dreams on hold

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We just heard that it is too late for nandini… she cannot have corrective surgery.. one feels terible as this child deserved to have her dreams come true.. and maybe we can help her.. so her dreams are now ours to fulfill
10-3-06

nandini was born with a hole in her heart.. she lived 9 long years where in spite of her debilitating ailment she grew up into a lovely girl, went to school where she did everyone proud.. like every child she had dreams, dreams of one day being a doctor..

had she been born in a rich family, simple corrective surgery would have taken care of her problem.. but that was not to be and it took many years before she could get the needed medical attention..

today the doctors reviewed her case and felt that it was too late, the damage was to severe.. and surgery would prove difficult.. it will take them another week to take a final decision..

now one need not be to a rocket scientist to understand what this means: no operation means a truncated life where an overworked heart will give up sooner than later..

we wait for the final verdict.. and all dreams are on hold…

the other side of midnight

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Wedding time seems to have gripped our city and we have had an array of them: from the creme de la creme to the simple folk.. wedding bells were ringing

If people did not stop talking about a recent page 3 wedding that panned three cities and many nights, we had our own page 0 wedding. A young dalit girl got married and though there were not many to comment on it, it was a big wedding with the groom on a chariot, a snazzy tent, international food and a dowry where washing machine, color TV and VCD players were proudly displayed.. one will for the moment not mention that much of the money was borrowed some of it a 120% a year!

Two ends of the spectrum..

Then there was another wedding one attended, where most of the guests were from planetB… people who belonged to the sacrosanct world of India’s ruling class. Now the talk of the day was j.lal and justice denied.. good point to start talking about India and the spectrum, where justice is denied everyday to people.. I was startled to see how little they knew about the land they represent or administer. We talked about many things from slum weddings to slum schools.. and I was amused to see that to many, it seemed as if i were talking of another planet. This is how little people know about the other side of midnight..

The little girl in this picture was merely a thought, when her sister was brutally murdered in what seemed to be a human sacrifice.. no matter how hard we tried, no proper FIR was registered and in spite of appeals to the NHRC and the police authorities, the case was explained as two children – the little girl age 5 and her cousin age 3 – having decided on their own to cross busy roads and find their way in the dark of the night to one manhole that had been left opened..

Rohan and Puja did not have parents that could fight for them.. and we did not have sufficient clout..

So if today j. lal’s case can restore justice and make some lasting changes in our legal system, it will herald new hope. Muscle and Money the two dreaded M’s have to be overpowered and only civil society can do that.. Today’s fight may seem a page 3 one, but it is not so, as the outcome of this outrage will change things for every one who suffers injustice.. and ensure that little Nidhi will lead a safe life..

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I love the interplay of lights in this picture.. it reminds me of India and its surprising ways.. whne you think that all around you is dark, a glimmer of light appears from nowhere and brings back the hope you had almost given up on..

last week delhi was stunned by the verdict in the jessica lal case. the assassins of a young middle class woman who had been shot dead in front of over 100 people , were set free by a court of law.. simply because they were connected.. a mockery of the legal system… and delhi reacted, maybe because j. lal was one of them.. press articles, TV programmes and even support campaigns got underway as the picture of this beautiful woman was flashed with inescapable regularity.. yet there was an imperceptible feeling of resignation epitomised by the young woman’s sister who was not even willing to carry on the fight.. and it did not seem likely that the prosecution would file an appeal..

but like a bolt out of the blue, this afternoon delhi heard that the high court had taken su motto notice and directed the police and investigative agencies to report on the case in four weeks.. it was a matter of prestige for the legal system that had to be addressed.

a proud moment for the invisible citizen as each one of us felt that tiny bit safer. now the ball is in our court and we the citizens have to see that the polemic does not die and that the case is reopened so that jessica’s killers are brought to justice..

B from the city and N from the village

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babli and nandini.. both innmates of our heartFix hotel.. and believe it or not, they are both 9.. one grew up in the slums of delhi, the other in a village in bihar..

they were both born with the same congenital heart defect.. babli as you know had heart surgery and is now busy making up for all the lost school years and getting ready to appear for a class III entrance exam; nandini is already in class V in a ‘private’ school in Sipaul and dreams of being a doctor..

what strikes one who looks at them is the different in size.. the little village girl is in spite of her breathing difficulties, as tall as any 9 year old, whereas little babli who grew up in a dingy airless hovel looks five at most.. says a lot about growing up in a healthy, albeit poor, environment and staying away from the fast food and urban goodies…

what si even more amazing is the fact that nandini may not even need surgery as the doctors envisage trying out a softer option.. we will know next week what they do decide..

