PlanetChronicles retrace the early days and happenings of project why.
29 June 2004
Citizens in the making
The civics project suggested by our dear friend D V Sridharan, publisher GoodNewsIndia.com, and brought to life on planetWHY by Chandan and his merry band, is really enthralling for me. Every morning I look forward to the moment when i can *grab* a few kids, irrespective of their age and talk to them. Today a dripping tap seen on the way, led us to talk about water conservation and the little ways in which one could participate. We the went on talking about freedom of movement that was so rare in other countries: the possibility to move one's place of residence without any hinderance. But then did we have the right to complain about everything. Was it not like the mommy who had cooked for 10, could feed 12 or 13 from that pot of rice, but not 100. So did we have the right to get angry with the *mommy* of the city or did we have to help her in some way of the other.. The little puzzled faces was proof of the fact that somewhere the penny was dropping...
From geneva with love
29 May 2004
When Genevieve first wrote to me about a possible visit to pWHY by students and teachers of the Steiner School Geneva, I was pleasantly surprised though I must confess a little apprehensive. It is true that pWHY has had many volunteers from different lands, but the idea of a group of 15 children and teachers camping with us for three weeks, was a different ball game altogether. We discussed it at length and slowly the uniqueness of this project starting emerging. This was not a 'jaunt' by kids of a rich school. The social programme of the school was something very different: a project was selected by the students at the beginning of the school year, and then students had to 'earn' money for the ticket, the stay and of course for the project itself. I was very touched by the fact that we had been selected and we at pwhy also began preparing for the big day. I also thought of how relevant it would be into today's India, to have similar programmes, where privileged children would 'select' a project and 'earn' the money needed to travel to it and to extend help to it. The swiss children did all kind of jobs to get the money required - not a mean sum -. From baking cakes and selling them at fairs and fetes, to staging a play, washing cars, baby sit...just anything that would help them get the sum required. I wondered at what jobs our privileged children would do if they were to begin a similar project. And frankly not very much came into my mind. Sad reflection of what we have become as a society... On 15th May, they arrived, all fifteen of them and it did not take us long to realise that it would be a great experience for all. For us at pWHY, the possibility to interact with teachers and children from a different world, opens a new world. The several workshops that have been initiated will enrich each and everyone and make us look at things in a new light and maybe alter our ways a little... worried musings
25 May 2004
Met the doctors in charge of the children's ward, those who had tended with love and patience to Monty, Nimmi and Neetu and all the others we have been sending to them regularly Nice doctors, Dr Chaudhury and Mohapatra. Was pleasantly surprised to see that they had an extremely humane approach. I was shocked, though I should have expected it, to learn that all the children were suffering from severe prolonged malnutrition. Even those from apparently better homes. later, when i got back home I sat wondering why was this happening with such obsessive consistency to the urban slum child. Many factors come to one's mind, the first one of course is poverty and lack of resources. But that is not what is frightening. The real problem lies with urban lifestyle and the nutrition pattern change that follows. Village kids, no matter how poor have green vegetables, wholesome grain and fresh air. here the children have a diet extremely poor in nutrients, high in poor quality carbohydrates, white flour, white sugar and practically nothing green. The first remedial action is of course awareness, but then how do you tell people to purchase vegetables at rs 20 or more for a kilo. In the village they come free... And once again, the return.
