hijacked by hubris

It was sad to watch Delhi come to a standstill. Whereas the big fish will remain unscathed, small shopkeepers will as usual suffer.

I the days when gandhigiri is a la mode, one wonders whether bandhs are the right form of protest. Gone is the outsider, the foreign invader against whom you unite, the enemy sadly is within each one of us.

I was not surprised when a prominent TV channel dug up the erstwhile master plan for India’s capital city and revealed that only 15% of its provisions had been met, one being the creation of markets and commercial space.

Yesterday was also the day when a man got the death sentence 10 years after committing a heinous crime that he thought he had got away with simply because of his father’s position.

So where have we gone wrong or to put it otherwise what ails our society?

Somewhere down the line our entire social fabric got hijacked and we sat in silence. I have seen it myself when our neighbourhood market which a few years back had vegetable an meat shop , a haberdashery, a stationery shop, tailors and dry cleaners and more today is a haven for luxury and branded shops and jewellery stores. When a few years back only local residents came often on foot, now people come from across the town in their gleaming cars.

And when the market itself was not big enough, residential buildings around it were commandeered too! Leading to the chaos that necessitated the courts to intervene.

One may wonder how it happened? Law makers and protectors hit their eyes to small aberrations for a few pennies, and slowly greed on both sides took over till a hydra headed monster emerged and got out of control.

Today both the administrators and the administered are battling the monster that grows a new head everyday.

We are a society that got engulfed by hubris and even challenged the Gods! Now our hubristic side has been exposed as we try to make sense of things a blame game has begun. Maybe it is time we took stock of things and accepted part of the guilt. Are we not the ones to look for the easy way out, jump a few queues, grease a few palms? So why be astonished when the little drops have turned into an angry ocean ready to submerge us?

The appeasement policy and bad aid therapy of our politicians has to stop. A new master plan trying to white wash past aberrations will only delay the process. Walking over the judiciary will ultimately lead to chaos and will catch up just as it did with the man being sent to the gallows. We must finally accept part of the responsibility and each give up a little to set matters right.

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the three most beautiful words

I got a mail this morning from a friend of pwhy, who lives miles away, whom I have never met. I only know that he sees with his heart as he has always responded to my innumerable appeals with spontaneous generosity!

This is what he writes in response to my wondering why I deserve the support I get:

And do you really need to ask why
you deserve it?

Reminds me of a scene from the TV series Star Trek (In case you’re
unfamiliar with it, it is about a group of people travelling aboard a
spaceship seeking out new civilisations and trying to understand them). At
the end of one episode, the captain gestures out the window to the doctor
and says “You know, out there right now someone is saying the three most
beautiful words in the universe. Know what they are?”. The doctor looks
quizzically at him. You might expect the words to be ‘I love you’ or such
like. But the captain, gazing out of the window, says “Please. Help me.”

You are one of the few who are driven to listen for these words and try and
help out. That’s why you deserve good fortune.

I sat quietly for a long time my mind traveling at incredible speed as I went back to the days when I too had watched this episode, and wondered when and where I had learnt to listen to these words, a question I had never asked really myself. It is true that my seven years of trying to raise funds have been an eye opener and leads me to think that maybe it was the way we were brought up, the values we were taught and the education we got that made us this way. And maybe these are the very things that are slowly getting eroded leading to other ‘ideals’ where looking with your heart and giving are not on the menu.

I can only say that I feel truly blessed to have been able to find many persons who had the ability to heart these three most beautiful words loud and clear.

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rite of passage

For most I should be elated and jumping with joy – age permitting – two monumental battles were actually won in the last few days. One with a huge bank vindicating the stand that no matter how big the adversary, if truth is on your side you ultimately come out on top, the other with a large funding body that you finally manage to convince in accepting what you always intuitively held as being the right way.

For project why this has been a quantum leap from days where you wondered whether you would survive the next one, to an easy sail where you know winds are favourable for months to come.

Then why do I feel a tad sad and empty? Another why to answer.

There are many reasons. Is it because this is a rite of passage for pwhy, and all rites of passage are always difficult as they spell the end of a stage in pwhy’s life and the onset of another yet unknown? Is it because with this step pwhy gets a life beyond all else and hence deprives me of the driving seat? Is it because we are moving into a comfort zone, and to me such times are filled with hidden dangers? Is it because this will make us deviate from our main challenge; that of finding a donor base within the community we work with?

Maybe all of these in some degree or the other. The real test lies in viewing this much needed help as a way to double one’s effort towards the initial challenge that becomes more doable when one is not struggling to keep from drowning. It means a change in direction where efforts would not be on seeking help, but would have to be aimed at keeping the team sufficiently motivated and to veer them from sinking into a stage of complacency. Easier said than done when my detractors love saying that I have enormous funding that I conceal!

But no matter what, this has to be done as otherwise pwhy will lose its very essence and could just become another clone of many existing efforts. It becomes imperative to view this gift as a stepping stone to the day when the bread of pwhy – staff and space – would come from the tiny drops gathered from the community leaving the butter and jam to outside support.

