all is fair in love….

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On my mission to find out why the brand new wall of our school had been broken, I could not have imagined in my wildest dream that the main culprit was Cupid!

Apparently one of the young gang leaders of the are – and there quite a few – was romantically inclined towards one of our students. When she told him that he was not up to the mark, her yardstick being pwhy teachers, the young lad say red. At night he tried to break the wall of the school alone, but when he could not, he gathered 5 pals and they set out to the task of destroying the quite solid brick wall. I presume they were aided by Bacchus too!

On the flip side, the young man in question, was responsible enough to own his action, and in doing so he gathered a few plus points from me.

But it does not stop here, when I went to find out what happened I found myself once again faced with the puzzle that is India. Another student of ours had been beaten by the same band of boys. As I tried to find someone to go and fetch the ‘culprit’, a fat man that oozed bad vibes came and stood in front of me stating loudly that the boy was a very bad element and that nothing could change him, he was scum of the earth. And as his diatribe grew longer and louder, I knew that there was more than met the eye. After handing him a few no child is hopeless and everyone is born the same way, I set out to find more.

I was not surprised to learn that he was the one who first got the boys into drinking and using and then made them do petty crimes. The student who had been beaten had refused to drink!

I am sure that the vile man is working for some politico who works for a bigger wish carefully nurturing the needed brute force to meet their agendas. As I left I was more and more determined to get the boys in my fold and have been trying to find ways, even if the first one that comes to my mind is that rather than break a wall to impress a lady, maybe studying would work better.

I forgot to mention that as I was leaving I witnessed the arrival of the local leaders all offering unsolicited help that of course my staff was politely refusing.

Sometimes everything looks so forlorn, why is it that I always see a ray of hope.

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I wonder why…

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Our refurbished school that sits on a garbage dump in Okhla is by no means a fancy one. Plastic sheets, a tarpaulin cover and a halfway brick wall is all it is. But to us it is a place where many children learn and are able stay in school, it is also an option for kids the other being petty robbery and even drug pushing.

I had thought that finally people around had understood that we meant no harm were, not land grabbers and hoped that the initial reticence was now a thing of the past.

This morning the teachers found that a wall had been broken at night. I find it hard to explain such an absurd action. What would instigate someone to break a pathetic looking structure that has never hurt anyone. For me the pain is deeper as I realise that maybe the adversary is too big, to strong and too unprincipled for an even fight.

What stops me in my thought is that ultimately it is children who once again are the soft target that everyone is willing to trample on. If I give up I will once again hurt kids.

I know I will carry on, but I also know that every act of this kind takes its toll on my very spirit.

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fun funding frolic

I have been thinking for the past few days of drafting my Dear A.. letter whereby I will seek help at ‘this festival time‘ etc…

Over the years my contacts list has been growing and what was an easily done task a few months back seems daunting when you see over 800 ids on your list and as I have always written each individually..

So as I sat exercising my writs and my back and gathering the courage to begin, pat dropped a mail from abhi stating that she had launched another contest to garner funds for us pwhy. Then came another mail that said that a Diwali Charity Contest had named us as beneficiary..

I guess we have crossed an important milestone as on the one hand the attacks against us are growing in quantum leaps, and on the other hand many now remember us at festival time without our usual appeals.

I have always held that trustworthy development programmes have to be self-funded if they are to remain independent of outside meddling. I still hold on to my ultimate objective of seeing the beneficiary community taking on part of the responsibility.

Initiatives like abhi’s are a great way of pitching in till we fly on our own wings. maybe our blogger friends could come up with new ways that could be creative, fun and at the same time rewarding.

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strange encounters of a kind

Funny how things happen in life. I had two encounters today one with a European houseguest on a bharat darshan, and the other with a friend of a friend who dropped by.

The reason for this blog was that they both had similar views about the reality we live in. My European guest hold quite a cynical view of life and seems to see sinister plans in everything around be it in India or elsewhere. he feels that people like us are doomed to failure as there is no hope at all. His solution is to mark time and accept the inevitable.

The other person a well educated lady, once a teacher was so dejected by watch she saw and experienced that she gave it all up, seeking greener pastures without much success. Now I must say that both have sufficient resources to check themselves out and live on the fringe of reality, quite comfortably traveling to their hearts’ content.

