises and hope that he will be reminded of his maam’ji who loves him so desperately till I can hold him and whisper words of love in his ears.

The God to whom little boys say their prayer…

The God to whom little boys say their prayer…

There have been many rewarding moments at pwhy, but yesterday was a very special one.

I looked for quotes to begin this post and found two by unknown writers:

” God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very like their mother’s”

“Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”

Almost a year back I had to take the heartbreaking decision of separating a mother from her a child. I did as it was a step towards bringing together once again a little family that life had blown apart. The mother went into rehab and the little boy just 4 to a boarding school. Months went by and one healed slowly while the other carved himself a place in an alien world. A month from now they will be reunited for two weeks.

Uptal is what he is, because even in her darkest and most sordid hour, his mom never stopped loving him and I do not know why but I feel that it his her face that comes to him in his daily prayers. Only he was able to see her true worth passed the flaws that she did not hide.

Yesterday I went to see her in the idyllic surroundings where she now lives as she slowly makes her way into a new life. It was a joy to see her smile and to watch her long lost daughter finally rediscovering an almost forgotten mother.

It was a special moment as not many had really understood why it was so important for me to help Jhunnu turn a new leaf. Even if I were not to succeed I wanted him to know at a time when I may not have been around that I did give it my very best. I guess that in her most sordid moments only Utpal and I saw her flaws as a gift and never gave up. We have a long way to go and she is is very fragile but somehow yesterday I truly felt that we were out of the woods.

One day, I my dream comes true the little family will be reunited and strong. I just pray that I live to see the day.

another tale of two Indias

I have often written about the ever widening gap between the two Indias and the almost apocalyptic aftermath it entails. One would be justified in asking whether ways exist to bridge this frightening chasm.

When pwhy began and I set out crafting it I knew intuitively that if it were to make a difference and have a spati-temporal dimension one would have to shun all government and institutional and impersonal funding and support. I realise today is hindsight that it was a yet unformulated but real step towards bridging this gap. When one decided to use only local resources be it staff or space it was one more step in that direction. When one insisted on holding on to the one rupee a day in spite of numerous false starts it was because that was another way to bring the two Indias together.

When I look at the long list of supporters I feel a sense of pride to see that so many have reached out and been there. Most of the people mentioned on that page have never met me or come to pwhy, yet they are an integral part of this effort and have helped change many lives and brighten many morrows. However a tinge of regret mars my elation as there are so few from my city and peers. Most of those who are there live far away from their motherland and yet their heart beats for her.

One may wonder why those just around the corner do not feel it necessary to reach out is a question that has disturbed me as the obvious solution was to have them come forward as they could come and vindicate our plea by just dropping by. Nevertheless now for more than 7 years many have in their own way brought the two Indias together and that is a fact to be lauded.

There are many ways to try and bridge the widening gap: like Amit you could donate blood little Nanhe, like Tima you could take some time off from coffee mornings and spend them teaching underprivileged children, like Mansi could motivate your staff to come and share some of their skills with such kids, like Rishi you could accept to take on little Utpal in your swank school and ensure he becomes an integral part of it, like Monica you could lend your professional skills, and like Malavika you could send your monthly contribution without being reminded, like Kim spend time at pwhy and write about our effort or like Sonia lend us the much needed media support to expose abusers and highlight wrong doings.

These steps may look inconsequential but they help us carry on and reach out to children abandoned by all. There are many ways of bringing the two Indias together, provided you accept that it is something that needs to be done. One cannot wish away the other India because it stands at our doorstep and no amount of money can meet their ever growing presence and new found dreams. Their patience will run out if we continue treating them the way we do and forget the indubitable fact that they are protected by the same constitution and laws than us and no second grade citizens to whom we can throw second hand goods, be it education, health or habitat.

and what will the feshment be tomorrow..

and what will the feshment be tomorrow..

Tomorrow is Utpal’s PTA and once again his motley family will set out early in the morning to spend the day with him. This time it is Amit, Chanda Didi, Kiran Didi, Radhey and maam’ji who will form the party.