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the toad in the well

Some of you may remember the little house of horrors.

We have not forgotten the children and are in the process of trying to save them, but we need to tread carefully and ensure that all aspects are covered before the final kill. The adversary is formidable and has been running this hell hole for over three decades. A master at concealing, he carries on his game fooling one and all and hiding being the garb of righteousness.

recently when some of our staff went on a cleaning and fact finding campaign they were stunned by the place and had no words to depict the horror. I had sent them to ensure that I was not overreacting and applying high standards. the ladies I sent were all from the slums and all were ready to hit the roof and had to be restrained as our game plan was not in place.

What shocked them most was the size of the solid gate and the fact that these girls could not ever see the outside world. One of them described the children as being little toads in a deep dark well looking at an inacessible sky!

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a tryst with hope


The past two months were the most difficult in my life as I almost saw pwhy slipping away for no fault of ours and though the battle was uneven, the adversary formidable, there was an imperceptible force that egged me not to give up as hope was waiting at the next corner.

For the past seven years I have been overwhelmed by the love and affection that project why has been able to garner from every corner of the world and from the humblest to the greatest. With every passing instant I could sense an incredible web of goodwill being woven to protect us from each passing storm.

It was no mean thing as I stuck to my guns and maybe went against every rule in the book to the point that the only way pwhy could be qualified was by borrowing words from St Exupery’s Little Prince: a project that saw with its heart.

Amongst the battles I fought was my stubborn refusal to accept help that seemed to be rigid and ironclad or one that entailed complex administrative paperwork.

I had first stumbled upon Asha while browsing the net and liked what I ead. Who else could be better inheritors of pwhy then young successful Indians living away from their homeland. Unfortunately time was not ripe as my first forays into the land of hope were not quite successful as we met with hurdles though every time a wonderful and warm person was at the other end of the screen.

Somehow I could not puts across the very transient nature of the community I worked with where hidden enemies abounded be they social taboos such as caste or creed, violent and aggressive people or the powers that be that were hell bent on seeing me flee. So how could I ensure that one year down the line we would have the exact profile we began with. What really frightened us was when one day a person came and spent 2 days counting the kids! What would happen if we did not meet the specs?

Then one day a tall lanky man landed on planet why, armed with a camera and an incredible smile. In my usual style I drowned him with all that was bottled up inside me and he listened patiently. The man left promising to help and we carried on surviving as usual.

Last week while driving Utpal back to boarding – always a difficult moment – the phone rang. It was our tall lanky man telling me that Asha had agreed to help us in a substantial manner and above all that he would be the one we would interact with.

I cannot begin to covey the multitude of emotions that ran through me, but I think that the most important feeling was that my stand had been vindicated and that my seven long years battling alone had ended and that I had now reached safe shores. pwhy was safe and my swan song would live beyond me.

To all that have made this possible a big thank you, to all those that I may have inadvertently upset my heartfelt apologies and to Kannan Iyer simply that I believe in miracles.

Our Asha page is here

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a survivor par excellence


Utpal is back home for his diwali break. I went to fetch him ins school and was amazed by the survivor spirit this child has. As the road was being dug up we had a long walk before reaching the gates of the school. En route I was stopped by many big boys who asked him “you have come for Utpal, he is a great kid”.

My heart filled with pride as I realised that this little fellow who had nothing but the god of little persons on his side, had set up his network in school, a network that transcended age, social divides and more. From the kind faced gateman to the dining room staff, to the remote class XII seniors notwithstanding the principal, the warden and the teachers, Utpal knows them all.

As we walked away we had to stop many a times as Utpal was hugged, taken in waiting arms, and patted on the back. We waited in the wings, sharing his much deserved moment of glory, our thoughts going back to the little bundle of pain that had walked into our hearts just 3 years back.

Yes he is a survivor and a perfect role model for us, as we battle our demons and try and keep pwhy going, as he proves that nothing in life is hopeless or doomed.

If we can do it, then we have to.

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A tale of two diwalis

To the rich man’s mall there is the poor man’s weekly bazaar. A cornucopia of sight, sound and smells, an experience guaranteed to titillate all your senses.

The dreary road comes alive one every week as people come from faraway places with their ware, tables are set, oil lamps lit and the stage is set. Soon the cries of the vendors fills the space as each try to get you to come to their stall. There is one such market very close to pwhy and you can find anything you want: clothes of all kind, school uniforms, shoes, kitchen ware, spices, toys, music, food of many kinds and much more. For many the budh bazaar is a lifeline, a place where for a few roupies you can treat your self to everything you can dream of.

These weekly bazaars have been in existence for as long as I can remember and one finds them everywhere in India. This week there was no budh bazaar, the vendors came and sat dolefully on their tables, some tried to set their goods but were brutally beaten by cops who even walked over their precious goods.