What disturbed me is that they all have the ability and the means to be agent of change but opt no to. I am not one to sit in judgment. And though one may have thought that I would be deterred in my ways, quite the contrary happened. I still believe that changing one life is worth it.

What has fueled sinister programmes or abysmal conditions is probably the fact that those who can say or do something prefer to shut their eyes and look away making the adversary bolder.

In a few days we will be celebrating Gandhi’s birthday. The TV channels are replete with programmes about his relevance today in the wake of the new Munna Bhai film. Maybe this Gandhi Jayanti one should just ponder about the man we call Father of our Nation and look at his way of dealing with the problems he encountered and one would realise that no matter how sinister the plot, there is a absurdly simple way of wearing the adversary down, if one has the courage to assume responsibility for what ails us.

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tiny people with huge hearts

At a time when much seemed dark, a ray of sunshine was brought by little children who decided that they would be better than big people and help their friends who are not so lucky.

These kids belong to countries as far from each other as France and Singapore but be it Maxence, Natasha or Haimuel.

When Maxence saw the Okhla centre sitting in a garbage dump he did not have the kind of reactions that adults have, he did not smother us with meaningless words, he just looked with his heart and made a decision that he did not even disclose then. he went home, fished out an old detergent box asked his mom to print out some pics from the pwhy site and made a donation box where he asked his pals to put in the money they would have spend on buying him birthday gifts.

Last week he came clutching his little box that had a fair amount of roupies! That money is priceless as it is steeped in so much love.

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Natasha and Haimuel, 9 and 7 respectively decided to forego their pocket money simply after reading about us. Another bunch of kids from the French school collected funds in the same way and today Okhla has a tent thanks to them.

What is it that makes little act in this way? I do not know but I hope that one day the children of my land will do the same

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all about symbols

We have just finished the shradhs or days that have been allotted to our departed souls. Every faith has such days, for some it is a single day for India it is two weeks.

To me these days mean much more than the sated gesture of feeding the poor. It is a time for introspection within yourself, a time when as no festivity is permitted, you are compelled to assess things and thus is also a time for closures of what did not quite work right, be it a relationship or a work situation.

It is also a time for healing, what cannot be changed, and accepting things that you have not been able to. For me it was a temporary checking out to assess what I had been able to do. Everyone of us does his or her best. True we win some, lose some and play our roles in the best way possible of getting our share of catcalls and kudos.

When you reach your twilight years, somehow you become a little more compassionate and a little less censorious and can look at things better. And you are surprised to see that what emerges of your soul searching is often absurdly simple. I took time off to write a series of letters to Popples that turned out to be a life credo that sums up much of what I have learnt.

It was also when a series of extraneous circumstances led me to compel my team to assess the value of what they were doing and to take measures to give it durability in time, or if not to have the courage to sign its closure.

I will get my answers soon and it will be a new beginning. But what is important is that this time it will be seeded in solid soil and hence will have the ability to withstand the blows that may come its way.

Ps: in case anyone is interested in reading the letters, pls mail at anouradha.bakshi@gmail.com

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a burning issue

The airing of video images of AIIMS student’s burning Dr Ambedkar’s books sent a chill down my spine. Images of a doom-laden future flashed by my mind.

The reservation issue is going out of hand and unless it is addressed by non-political citizens our land may become unsafe. I would like to ask the students who committed this horrendous act whether they remember Dr Ambedkar has being the main author of the very constitution that allows them to express themselves, albeit negatively. I would like to ask the pro reservation students whether they realise that no child asks to be born in a particular family? Can I ask them to remember that all Indian children are born in the same way, after a gestation of nine months and are protected by the same laws? And finally can I ask them where this hatred will lead in an already electrically polarised society.

I have seen that a mere fight between two ladies over the issue of a petticoat to dry turned into a caste riot in seven minutes. Is not the duty of educated and supposedly high caste students to heal rather than aggravate. Can I also ask the students to look at their other caste peers with their heart and not with borrowed vision and find if there is anything to hate. Or in a gandhian way can I ask these angry children of India to take one tiny dalit baby and give him or her the same childhood and teen years as they had and then to see whether they are still worthy of hate.

My mind boggles at all the questions that are choking me. I am neither pro nor anti reservation. I just want every child to be given the same opportunities and then find his or her place in the sun.

is that asking too much?

