games gods play


I write today because I am a liittle perplexed..
When God or whoever else is up there, lands you with a child whom he has put through much emotional and physical pain, a child with both ugly visible and deep seated invisible scars, what does he want you to do..

Ease the physical pain – easily done – deal with the outward problems – easily done too., remove the immediate cause of injury and send them for repair.. and then what next..

Utpal’s presence in my home is far larger than I can fathom; it deals not only with the little problems of a little boy, but with larger issues, many concerning me.. It puts to test all that I stand for, and brings into my home something which till date remained out.. It proves that you do not juggle with two worlds without the risk of having them clash in the most unexpected way.. that you do not render lip service without the risk of it finding its way to your heart.. that in matter of so called ‘charity’, you cannot pontificate without accepting the challenge to act.. when you cannot bask in the kudos without being prepared to vindicate what you stand for in more ways than one

When Utpal lands in your life, you have to go all the way, and all the way is not just a matter of funds and finances and bills paid, but much more.. you enter a one way journey in a land you do not know and cannot imagine.. where you do not know what you may be asked to give up

What was tolerated by those close to you as a twilight years occupation well contained in a slot, suddenly threatens to change things around.. the face that till then sat quietly on a wall frozen in a frame now walks around your home..innocent and trusting.. asking for nothing but needing so much..

I wonder if this is the time when your God and the God of Lesser Ones get together to write a script for you, one you need to play to perfection if you still want to look at yourself in a mirror and not turn away.. a time when you are alone and have to do the right thing, even if the right thing means you having to walk solo..

This is a test of responsibility, one you have to win if you are to retain your self respect and be worthy of the love of others..

So bye bye plans, holidays and all else.. this is a time to prove who you the one who matters..

Note: we are looking for a school for utpal, and we will then need all the support we can get to ensure that his future is secured

CZS or the syndrome continued

I wrote about this syndrome earlier . This syndrome is far more complex than we think. As I watch students agitating against the quota system and being beaten up by policemen I feel more disturbed than ever. I realise that even pwhy sunk into the CZS as it basked in the glory of the 100% result..

But let us take time and think.. what are we doing: perpetuating the hoax played by the government of handing out useless diplomas and certificates which give false hopes and shattered dreams.. if we go back it all began when a cynical school principal dismissed a bunch of class X boys saying that they were gutter rubbish and could never pass their Boards. the hurt on those young faces was sufficient for me to quip back:”I taken on the challenge to make them pass”

A motley crowd they were, in the dead of winter as we started early morning classes on the road side.. not quite believing and yet dreaming the impossible.. well maybe the gods were with us as they all passed.. never mind the marks.. as years went by pwhy was supporting students from class I to XII and they were all passing and thus we began slipping into our Comfort Zone.. in our obsession for the 100% results we forgot much of the essential: building character and good citizens..

The reservation knell brought us back to order.. what was important was to give valid options to our children and show them how to build their future.. and the future was not useless low mark degrees but sound vocational options.. and above all the ability to think for one’s self.. the courage to de different if one thinks one is right..

Hence though we will continue our education support, we have to see that children get at least 50% and those who are not able to do so, should be gently guided towards other options.. options that can also motivate them to think about taking the road back to their habitat of origin.. we need to instill back pride in villages, respect for the environment, teach the children their role as citizens and their duties therein..

That this soul searching should come at a time when we are actually moving is also a welcome fact. It is time we stop losing ourselves in false numbers whether it be the 100% pass mark, or the 500 plus children. What we al pwhy must remember is that even if we have 50 students who can uphold the principles we believe we are winners, and if of the 50, 5 take the road back home with new skills then we are champs!

CZS is dangerous as it is insidious and so subtle that you slip into it quite unaware be it in a personal relationship or in a professional one. It robs you of your creative abilities and makes you forget your real goals as you bask in a false glory.. one has to fight this each day and set out new challenges each day.