time has come to try and tell people that cities like delhi with no proper housing, lack of fresh air, poor diet and bad quality schooling is no more the big apple… and maybe one should start looking at creating new employment options in the smaller cities.. a reverse migration has to be the call of the day..

but who bells the cat…

practice what you preach…

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I often find myself saying that one of our main flaws is to magnify the bad and overlook the good things. This is true in our everyday life. Thus we remember the day someone forgot to salt the food but forget all the other days when the food was right; we blame the administration for its failures but never highlight its achievements.. the list is endless…

I find myself often saying this to pwhy kids and staff and it is something I believe in.. so imagine my dismay when I realised that sometimes one forgets to practice what one ‘preaches’.

I got a mail today from R who asked me to share something about the okhla primary section. While answering the mail I thought of including links to blogs about the centre and was shocked to find only one!

Blogging is my way of sharing many of the problems and issues encountered and what I realised was that the okhla centre was like the good child, the one that does what is expected almost to perfection, and often becomes invisible.. while one is busy talking about the problem child.

So mea culpa and need to redress matters and talk about this child of ours, one that epitomises the very essence of our mission.

Okhla came into being almost 18 months ago when we were looking to expand our primary outreach. It is the brainchild of two great women: Sophiya and Pushpa who set out finding a location, wooing the local politicos and cops and cleaning up a garbage dump replete with pigs and dirt. A plastic sheet resting on 4 bamboo poles was erected by these two ladies and they begun teaching scores of children.. Their initial days were tough as they came up against a local mafia group who had been using these children to steal of the railway wagons or even push drugs.. often on week ends the rickety structure was pulled down, but nothing could deter the indomitable spirit of these two ladies..

They slowly met all the authorities concerned and in a few months made a semi-permanent structure and wore down all their opponents by their patient ways. What is amazing about these two is that they never complain or share their problems, but find solutions and ways out. Today the little centre is vibrant and active and over 150 children come their and learn.

Our ladies even organised a function for Republic Day, where the local municipal councillor and Station House Officer were chief guests. It is only today when I was ruddely shaken out of my complacency, that I realised how much they had achieved and more than that how well they had understood the true vision of pwhy, one of little primary outreach centres wherever there are children in need..

I realise today that we not only overlook the good things, but overlook things that go our way and take them for granted whereas they are the ones that need to be lauded. And the okhla primary centre and their ladies are to be admired and praised for the excellent work they are doing.

It is a matter of pride for me and a vindication of the vision I have for pwhy!

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In a time when the city is ablaze with demolition and talk about illegal buildings and slum clusters, when courts have ordered no further ‘regularisation,a board was erected in front of a slum community centre next to pwhy and inaugurated by all the local politicos.. it heralds the construction of the first floor of the slum wing community centre.

The slums of gNagar are encroachments on public land.. they are tucked between buildings on the roadside and government buildings, and hence ‘illegal’ even if some are over 25 years old. The slum wing of the MCD is for slum dwellers and any construction by them is meant for slum people’s benefit.

So when the MCD slum wing decides to spent public money to construct an additional floor on an existing community centre what message does it send to simple slum people: that is well on in the said area.. and they are somewhat safe!

By the way let us not forget that municipal elections are not faraway, that there is only a short time left to ‘please’ friends hand out contracts, so maybe that is the name of the game. On the one hand secure your illiterate vote bank by sending a confused message, and and on the other get a last chance to please friends.

It is almost frightening to see such act of blatant disregard to laws and rules in broad daylight… dwhat is even more scarry is that some loophole or small print will be found to justify all this. This is when citizens have to act…

Note: The comunity cenre in question was erected in a children’s park and handed over to a organisation that works with children from other areas and social background. The building is never used for the slum community for which it was made.

babaa..day, badnasday or vday pwhy style

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Funny how the ‘poor’ emulate the ‘rich’ in everything.. so this morning S our creche worker who is a little simple minded carried a bunch of cellophane wrapped roses.. she entered the office and and mumbled ‘happy bababaa day” and handed her roses to all present.. someone must have tried to correct her so later in the day the last rose was given with a cheery ‘happy banasday’.

Many laughed at this simple soul, without malice of course.

For a long time I sat and pondered over the whole issue of Vday…something that had begun in 200 AD with a poor convicted man’s last missive to his love and that has mutated into a commercial bizMess and fuel for moral policing.. and somehow in all this is the vDay of urban slums where flowers are given to friends and colleagues in a desperately touching effort to be modern and in tune with times.. and accepted.

loos and woes — some answers

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In my previous post I wrote about meals in loos.. there were some comments on this post and one that disturbed me. It said:

…to me its quite OK ,i am sure there are many more schools in India which dont get anything to eat, let alone the ones stored in toilets…

Yes I agree there are things much worse but does that make it OK..