I am looking forward to the moment when his best pal Simran who is always on the look out for incoming parents will spot us and yell: Utpal tere parents aageyeUtpal your parents are here- never mind if the parents are a gang of 5 and not the conventional mom and dad duo.

He will appear slowly from somewhere and look at us shyly while we will assess the changes: his over oiled hair, his height and his tanned face, then his face will light up and he will run into our arms as we all start babbling together.

After the customary chat with his maam’s, we will set out to plan the day. While some of us will remain in school and laze on the lawns, Utpal will set off his little jaunt: a metro ride and a stop at a shop to get the forbidden goodies: pack of chips and a pepsi! But before that he will seek his kitchen bhaiyas for his daily feshment and ensure that there is one extra share for his maam’ji. It could be a paratha or a banana but to me they are nothing short of manna’s dew as they are laced with a very special kind of love.

Back from his little time off, it is time to play in the open and see the new antics, hear the new repertoire of songs and bask in moments of pure delight. Utpal will then set off to his kitchen pals to ask when luch will be laid and we will share his lunch in the big dining hall after joining in in the prayer led by forbidding Anil Sir.

The Sunday meal is rice and beans and can beat many a gourmet meal as we sit amidst the din and share this rare moment with a child who defeated every odd to be sitting with children from the other side of the fence as one of them.

As the lunch ends with the throwing of plates – Utpal’s way of defining plates sent down a chute to the kitchen – silence descends upon Utpal and his family as soon it will time to say goodbye, a time we dread. Sometimes he lets us go as he walks away without a glace back, and sometimes he clings to us and lets out heart wrenching cries.

The ride back is always in silence as we try to reconnect with ourselves after a day drenched with hope and love.

In two weeks Utpal will be spending his holi break with his mom and sister and though it will be painful not to having at home, it will be a huge step in a journey i began many years back: trying to once again thread the beads of a little family that had scattered in more ways than one.

happy St V’s

happy St V’s

Today being the much and over hyped St V’s day, I decided to give my acerbic pen a rest and write about love, albeit a different kind from the one flaunted at every corner!

This post is not about red roses and heart shaped cards, but about Amit Bhaiyya whose unwavering brand of love has infused many a moments at pwhy with a warm glow.

Amit is your regular boy next door, with an engineering degree and a smart job in a smart MNC. But that is where the comparison stops as Amit has something his peers do not normally have: a heart of gold!

He dropped by our forsaken planet about two years back quietly promising to help us. At that time we took his assurances with a pinch of salt as many had come , promised, and gone! But not Mr A. He slowly and unobtrusively crafted his space at project why and stayed on. What made him special was that he did it without the usual fanfare.

Today, two years down the line he teaches at our Okhla centre whenever he has time, has organised shows and even a fund raiser, and has given up many a Sundays to spend them with Utpal in his boarding school.

Just yesterday we needed blood for our little Nanhe and not knowing how to get it, we called dependable Mr A. Without much ado he took his lunchtime off and travelled in the rain to donate that unit of much needed blood.

His gentle smile and quiet ways has warmed the cockles of many a heart and to us he is precious. His brand of love is rare in today’s India as it transcends all social and other barriers so what better love than this to be celebrated on this day.

Happy St V’s!

What will you be tomorrow…

What will you be tomorrow…

When Utpal walked into the gate of his brand new school he was making a tryst with destiny.

He would one day walk out of that gate and take on the world.

I have often let my imagination run wild and imagine what he would become: a conventional doctor or a hot shot choreographer.. any one’s guess I suppose.

yesterday we spent the day with him in his school and as we lazed around in the balmy winter day, he took my camera and started shooting pictures. He went done on a knee, took time and shot a series of pictures. He shot his buddies, his pals in the kitchen, some of us and even took some shots of flowers and trees. You can see them here.

Quite frankly they are not bad.. and some could even make it to a competition.

I watched this little chap and once again marveled at the incredible journey this little chap has made in the last 4 years: from a searing frying pan to a boarding school. At moments like these you can only say Chapeau Bas – hats off – to mr godJi and his incredible talent!

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