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about children but not for children

The de-recognition and thereby shutting of over 1000 schools in karnataka as they did not comply to a law passed many years back brings to fore once again the reality that education and the welfare and rights of children ranks very low on the political agenda of our country.

After the festivities a myriad of kids will find out that they do not have a school left. The debate of mother tongue versus English is an adult’s debate, children follow what they are told to. True that an English divide exists in our country but then can one forget that after 60 years of linguistic debate the problem of a national language has not been solved.

Today many parents living in slums plunge in their meagre pockets to get their children, sadly often the boys, in to what boasts to be an English medium school, even if it is a commercial teaching shop where no one speaks English.

When Ataturk decided overnight to change the Turkish language script as he felt that the children of his country did not need to be burdened by two scripts, he was traveling in the future.

Of the many commentators who spoke on the issue, one rightly felt that all children should go to the same kind of school where maybe 3 subjects could be taught in English and the other 3 in the regional language. makes sense to me, as I agree totally to what the same person said when he pointed out that those speaking the loudest on the issue have their kids study in up markets English language school!

When I came back to India after 16 years of living in other lands, it was a matter of pride to say that you had scored low marks in your lower Hindi paper, and all Hindi speaking peers were called Behanjis or Bhaiyyas.

I have always been comfortable speaking Hindi as my mother devised the best way to teach a child growing in a host of lands her mother tongue: she just spoke Hindi to me from day 1 and I was very surprised to know that she did she did speak English when I was six!

The great English divide has to come to a long awaited end, but it can only come when the upmarket people accept to send their children to the government run school down the road!

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feeding off kids..

It is appalling how adults use kids. Before little Utpal went to school a posse of family and relatives took advantage of all the goodies provided.

It is but obvious that one could not help him at home without including the others, directly or indirectly. A ceiling fan bought to ensure that he did not play with live wires provided breeze to everyone.

Now with Utpal safely in school and his mom well into recovery and at the doorstep of a new life, the bunch of profiteers that include innumerable new aunts and uncles and surrogate parents decided to use half-sister Durga.

So a man who is not a father suddenly discovers paternal feelings and send the poor child to get the pennies needed for his next bottle, and when she does not get them resorts to beating her on the streets.

Even I, who normally find to seek in some recess of my mind ways to condone almost everything found this behavior unforgivable. So Durga too goes to a residential programme where I hope she will make up for lost years and before someone realises that she is almost a woman and could be sold!

All this is extremely disturbing as when caretakers become predators no child is safe.

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words ad nauseum

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When I look at little Komal who can barely see or hear, I wonder how long it will take her to learn the value of words.

I am sick and tired of words: words of praise, words of anger, words that hurt, words that hang without meaning, words that vanish into thin air as they are uttered.

Someone said: Words should be used as tools of communication and not as a substitute for action”.

Frankly I have started to doubt everything I hear. My inbox is filled with words that remained words for as soon as they need to be translated into action, a myriad of reasons spring from nowhere as grim deterrents. The one reason that seems to always be at forefront is mistrust.

It is a sad reflection of our society that we are ready to mistrust everyone and everything. We stop looking with our own eyes, be they that of the heart or that of reason, and conveniently apply the a foregone conclusion. So even if you have shown staying power of over six years and adequate results, helped children stay in school and repaired broken hearts, you are still not be trusted. And why should you, everyone around is screaming the contrary, be it our rulers or our peers.

A quirk of fate has suspended one of our main accounts, and it is strange that rather than fight it tooth and nail which is what I would have done barely a few months ago, I have almost welcomed it. It has enabled me to put my team to the test and find out whether they have understood that you have to fight for your right and prove yourself. No remuneration for the past two months and a challenge thrown to them of meeting half the running cost if they want me to check back in again or they risk having their sections closed down.

Much as the story of the wolf that never was till the day it actually came and no one turned up, it has taken them some time to realise that unlike the past, this time it was for real.

Unless everyone realised that they are responsible for what happens around them, change can never come. So shock therapy is sometimes needed.

What will be the outcome only time will tell. The worst case scenario is another trip to the labour court aptly prompted by hidden enemies, but how has always become used to it, the best is my team taking on the responsibility of collecting funds and moving out of their torpor.

I wait and watch from the wings, a sometimes amused smile on my face..

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