We are moving and though our babies ands special kids will have a home, our primary extensions will be out in the field where I hope that not only we teach, but also look for solutions that will benefit the community be it the garbage and the flies, or the non-functional public conveniences..

We are moving out of our comfort zone into…

when was love logical…

In one night utpal lost all he had.. he did not have much by our standards but he had a home to go back to, and above all a mother whom he loved with almost illogical passion..

but when was love logical…

Over the last four years Utpal has taught us many things but most of all the meaning of dignified acceptance in the wake of any adversity: from excruciating pain that third degree burns bring, to the abject humiliation you suffer when those you love the most let you down..

Utpal somehow became our brand ambassador and our good luck charm, and epitomised the spirit of pwhy, one that does not give up.. or give in! He has walked into many hearts as he had so much love to share..

Last year when we needed a name for a fishing boat that was to be given to a small village in T Nadu, Utpal is the name we all thought of..

The child was a survivor, and brought hope and love wherever he went.. Little Buddha some called him, Sunshine Boy was what others said..

He loved his mom with rare passion.. I remember when he came home with me, at the strike of 5 pm, he would turn his little face upward and tell me : “mama pass jana hai” – want to go to mama..

Mama was a dark room, often smelling of alcohol and stale food, where he did not know whether he would be beaten or fed.. but mama was also the comfort only a mother can give..the fish and rice she sometimes made, the safety of her lap..

But then last month the father stole from his boss and the police came knocking and slowly his world came crashing.. Whereas moma has taken the first step to recovery and will be away for six months, the father fled with the few belongings they possessed leaving Utpal with nothing but his memories.. In one night Utpal lost all he had..

Today, the little boy whose smile has brought solace to so many, who has a boat named after him that bobs on the high sea bringing joy to many, has nowhere to go.

Utpal needs all of us to stand by him and make sure that he has a bright future..

read about utpal at these links

where is the soap
as the snake waits in the wings
back to his hole
7 days on a planet
there is fish and rice
games adult play
boman, beauman, superman
rarely is love instant
there are no invitation card
gender bias
smile referred to
all gods angels
braveheart named utpal

a braveheart..named utpal

He is just four.. or 48 months old.. not a big man.. but a true braveheart.. he just checked his mom into rehab and will not be seeing her for six weeks.. that is the rule..

His mom drinks.. and a woman that drinks is treated with utter disdain in slums where she is the object of snide reamarks, ridicule and abuse by men in search for a drinking companion.. alcohol in slums reminds you of the world of Zola: it is dark and destructive. It feeds itself on school fees, and rent money and leads to petty crime.. Utpal has seen it all.

His tryst with alcohol began when he fell into a boiling pan.. and suffered third degree burns when he was one.. then it was a litany of ugly scenes and beating, and as he grew older the shame and indignity that he could barely express..

His mom did try to fight it as best she could but to no avail.. we tried to help but the addiction was too far gone.. and the temptations many.. then came the last straw when his dad stole money and was hounded by the police night after night..

It was time to put a stop to the nightmare and after much searching we found a centre that had a home programme for women.. Children are intuitive and somehow Utpal felt that the long trip we all took across the city today would change his life… he laughed all the way and his joy was palpable and moving.. we were not prepared for mom signing in, and when she did decide to, to my heart missed a beat.. how would Utpal react.. well we were in for a surprise as he bid farewell to his mom with a smile and walked away his little head held high..

He is with us at home now and the picture you see was taken a short while back.. he knows he is safe but above all he knows his mom is safe..

All God’s angels…


When little Leila Fodil left her country in 1983 to seek medical care in France, all she and her family must have wished was for her to win her battle againts leukemia. When, in spite of the love and care of her foster family she lost that battle in 1985 , no one would have dreamt that little children her age living thousands of miles away would 21 years later come to know about her and have their own little school because of her!

Sorrow and loss often bring people down, but sometimes get transformed into beautiful acts of generosity and kindness that transcends language, frontiers and lands and gives true meaning to the word humane.

