We have gone from famous five, to incredible seven and now to exceptional eight. Yes little Manisha will be joining Utpal, Vicky, Nikhil, Aditya, Babli, Yash and Meher. Manisha’s story is heart rendering and I guess once again the God of small things decided to intervene. I must admit that after Yash and Mehar I had decided to put a stop ( at least a temporary one) to the boarding school saga, one that is quite extraordinary to say the least. A simple walk down memory lane brought me to a blog I had written almost 4 years ago, where I had shared what seemed at that time an impossible dream. Like all dreams it was promptly tucked away and almost forgotten. But then the God of small things (GST) decided otherwise. When things looked bleak and almost hopeless, out from the blue came a messenger who revived all dreams, even the wildest ones. It all seemed to good to be true and over and above my cherished dream of planet why, this messenger wanted to change lives of children and we set out to do just that with hope in our hearts. But then the incomprehensible happened. The messenger backed out: the dream seemed too fragile to invest in and I was left holding on to it alone.

In my shaky lap lay not only the future of Manu and his friends, but that of 4 little kids who had been taken away from their homes with the promise of a bright morrow. In hindsight I think the erstwhile messenger was simply God’s way of bringing me back to order. I knew that nothing would ever come easy but come it would! No matter how impossible. And miracles came our way, tiny ones perhaps, but blessed nonetheless. Manu was home safe and happy and soon the little children packed their bags and entered the portals of almost hallowed ground: the boarding school. I heaved a sigh of relief. It has been a long haul but one that was worth it. Who knows one day these very kids would become doctors, engineers, stars! Nothing was impossible. I wondered however whether I would be still around to see them.

Five kids in boarding school was more than enough. We still had 10 long years to go. But my friend the GST had other plans in store. Five soon became seven with Yash and Meher joining the gang of five and of course all my resolutions and resolves went for a six. It is true that when I first laid eyes on little Meher, I knew that this kid had no future. Her little face was scarred making her poor wedding material and her tiny hands maimed making her access to skills very limited and yet her joie de vivre was infectious. When a kind soul offered to repair her body I immediately added a caveat: if we did then we also had to give her a way to break the circle of extreme poverty in which she was imprisoned. Meher belonged to a very poor family where the men lived in the city and worked as house painters, the women stayed in the village and the kids played in the nearby graveyard that was the best playground available. It was a stroke of luck, or rather the GST’s ploy that she had been in the city the day I first met her!

So six it would be, or so I thought. But then what would happen to the little boy who had almost been adopted by some fancy outsiders and then dropped like a hot potato when they found a ‘better’ child! You see six had to become seven. And when a kind gentleman absolutely wanted to sponsor the school of another child, another masterstroke ensured that Manisha would be the chosen one! Seven had become eight!

In a few hours little Manisha will be joining her new friends in boarding school. She spent the night at the foster care so that she could be ready on time. We were a little concerned about how she would feel but to our utter surprise she spent the evening quietly watching TV and telling the housemother about her life. Children like Manisha are born survivors. They sense intuitively what is good for them and hold on to it with their heart and soul. I first saw this in little Utpal long ago.

It is a spirit I for one salute. Chapeau Bas! God bless them all!

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