The reason: last years bomb attacks! And to make their task easy a decision to not let the bazaars operate. Imagine the plight of the vendors who often borrow at incredible interest rates to purchase the goods they will sell. And over and above all this week is the one where they sell the most as it is Diwali week. Think of the poor people who waited for this day to buy their children clothes at a rate they could afford: new clothes the children dreamt of, utensils for dhanteras when even the poorest of the poor buys something to please goddess Lakshmi.

Was there no way the police could have ensured security without hitting the poor. The malls are not closed and neither are the upmarket centres so why once again hit the poor who wait for Diwali for that one special moment.

These images disturbed me as they seem to vindicate the sad reality that the laws are not the same for everyone.

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a banker who sees with his heart

The last few weeks have been harrowing as one found one’s self in a soup for no fault of ours. A clerical error, a hurried decision and our bank closed our accounts.

It was a David takes on goliath situation but I was I knew the god of lesser ones was on our side. When the matter could not be resolved, I had no option but to write to the bigChief and felt like David. But then the god of lesser children was on our side and the banker was one that saw with his heart. Thirty six hours later, our accounts were restituted.

I just hope that one day he will come by planet why and meet all the children he helped and who would like to thank him in person.

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justice at last

The Priyadarshini Matoo case has come to an acceptable closure and maybe Priya’s soul will finally be able to rest in peace.

Eleven years or so to finally send the rapist and murderer behind bars. I cannot even being to fathom the agony of the last eleven minutes of Priya’s life as she lay fighting her last battle, the pain and courage of her father who never gave up while her killer lived on, got married and even had a child. Did he feel that his father’s position was enough to have him do what he pleased. No Sir. We live in a democracy that works and have a judicial system that is fair. We are protected by a constitution that guarantees us our human rights.

Maybe it takes a little longer than hoped but if like Priya’s father you do not give up, you do not heed threats and carry on your fight, you win no matter how small, unconnected and fragile you may look.

Will potential rapists now think twice before they commit their dastardly crime? Will those who thought that money, connections and power were sufficient licence to do as they please finally understand that they are not above the law? I hope so.

Priyadarshini’s case is the victory of the people of India, a force to reckon with, one that is slowly emerging from the dark.

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david takes on goliath


Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway, said Elbert Hubbard. Maybe that is why a blog written a few days back has been lying unpublished. Each time, my finger wanders towards the publish button, something holds me back.

Wonder why. Is it because what has happened looks so terrible, because it holds within it so many assumptions each needing to be addressed and denied? I do not know.

Is it because a touch of that key will maybe alienate many forever and leave us rudderless, or is it because one is afraid of tarnishing one’s now glowing image needs?

Let me explain as best I can now that I can view things with a little distance and less anger and even some hum our. Let me start by a asking you a question: what would you do if one day for not fault of yours, without any prior information you received two envelopes with two drafts, no letter or explanation barring a mention of the counterfoil stating that your accounts stand closed?

After wondering for an instant who the generous donor was, I read the words with horror and felt my whole world crash as innumerable images rushed helter skelter in my tired brain. I am sure my head grew a few more white hairs!

To cut a long saga short let me just say that as an easy way out and after operating our accounts for two whole years and not finding any fault, a huge bank decided that we were non-grata and just threw us out without any professional ethics probably thinking that we were to small to react. Surprisingly the same giant sent us two letters dated later than the draft that asked for a certain papers and with no mention of the closure.

When we asked for a reason and explanation and at least for a letter to the authorities stating the reason for such action, we just got wishy washy replies and a vague reference to Bombay being the ultimate authority.

Had this been a personal account of even a business one, I may have thought twice before taking Goliath but 600 pair of eyes was all that was needed to realise that at least the God of Lessor children was with me. So knowing that had done no wrong I wrote a letter to Bombay which had been held to me as the ultimate Goliath!

An answer came and then phone calls and vague explanations. The battle is still on and though I want no one hurt I still want to know why I was treated this way and above all a way to redress the tort.

The battle is on and I will no rest till it is won. However if I stand by what I was taught as a little girl my a doting father: always look for the larger picture, maybe there is a lesson to be learnt: work like ours will only succeed when the basic support comes from within. So no matter how things end, one has to work towards the elusive one rupee option as all other solutions, no matter how easy and comfortable, are fragile and finite.

True one will have to deal with the there is no smoke.. types, they always lurk around as it would give them the awaited opportunity to slime out of commitments. One will also have to explain and vindicate one’s self and the trust painfully and patiently gained over seven long years

Yes one will have to pick up the pieces carefully and gently, and weave them together again with the hope that no cracks remain. And yet there is another lesson to be learnt, one that corroborates my almost intuitive vision when I wrote the first official document for pwhy, one that highlights the vulnerability of any developmental work that depends on outside support: true success lies in one’s ability to build a support system within the group one works with. One that is so small that it escapes all possible attacks, and yet powerful enough to grow by the day.

I just hope that those who stood by us will continue to do so.

Note: For those who are curious the problem seems to have arisen from the fact that someone forgot to look at all the documents filed and took a hasty Poncus Pilate way out.

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