All God’s angels come to us disguised” said James Russell Lowell. We just have to learn to recognise them.. little Leila Fodil was one such angel. Today pwhy will have a little home for its special children and tiny tots because Leila walked this earth.

As I write these words, I am overwhelmed by the realisation that for the last 6 years, many angels have come our way.. Manu who made pwhy happen and thus transformed the lives of so many, Utpal whose courage and sagacity has helped us walk that extra mile, Nanhe who has by his simple smile ensured that we never give up and help others like him… yes, there have been many angels that have quietly come into our lives and ensured that we set things right for our friend the God of Lesser Ones.. maybe that is his way of functioning in this day and age..

Athiti Dev Bhav (your guest maybe God) has now become a jaded tourism pitch, but if we look beyond the apparent meaning, this simple statement says it all.. angels will not wear wings or halos, they will drop by anytime and in unexpected ways.. Manu lived for many years shunned by all, yet no one would have thought that he would be the instrument for changing so many lives, Nanhe’s pain seems so unfair and yet his smile is the one that brought so many people together.. and the list goes on, in the aftermath of Leila’s loss, no one would have thought of all the smiles that would light up little faces the world over one day..!

Angel’s of our times are difficult of recognise.. it all goes back to looking with your heart as said the Fox to the little Prince . as more than creating miracles, they make you understand and rediscover yourself !

Planet why is blessed as it is a place where angels do not fear to tread!

brain games at pwhy

It was brain gym time for teamPwhy, as Sareylom held a day long workshop for our staff! Plates and flags were flung in the air amidst laughter and fun. This was the first workshop where all the staff participated..

The aim was to help individuals integrate body and mind through movement and to improve concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical coordination, and more… it is all done through series of ludic excercises of deceptive simplicity.. it is only when you get down to them that each participant’s strengths and weaknesses come to light.. so the one that seems so connected and poised is at a loss when plates have to be turned in ways that would faze the best dervish.. and the quiet barely litereate creche worker impresses everyone by her dexterity..

It is for the first time that all pwhy staff competed with each other in a game of equals.. quite an experience.. particularly as the men where often the ones finding simple coordination excercises harder than rocket science..

When the idea of this workshop was mooted, I was a little apprehensive at the outcome, but all my doubts vanished as I heard the peals of laughter coming from the room… I simply tiptoed away

CZS or the comfort zone syndrome


We will soon be moving.. from a comfortable 6 room flat to a motley medley of space. Many are a little perplexed about this change.. but it was necessary as we were slowly sinking into the comfort zone syndrome a.k.a according to me as the government job disorder.. a psychological ailment as debilitating as any of the known ones.

A strange and insidious affliction as you do not even know how and when it hits you and no one is safe from it. Hard working people leave their homes in villages to seek better pastures and the fabled government job in cities.. they soon get the bug as even if they do not get the ‘naukri‘ they acquire the syndrome. They look for employment that will ensure a secure salary and no or minimal work. They soon learn the ropes and the way to unions and courts.. On the way they lose their ability to work and above all think independently.

The safe surroundings of the seven rooms, insulated from the world outside were slowly but surely leading to us acquiring the dreaded urban bug… it was evident in the different attitudes of those still teaching in hardship conditions and those sinking in comfort zones.. so it was time to act.

Come the ides of April and our team will be shaken out of this unhealthy torpor and back to challenging spaces. Some like the special section and the babies will be housed in a small building and the primary sections will move to open spaces close to the homes of the kids… makes more sense that way..

We hope to rekindle the fire that makes pwhy what it is.. and will see that we do not sink into comfort zones again.

happy b’day anouma’am

This may just seem a fun picture to many, but for me it is much more.. if you look with your heart..

This is our very special section.. one that has been crafted with love and patience with little souls no one wanted, let alone believed in..

