of hope and joy

taylor

project why may not have much in terms of what success is measured by in our day and age: buildings, fancy resources or comfortable bank accounts. but there is one thing it has had in abundance and that is the goodwill and love from every corner of our planet.

we pride ourselves in the great team of volunteers that have passed by. each one has left a little of himself and taken a little part of us.. each one becoming better, more complete, more understanding or at least more humane…

and if each meeting is filled with expectation, each parting is always a moment of sadness..

Taylor, a young student from the US left us yesterday after many weeks spent with the little children of the creche.. I instantly liked this young man.. his eyes twinkled and his face reflected a beautiful soul…

They say children do not fake feelings, and our little twins who had never smiled gave Taylor their first smile ever the moment they met him..

Taylor left me a beautiful letter in which he tried to convey what his stay with us meant to him. I do not know whether we deserve all the kind words he wrote, but I would like to share the following as I feel it somehow reflects what project why stands for: ” If through the course of my lofe, I am able to create a small fraction of the hope and joy you have created, I will consider myself a success as a person’.

Yes, project why is all about hope and joy..

and I am sure Taylor will succeed in life… and we will remember him each time little Fatima, or Asiya or Manoj smile…

thirteen years after

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My father left me 13 years ago, today…

Pwhy would not have existed it it were not for him..

Among the many things he taught me, was the meaning of unconditional love.. the one you give without any expectation…

It took me a long time to understand that his legacy was the abundance of love that I was almost choking with, and that had to be let out and shared: pwhy was the obvious answer..

pwhy is an ode to love, a love that makes you richer as the more you give the more you have to give..

everyday i am overwhelmed by the abundance of love that pwhy has brought into my life.. and I feel blessed

every one was a star

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sunday evening saw a star meet a young boy and a spirited woman..

yes akshay kumar, the bollywood hero met Arun the young valmiki boy whose heart surgery was sponsored by him, and Bindiya a lovely lohar (gypsy) lady who won our raffle and hence a meeting with the star..

the venue the home of our friend vikraant who had made this possible..

the smiles on the picture say it all: there were no cameras, no flash lights, no media, no buzz, just people meeting people, discovering each other, bonding in a humane manner.

it was delightful to see akshay holding on to arun’s hand an answering the candid questions of this young boy; it was touching to see him take time to find out about the Lohars and their history…

it was a great simple moment, where no one was pretending to be something or someone else, as there was no one to watch. just people bonding in one happy instant that each one would carry as a memory.

and for that moment in time everyone was a *star*!

there are no invitation cards…(cont)

It was late and the party was in full swing. Little Utpal had enjoyed himself, eaten to his heart’s content and consumed large quantities of cold drinks, not because he was thirsty but because of the tall glass and the coloured straw..

I held him on my lap and my hand indavertently touched one of his ugly scars.. a reminder of all the pain this tiny braveheart went thorugh… we all, even I, tend to forget the kind of pain this child experienced for what today would add up to a third of his whole life.. anyway I hugged him tight.. today was the last of the revelries of p and j’s wedding and tomorrow life would take on its usual course..

As I held him, I asked him whether we would meet tomorrow.. just a redundant question for which I really did not expect an answer. To my utter surprise he answered in his serious little way: “ Kal tum mere ghar chai pina” – tomorrow you come to tea to my home!

Somehow my little mr popples felt that he had to return the hospitality he had enjoyed for the past three days. When I asked him want he would give me he said “I will put sugar in the tea”!

Why are my eyes clouded as I write these words…

why are there no invitation cards..

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” because i am saving trees..”

was my often exasperated answer.. but I manage to pull it off and stand by my convictions without succumbing to ‘peer’ pressure.

My daughter’s wedding was a vindication of all I stand for and I can say with some pride that I managed to conjure a show where two worlds met in a city where you are judged by appareance, glitter and pomp..

