a motley winning team


remember ramu, babli’s sullen brother who was handled with great efficiency by our knights in shining armur… well he did us proud as he stood first in his school in Class V… and that is not all, all our primary kids have passed.. even those we did not think would make it..

as the kids proudly brought their results cards, it was the teachers who came into the office with beaming faces.. somehow they seemed to be more excited than the kids..

remember these teachers are all slum people who never dreamt that they could ‘teach’.. many had to leave studies due to early marriages.. for many it is also an imperceptible social climb, as some worked in factories, others were unemployed and some even cleaned homes.. and they know that they have to prove themselves at every step.. and they have.

these spirited ladies and the Kundan the token man, know that many a times I have to defend them and that sometimes we have even been refused funds as the teachers were not trained.. but they also know that I have always defended them and stood by them quiteky stating that 100%results for six runing years was sufficient prood of their competence..

and one must not forget the kids, who have believed in us and come before or after school, sometimes travelling for over an hour sustained by the meagre meal given by the MCD schools. The kids have always been there cold, rain or heat; they have never complained about the lasck of emenities, the roadside classroom or the porcine neigbours..

so a motley team it is, but one that wins…

heart caught in red tape


I do not know Anshu Kumari.. I just hope someone had shown her the way to our heartFix Hotel..

A leading TV channel aired her story. It went like this: An 11-year-old girl in Bihar is awaiting help for her heart surgery despite President APJ Kalam offering to bear the expenses for the treatment. Anshu Kumari was born with a blockage in her heart. Her father, a security guard, cannot afford the treatment.
On a visit to Bihar in December, the President had promised to pay for the surgery needed to save Anshu’s life. But three months later, there is still no sign of help and Anshu’s treatment hasn’t started

This is the endemic problem that plagues us.. the huge gap between good intentions, programmes.. and the people they are meant for. Tritherapy for AIDS is now free, but few HIV +ve patients know about it, and even if they manage to reach centres, the way they are treated ensures they never return; many programmes for children never reach them as their parents do not have the voice needed to ask for their rights.. and the list is endless.. some people benefit, the task payer pays but the beneficiary gets nothing..

Good governance is today’s leit motiv and often quoted as a panacea for all ills.. as a first step maybe people like us should take on the simple task of acting as a bridge and beeing the voice of those who still have to learn to speak up.. It is encouraging to see that the voice of the people is now being heard, at least to redress wrong.. but the next step is to inform ourselves of the reality around and ensure action..

In Jammu and Kashmir relocated families are forced to see their children as rations promised were stopped and no work was available.. again a report that was aired today..

We need to take initiatives.. as we have all the tools needed from the Right to Information Act to the judicial system.. till every person garners the courage to speak, we have to be their voice.. and not wait for others tp do so, we have to learn to look with our hearts and beyond ourselves..

If a small project like ours could manage to get 5 heart surgeries done.. anyone can..

One simply has to want to take the first step

a smile lost

nanhe is in hospital again.. and we are worried.. he was doing much better and we were waiting for the doctors to decide upon the next surgery.. two days ago he was unwell and was taken to hospital where he had a series of fit.. he was admitted immediately..

nanhe recovered from the fits but seemed to have disconnected and lost part of his hearing.. he was discharged but yesterday his fits appeared again and he is now in hospital in poor shape.. his smile lost somewhere in the recesses of his brain..

The doctors seem at a loss and we are all distressed.. and praying for a miracle.. and the return of his smile

don’t forget she is a girl


For young Sandhya the wait continues.. after her chicken pox got over and the 61 K were deposited, sanhya went to AIIMS and we were hoping that a date for her angiography and subsequent surgery would be given fast. Well for some reason or the other it was not and the date written on the green card was 15 may 2006, 7 weeks from now.

sandhya, as some of you may remember hails from a small village in Bihar. Her father is according to sandhya’s mom ‘simple minded’ and cannot work much. they survive on the meagre income they get from the little land they have..