26 may 2004
Summer of 2004
May 25th 2004 This day will remain engraved in my mind for long.. i still remember the cold chilly afternoon when a bunch of class X boys stood in the grim and dingy office of a government school and listened to their principal paint his picture of them: bound to be failures, bad elements, hopeless... there was no way they would pass their Board scheduled but a few weeks away. i sat there stunned and in silence, a million thought races in my mind. I had actually gone to the school to defend one of these very boys who has been caned..To me it was a violation of a human right. But it took me only a few moments to realise that in this place, human rights was a notion that did not exist. My heart was going out to the boys who stood their in silence, listening and I wondered what was going in their minds.. And before I knew it, i heard myself say: They will pass, will see that they do! And looking at those boys suddenly straighten up , at the hint of a smile that appeared on their lips, and at the look of hope in their eyes I knew I had said the right thing, and I knew we would succeed. Succeed! Well how..? We had a tiny room with over 50 children and nothing else. No teachers, no resources nothing! But there was a dream, and the will to see it fulfilled.. So the challenge was taken. The open space on the road in front of our 'school' became the class room, two young students were cajoled and coerced into becoming teachers, and in the blistering cold of december 2001, classes began at 7.30 am. E very morning, i used to spend some time with the boys, sharing my experiences, renewing my faith in them sometimes with humour, building them up. A pattern set in and carried on right till March. And the boys came, each and every day without fail. That year, i was more anxious then when my own children had sat for examinations..as i waited for the results. And when they come, all the boys had passed, barring one who had a compartment that he later cleared. After that, many left for other schools, but four of them remained with us. Time has passed, my four musketeers have just passed their XII th with good marks, maybe not the 90s that are expected today.. But tell me would you get 65 or 60, if you had no books, no space, no tuition, no one to pamper you? And if you had to remember to fill the water, look after the siblings and be beaten by a drunk father... That 60% stands way beyond any mark any one can get. And all that was needed was a little love. now is that too much to give..?
14 May 2004
Angels with a message
A friend once long ago, at a time when I was still so ensconced in a 'normal' life, told me that special children where actually angels sent to earth to bring out the best in us. She added that those of us who were privileged enough to interact with such children, were somehow blessed. At that time, I found the whole idea ludicrous, though of course I say nothing to my friend. As time passed, and life brought me in touch with children with special needs, the words heard long ago came back to my mind. And now each time, a new little soul comes into my life, I know that there is still some part of me that needs to be found , some action that has still not been taken, some thing that still remains undone.. Last week, I met Nimmi. A diminutive little being, who in spite of her six years, could neither walk nor talk. Her tiny body marred by an ugly hump that made it impossible for her to stand, let alone walk. Her head so huge sat at an awkward angle and her eyes reflected the scars on her soul. As I carefully scooped her in my body, scared to hurt or frighten her, I was shocked to see her cling to me and fall asleep her head on my shoulder, as if she was telling me that she had come to roost. The message was clear and flashed through my mind. In our great desire to impart education, pWHY had somewhat forgotten its special kids. Not caring for them, but fighting for their rights, more within the community then on larger platforms. What had been so well done for Manu, had to be done fo r others: securing their rightful place within their own home, street, community, locality... And somewhere down the road, I had forgotten this.... Thank you Nimmi...
May 8th 2004
Right to live
A close friend wrote in to share his total incomprehension at the slaying of a leading personality in San Salvador It just took two bullets to end a life. Barely a month ago, little Arati lost her life in spite of all our efforts. Many write in to ask how Arati died. I ask WHY did Arati die. Arati came to the centre, clutching her pink candy floss that she then set out to eat on my lap. She seemed normal. Hours later she started vomiting and having loose motions. We tended to her as we normally do, and she seemed to settle. An hour later her condition worsened and she was taken to the local GP who 'advised' that she be taken to a hospital. Now the closest hospital was over 45 minutes away. Why did the GP not attend to her? In spite of the wet towel we had wrapped around her, Arati did not survive the hot ride to the hospital. She was still alive as she was wheeled into the emergency, but gave up before the doctors lay her IV line. Why did she not make it? And the reasons are multiple: the loss of a mother at 2 months, poor nutrition which led to a hole in her, terrible unhygienic conditions that resulted in her having worms that took us almost three months to get rid off, and that made her so very anaemic, an alcoholic and abusive father who beat her mercilessly...The list is endless. I remember the first time we discovered her in a tattered cotton sleeveless dress, in the dead of winter, standing so terribly alone in the sordid little room. Little Arati stretched out her arms to us, and ran into ours as if she had always known us. In hindsight, was it not a desperate cry asking us to save her. Maybe we did not understand it, limited a we were by conventions, and mores, and rules and the many things that stop us from doing what our heart tells us to. Arati died, because she was starved of love. Arati died because she carried in her a huge void left the night her mother died, a void none of us could fill. Can one understand death when it comes unexpectedly? I guess not. If we did than no bullets would kill a man in the prime of life, or no child would die unloved and uncared. I can only hope that it at least makes us listen to our hearts more often...
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