Yet we had everything, a page 3 party with page 3 people but where the lights, flowers, chairs and decoration came from a tentwallah that normally specialises in slum jagrans. The rites were in the purest vedic tradition but the groom rode a motorbike and the barat came in three wheelers driven by pwhy parents to the beats of dholaks played by two of our staff. We had a touch of Bollywood as the salis and sahelis (an eclectic mix of girls from diverse lands and social background) danced to the sound of Bunty and Babli’s Kajra Re , the show ended in the gurdwara hall of gNagar with a bash with pwhy kids and the DJ they wanted.

Was it easy, I must confess it was not as at every step I had to fight my way and hold tight to what I knew was right and find answers to the inane questions I was asked.

But we pulled it off..and it was a lovely celebration where people had time to get to know each other, to share laughter and joy, a wedding where the human touch was not lost and where the sanctity of the occasion was not lost.

Weddings have lost their true essence and meaning, they have become impersonal bashes that are remembered for all the wrong reasons: don’t we always hear things like – the food was cold, or the whisky duff, or it was too cold or to warm – !

Imagine you received a letter from a parent marrying his child, informing you that he or she had decided to use the money set aside for the party planned to sponsor heart surgeries for kids and that all would be informed of the progress. Would that person not rise in your esteem?

The money is that of of just one of the numerous parties plan, when food and guest lists are much of the same…

Think about it..

see pictures of the wedding here

Art of Living ..gNagar style

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The Art of Living, is something terribly à la mode in present times and everyone is attending classes or discourses to master it..

For the past five years I too have been attending such classes but in a different school altogether and with masters who are just two feet tall and have not even walked this earth for a thousand days.

I often have kids from gNagar come home to spend some time and I am amazed at their behaviour and at the ease and grace with which they adapt themselves. A far cry from what my peers and friends tend to think.. I have never had anything broken, never a wall scribbled on, never a grain of rice dropped on the carpet..

K and Mr P came to the all the celebrations we had recently and I was amazed at their behavior. They did not sit in a corner but were part of the festivities, enjoyed themelves, wished people and answered questions. They danced and laughed and Mr p regaled everyone with his antics.. and then when he realised he was tired, even though the night was still young, he found me and simply said “Mummy pass jana hai” – I want to go to mummy-!

Mummy for mr P is a dark dingy room where the air is stale and damp, but it is home and that is where every sensible person returns at the end of the day, that is where one belongs…

One of the greatest lessons in the art of living I have been taught is the way these kids handle two worlds, with no resentment or jealousy, enjoying each for what it is.. but never forgetting what their reality is..

Can one find a better example of the art of living..

and the winners are…

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The raffle draw was held yesterday at project why…

The raffle had been thought of as one for upmarket people and hence the prizes were tailored to that taste – barring of course the dinner with a bollywood star -. But once we had printed the tickets and set out to sell them, we were aghast at the total lack of enthusiasm we met be it college kids, friends or acquaintances, the response was lukewarm at best..

I must confess that teamProjectwhy was crestfallen, but somehow I was not too surprised. and in the spirit of what we stand for, we decided to sell the raffle tickets in the slums we work in . A great sales team comprising of pwhy staff, parents and children was created and we managed to sell quite a few tickets. We had to, as akshay kumar had give us a date in late november. To make the raffle more attractive to simple folks we added a VCD player!

On 20th November at 11 am, young innocent hands drew the names of the winners and to my delight Bindiya a lovely Lohar woman won the evening with akshay, and ram bibek, a poor tea stall owner won the VCD.. how proud they were.

Bindiya will be going with her brother and ram bibek has hooked on his VCD to his old black and white TV.

and everyone is asking when the next raffle will be…

The initial set back turned to be aboon in disguise and maybe we have a new funding option in the making.

Note: we are looking for sponsors for prizes that slum folsk would like – small music system, TV, irons, mixies etc we are still far from the 4000 one rupee a day donors we need

100th blog

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This is the 100th blog I write and publish..