They came to Delhi after Sandhya’s debilitating ailment was detected and live with a sister-in-law in a tiny hovel.. now 7 weeks is a long time.. and guests can start feeling unwelcome.. but were Sandhya to go back, I fear that many would advise on the futility of making the trip again and wasting more money.. don’t forget Sandhya is just a girl.. this is when the famous gender issues we highlight take their most poignant form..

We will try our level best to pre-pone the date, it has become a matter of life and death!

fiestas of another kind


great bike.. all boys want one some day.. a valid dream that can be yours if you work hard would be the normal line to pitch..

well not quite as one has been witnessing with growing panic..

our ersthwile quiet world has been invaded by a new army.. and eebiz is the buzz.. in the past few months in spite of our best efforts, there is a proliferation of new recruits all in their newfound attire of black pants and white shirts and black ties..

the pyramid sale vessel has landed in our slum.. and two captains selected from our very own to lead the new army. One of them is our very first class X student..

the buzz is that 7500rs can give you the world.. learn and earn.. join the internet highway.. just buy a self learning education package!

Stop I scream.. the people targeted are practically illiterate and can barely survive.. but who is listening when the captains have got gleaming bikes and even a ford fiesta… and as more gullible people go scurrying to borrow the needed sum at alarming interest rates, young people get drawn into the net as the captains earn more..

but there are subtler dangers, the unexpressed jealousy and resentment.. the possible violence that can take all kind of hues when people lose all they have invested.. when the promised money remains elusive and the money lender’s is at your doorstep..

incredible women


Recently many articles were written on young Rubiya from Kerala, a muslim girl who is a bharatnatyam dancer and has danced since age 3.. often to sustain her family. When shunned by the local mosque committee this 17 year old retorts with rare wisdom:“God is one. When I pay ritualistic obeisance through mudras , I am imploring not just the Hindu gods but the supreme creator, which we call by different names.”


The woman in the picture is Saira Bano, and yes she wears sindoor and a bindi! She is the perfect example of the good grassroot politician.. A midwife by profession, she became a social activist to help women and their families..

Armed with courage and rare common sense, she slowly established her network that includes the local politicians and administrators who all cannot help but admire her.. She is the one who helped us set up our okhla programme and stood there at every step, negotiating with goons and cops with her determined smile and never-say-die attitude.. and even got the local SHO (police in charge) and the local municipal corporator to our Republic day celebrations.

Asked about sindoor and bindis.. she retorts: When in Rome.. do as the romans do – for her it was an easier way to get entry into homes..

Now the question everyone wants to ask is about the reaction of her brethren: her answer is simple.. a mussalman is one with true Iman or honour, and that she has.. and as long as her husband and children understand her, she is not afraid of of anyone..

Incredible women in Incredible India

Is he still smiling…


Went to what at best could be called a funding fantasy.

The cause AIDS children in the north eastern states of India; the venue: an up market club; the sponsors: jewellery tycoons; the guest list: Delhi’s very own page almost 3; the chief guest: a minister.. food and drinks; the mandatory fashion show that went on and on; an auction that never happened because there was always an anonymous bidder that bid more than the bidder (seems fishy) and a quiz that did not ask questions about AIDs but about how many diamonds were in the bustier the lady wore in the picture on the screen..! and the finale: a cheap rendering of the actual charbuster where a poor woman gyrated amidst cat calls..

This is not fantasy or an imaginary event, I attended it myself though I had to keep pinching my arm to believe it was real..

rewind to 12 years back
My thoughts went back to a charity event organised in France some years back, where the main message the organisers and the VIP invitees wanted to put across was the need to show people that HIV +ve people could be touched and hugged and this was done with dignity and grace.. I almost felt like going to the mike and telling people that there were some HIV positive people among the guests.. wonder what would have happened..

rewind to 10 years back
I cannot forget the time I spent at Micahel’s care, a haven where people with AID could die with dignity, and the words of a young north easterm mother who was close to death: just sit by me and hold my hand didi.. I did..

rewind to 10 weeks back
In the ward where nanhe was admitted, was a child with high fever. he had lost his parents and was there with his aunt.. all was well till the tests results came back.. he was HIV +ve. The nursing staff’s behaviour changed with immediate effect and as the buzz started attitudes changed.. needless to say he was gone the next time I visited. I felt sorry as I had come with information about the new free tri-therapy.. and in spite of my bst efforts , I could notfind the family.I just have his picture and his smile and keep wondering: is he still smiling...