The same person also wonders why one has not done something, made a noise, gone to court, to the media.. my answer may surprise many but here it is for whatever it is worth..

I think that all of us know that making a noise does not do much good… the noise lasts till a louder one silences it… and then what do you make the noise about.. it is not a matter of meals in loos, it is the larger issue of government assuming the responsibility of giving education to children as per the 92nd amendment of the constitution..

It takes two to tango, so only when the other side of the spectrum is empowered to demand for its rights will things change.. it is a long and silent road, but is one that will reach its destination..

Today government schools are feudal and the teachers lord over his fief made of illiterate parents and vulnerable kids, where sticks and insults are the weapons used to silence anyone that dares say anything..

In the past years we have taken on many issues but often found that the making a noise has often had adverse effect. Some time back, we tried to tackle corporal punishment in schools by brandishing cour orders and seeking media support.. it did make front pages but what ensued was the targetting of all pwhy students by teh school authorities..

It takes two to tango and change can only come when the end users are able to stand for their rights.. armed with all the knowledge that have been kept away from them and the tools that they can have access to be it the Right to Information Act or the simple ability to read. So my answer is yes, we are doing something.. our way!

meals in loos – delhi school woes

Many may have seen the evening news programme that showed a municipal school in Delhi where midday meals were stored in toilets and even classes were held in bathrooms.. a shocking revelation for sure.. but as I looked at the pictures of this resettlement colony school on the outskirts of delhi, I saw much more..

What some may have not noticed was the number of eager students, their eyes shining, a touching proof of their desire to be there.. in this temple of learning where their eyes did not see what was missing: they had a school and that was what mattered..

Slums get relocated to areas where there areno schools or school such as this one. Many of these children must have attended a school somewhere in Delhi where their homes was earlier.. on paper the authorities will show that the restelement colony has all amenities and necessities..never mind if the school is too small, does not have teachers, drinking water or electricity.. there is a school and the paper work is complete.

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The children in this picture come to us in the morning after a cup of tea and maybe a bad quality rusk.. they carry no tiffin boxes and will go to their municipal school at 12.30pm where they will eat their midday meal: often a small bowl of rice or two poories. That will be the only sustainance they have till they reach back home around 6pm. Many may not know it but for many children the midday meal is not an addition to a normal diet but simply replaces one meal. The government was right when they said that the midday meal would incite children to attend school but what one sees is a something else.. I was told that in Bihar a district official had decided to hand out dry rations as an incentive. Often the collected rations of siblings provide the family with a decent meal.. maybe a better option that one should look at..

What makes one sad and angry is that where children are concerned every thing offered is short of.. something.. why can we not go all the way and provide the children a school with all amenities, many guaranteed by the Constitution..

In the same news bulletin there was an item about the enormous amounts of MPs unused funds, funds that should have gone to build infratructure.. and when funds are used as we have seen in our own area, they are used to make a skating rink where no one skates, while schools are without toilets..

This is a time where people like us should ask questions and see that the gap between laws and implementation is bridged: be it the court order on medical care or the constitutional right to basic education..

It was heart wrenching but also heart warming to see a little girl say in the very programme that depicted the sad state of her school how she enjoyed coming to learn her alphabet and her tables.. for that is why she came to school..

The children of India are the best you can have, we do not have the right to let them down.. and if we do we must be prepared for consequences and ready with answers..

heartfix hotel…

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We could not save Chetna.. but someone up there seems to think that our heartFix venture is worthwhile.. and out of the blue landed Nandini from a remote village in Bihar. She is 9 and needs heart surgery to repair a hole in her heart..

In spite of her exhausting medical condition, and the factt that she lives in a small village, Nandini is in class V and even speaks English. She loves maths and wants to be a doctor. We asked her to come to class till her surgery and as you can see she has not only made friends but is even helping others .says a lot about rural India!

Her father is a small farmer who toild all day long and barely feeds his family. Nandini has two brothers and one sister. She is a lovely girl and her family is fighting for her life, but needs some help and support.. She has come with her gradmother and uncle.. It is heartwarming to see a small family with limited means trying to save this lovely girl child.

In spite of laws that promise treatment for the poor in private hospitals, little children like Nandini will fall out of the net, as it will be proved that the income of the family is more than the BPL rs 2000/ a month.

So Nandini’s heart is for our heartFix Hotel!