Two years back little Sapna (extreme right) could not even hold her head up, today she walks talk and is full of mischief just like any other kid, Tampa now smiles her terrible ordeal a fading memory, Ruchi’s cerebral ataxia is now diagnosed and every offert wil be made to delay further damage, Anuraag can find a space where no one pushes him around and where he can cook to his hearts content, the impossible trio neha-rinky-shaheeda – spent fun filled hours practicing their newfound skills as make up artists on their pals, Munna is uttering his first words and Lucky a very new member of the family has found friends and this beautiful symphony of life is performed under masetro nanhe whose baton is his smile!

These special children are proof that life is worth living no matter what odds you face, that life is worth celebrating no matter how dismal seems.. simply because you are alive..

a special gift…


When project why began as a small spoken english centre, I had begun dreaming.. dreaming of the day when it would become an independant entity and fly on its own on the wings of the people that made it happen: the kids, the community, the staff, the well wishers.. and even the detractors..

March 19th 2006 saw the fulfillment of that dream.. and yet it went unnoticed by many of us.. An email that dropped by my box yesterday made me realised the importance of that day. Amit, one of our friends and supporters, is a young exceutive with a multinational, he came by pwhy one day and then became a regular visitor.. somehow his heart took him to okhla.. and I came to learn much later that he was a regular vistor there, building his connections with the kids, the community and our teachers..

One day he mentioned a puppet show on 19/3 to spread AIDS awareness.. Unfortunately I could no be there, but here is an account of the day in his words:

Famous puppeteer Dadi Pudamjee of Isshara Group lead the performance. Six young youths spread this health awareness.
We reached Okhla Site at 11 AM with Dadi and his team. We faced some problem in getting an electric supply at our school, but finally the local junta supported and we were able to get a electric connection for Mics and Music System.
One of our Employees announced about the puppet show and some more people joined as audience for the show. Ishara team started their performance- Chunati-The Challenge. Kids were really enjoying the show and more people gathered for the Awareness.
Ishara Team started with the meaning of AIDS
They explained the meaning in Hindi and then tried to explain the causes and how prevention could be the only cure of AIDS
It was a 15 minutes show followed by a Question & Answer session. Ishara Team distributed some questions to young kids and asked them the answer them. Such as, “Can Aids be transmitted through Mosquitoes?”.
Students were very enthusiastic in Question-Answer session and even briefed up their learnings from the show.
Performance was followed by some refreshments and a cup of Tea for Ishara team.
In the end, Dadi Pudamjee also appreciated kids enthusiasm and sharpness!!!!!!
About the funds for the show. Amit, Pallavi and three teachers Sophia, Pushpa & Ismail contributed…

As I read these words and the meaning slowly sank in, I realised that somehow my impossible deram had come true: this little show was a real solo flight.. it had been put up by the combined effort of the many streams that make planet why, and every aspect had been taken care of, no one had come asking help of anykind.. I has a wtinge of regret at not having been there, but then that also passed as actually independance means cutting of all umbilical links..

It was one the best gifts I have ever received, as for the first time I felt that pwhy had a life of its own and would have the wings it needs to fly on..

You can see pictures of this day at this link

He who has..


He who has a strong enough why, said Nietzsche ” can bear almost any how“. I must be blessed, having project why!

Life would stop if we stopped asking questions and seeking answers.. I guess that is why people often grow bitter in their twilight years.. there are no more why’s in our lives as everyone is seeking their own and you desperately find cracks to fill, and get msiesrable when you find there are none, so you create them and hence the infernal spiral..

You need to find a big enough why to borrow Nietzsche words, one that will fill your life and make it worth living.. with each why comes a challenge that needs a solution that you must seek. On the way you make mistakes but then you learn and set out again..

The last six years have been a wondrous journey on planet why, a journey of discovery but also a journey of inner growth.. a journey of learning where the teacher is the smile of a child people have given up on, or the will of a mother who refuses to give up!