This is the India we live… And notwithstanding how much the charity made that evening, I wish they had used the evening to spread a little awareness about AIDs.

funding fantasy


These words dropped in the mailbox this morning: “I am just about to lose my patience here with ….. I don’t understand what their problem is – seems like they just want to dissect each issue to pieces forsaking the larger picture at hand.”

They were written by a supporter trying to harness some help for pwhy from a funding organisation.. Unlike many pwhy supporters who have never been to see us but still have found us worthy and extended generous help, this friend had been to pwhy and spent time with us..

Welcome to the world of funding organisations and their excruciating paper work.. Welcome to a world where trust and giving have been clouded by extreme caution bordering suscpicion..

Some time back words like these use to infuriate me.. now they make me smile, though a sad smile.. I have diligently answered questions and filled forms while trying to softly share my concern and views.. I have also watched with detached amusement those who have been sent to evaluate us, counting children to meet the mentioned figure.. this in spite of my having explained that ours is an after school centre for children who sometimes leave, where the numbers can vary according to season, and holidays and festivities…

Education, development, awareness are all issues that make sense only if one can gain the trust of the people and to gain that trust one sometimes has to make course corrections and changes.. Solutions are not right if they cannot transcend time and space and that is why we have been doggedly trying to evolve a model which can be self sustained, not only where funds are concerned, but in the realm of skills and resources, keeping the costs to a bare minimum..

So we run with local staff who often to not have the skills to meet the complex formalities of many funding organisations.. though they do wonders with the children. For us getting someone to do that would equal the cost of setting up two primary extensions!

People still laugh at my rupee-a-day funding fantasy.. but it is one I do not give up on and find myself sometimes dreaming of the day when many such centres will exist and will be funded by local people: the parents, the shopkeeper, the flat resident, the local businessman.. and what makes me hold on is the sight of little Vishal counting his cars painstakingly in an environement where is childhood is safe



Last week, it took me a lot of patience to convince a shopkeeper to give Utpal the kitchen set he wanted.. the shopkeeper tried as best he could to sell mr P a gun, or a car or anything that was for boys! but mr P knew his mind and he wanted the kitchen set to be able to play with his friend Kiran..

Wonder where gender bias begins.. right from childhood when adulst decide what you play with.. and yet pretend play is so important and many boys love imitating their mums and cooking or making tea.. we bought the kicthen set in spite of the glares..

Today was cooking class in the special section, an activity that I insist everyone participates in: so boys or girl all have their chore for the day and they love it. A a child with autism had a ball breaking the paneer – cottage cheese- as it was a soothing activity and one he connected with.. but he was quick to tell us that his mom would not allow him to do it at home.. we promised to talk to the mom but know that it will be no easy task..

These kind of mindsets are present at every nook and corner, and sometimes we do not even see them.. yet they have their effect and creates a divide between boys and girls.. one that can lead to terrible consequences.. So let boys cook if they want to..


spair grace soup and lemongrace tea

teach my child english.. was the first things many parents asked me six years back when i first landed on planet why.. now many may think why every parent feels that english is necessary for their children.. come on what use would a vegetable vendor or a mechanic do with english..


this is what i discovered on the brand new sign board of my vegetable vendor who now has to cater for the foreign clients and the new eating fads.. bins spraut, red cabies and spair grace are eaten by all – we are talking of bean sprouts, red cabbage and asparagus in case you had not figure it out – and so are jugnis or jugnu as radhey my scooter driver calls zucchini.. we are in the world of phonetics and hindi prononciations faithfully transcribed by a signboard painter! Do not forget the lemongrace tea!

what a delight.. and let us hope it stays like this.. at least it brings a smile when nothing else does