I started this blog a few months ago hoping that I could convey some of the heartwarming and heartbreaking moments one lives on planet why.

I have been overwhelmed by the response to this blog.

This was a special week as my daughter got married, but more so because this wedding was one with a difference. It brought together many worlds.. So there was a page 3 party, an extremely traditional wedding ceremony, a fun bash for the friends of the young couple and the celebrations ended on planet why with a big dance party with the children of pwhy!

It was a great happening as all barriers disappeared and all that mattered was the music and the laughter. The upmarket friends of the groom who had never left the confines of their parisian district mingled with the gypsy kids of the Lohar camp and celebrated this event.

As I watched I thought to myself, that bringing two worlds together was not as difficult as one feared, one just had to take the first step with conviction and the rest followed, even in a town where barriers seem impregnable..

celebrating… with a difference

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It was a celebration… but one with a difference.. and one that celebrated ‘difference’!

p and j got married.. in a city where weddings have become barometers of one’s success.. where people wreck their brains to find ways of outdoing others.. where flowers are flown from across the world and strange cuisines discovered… where guests drip jewellerey and stand in bored silence..

p and j got married.. in a ceremony that did out do many.. the groom came on a motorcycle and the wedding party followed in three wheelers to the beat of frenzied dholaks played by pwhy parents , the ceremony was held in the tiny lawn of the bride’s house and not in any farm house or starred hotel, the caterer was up market and the tentwallah from a slum, the guest lists was eclectic coming from diferent lands and all walks of life.. and everyone came together to wish the couple a happy life..

It was a wedding that brought together many worlds , one that proved that diferences needed to be celebrated…

DJ hona chahiye – there must be a D.J.

Two days from today my I marry my fist born…

A simple marriage is anathema to this city we live on…

As the marriage season dawns India’s capital city is replete with weddings that would put Mira Nair’s Monsson Wedding to shame.. it is almost as if Delhi’s beautiful people come alive.. you are flooded with wedding invitations that look like art pieces and you wonder how many trees were cut to make one such card…and cards cannot come alone: they are accompanied by sweetmeats in boxes that discreetely reveal the state of your bank account… and then comes the task of deciding which ceremony you will attend.. as gone are the days where invited to one only.. and what you will wear as that too is a yardstick to measure your success.

Weddings are no more family affairs where you were guided by the elders and the family priest, and have become social statements.. true that everyone is ready to agree with you when you say that they have become ostentatious displays of wealth, but quick to retort that it cannot be otherwise and that so for many reasons: from the wish of the child to be married to the fear of social stigma..

So planning a simple wedding, where the sanctity of the ceremony and the family traditions are paramount is quite a task, as I discovered in the past few days. My daughter’s wedding will held at home and there will be a limited number of people: the ones she wants to have on that very special day!

To achieve this in a city where everyone is judged by appareance has been a herculean task. Trying to explain why there are no cards, no fancy sangeets in hotels or farm houses, no fancy performers, no ostentatious wedding outfits that no one wears again is much harder than one may think. If you say that this is what you beleive in, the answer i :what will people say! You are made to feel unfair to your child, mean and marginal and after a while not fit for Delhi consumption.

But I did survive all and the guest list does not cross 100 and the number of food items on the table 10 and the music will be a dholak played by pwhy staff and the space has been limited to the confines of our home.. and the tone will be set by the family purohit..

But I must confess that I had to give vin to the demands of one side of my family: the project why children who also have the right the celebrate maam’s daughter’s wedding. They want a party where the main element has to be a D.J and a dance floor.

So one day after the wedding there will be a party in gNagar with a D.J., a dance floor and a coffee machine.

This simple demand made me realise how important it is for people lile us to do the right thing as what we called the poor, will always emulate what we do – good or bad – : to them that is the way to social transformation. The difference is that whereas we dip into our bank accounts or piled up wealth, they borrow at 10% a month from the local money lender.

Think about it….