dear to us are those who love us

Dear to us are those who love us. . .

but dearer are those who reject us as unworthy,
for they add another life;
they build a
heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed,
and thereby supply to us new p
out of the recesses of the spirit . . .
Ralph Waldo Emerson

These words reverberated in my mind this morning. Wonder why? Perhaps because the last week has been one of rejections. If you look for the word reject in the dictionary you come across this definition: dismiss as inadequate, inappropriate or not to one’s taste.

It is easy to reject and people do it with ease. Special kids are not a worthy cause to defend, a carefully crafted dream is not to one’s taste; ten years of a labour of love are inappropriate in a world where everything is coloured in dividends and returns; dreams and aspirations are inadequate as they remain intangible in our materialistic times. Today what is sought are quick and visible results.

I concede to the fact that in the world we have nurtured for almost a decade now, things take time and may seem elusive at first. A child who can barely hold her head at 5 needs years to walk her first step; one who cannot hear or speak has to muster strength from unknown depths to mouth her first intelligible sound; and the being rejected and scorned for years needs time to trust another again. But when they do walk, speak or trust it is nothing short of a miracle, one that was worth waiting for.

It is also true that the ones we fondly call our special kids, often do not make a pretty picture. It is also true that no matter how much or how well they learn they will never be able to compete with their peers who are aid to be normal. True again that they are not a wise or sound investment. We simply cast them aside with a string of harsh or politically correct names: disabled, handicapped, challenged, differently abled.

If you have ever set your doubts and apprehensions aside and cared to enter the world of these
wonderful beings, you will soon see that the above attributes better describe us than them. They accept you with open hearts and huge smiles and without any judgment. They open their world to you without restrain. They are grateful fro whatever you give them and expect no more. But that is not all. They have a secret mission, one that maybe even they are not aware of: they compel you to look at yourself with honesty and courage. The moment you have dared to look into their eyes be prepared for a journey to the depth of your soul.

As a friend once told me, special kids are Angels sent to earth to show us what we truly are capable of. So blessed are the ones who are given the opportunity to care for such souls. They give us the courage to walk that extra mile, grit to carry on in the face of all adversities till we reach our goal and realise our dreams.

So as the rejections come our way, we need to see them as a boon and be grateful to those who
cast them as they alone will give us the impetus needed to defend the causes we hold dear to us
and build dreams no matter how impossible they seem.

Yes dear to us are those who love us. . . but dearer are those who reject us as unworthy,

building a dream

A mail dropped by. It was from a dear friend, one of the few who look with their hearts and walk that extra mile for to save dreams, particularly those conjured by others. At this moment of time he is busy saving mine. A dream that began almost a decade ago with a chance encounter between a middle aged woman and a street beggar.

The plight of that young soul confined in a useless body and a fractured mind pilloried by all perturbed the woman for many nights. Somehow she knew that she had to do something, something larger than throwing a few coins his way. And thus the dream began. The dream of giving Manu a life!

Henry Thoreau said: If you build castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Yes, thinking of giving Manu a life, one where he could have a warm bed to sleep in and friends to laugh with and share a meal with was indeed a chimera.

My mind goes back to the first meal shared with Manu. He was still encrusted with years of dirt and abuse. We had given him a plate of dal and some rotis . He sat on a stool eating them quietly. A while later he looked up and smiled at me and offered me a piece of roti dipped in dal. I sat next him and ate. Maybe that was when the foundation was laid.

Years have passed. Manu has friends and spends the day at pwhy. He even goes to birthday parties where he shares a treat with his pals The foundation has got stronger. But Manu still does not have a bed to sleep in and a place to call his own. The foundation is still not finished. The dream will be truly fulfilled with planet why.

You can share some of the moments of the birthday party here

How I wish

How I wish I had 10/20 lakhs to spare if not the whole 80! These heartwarming words dropped into my mailbox shortly after my appeal for help. They may seem anodyne to some, empty to others, and to yet others as futile as the famed if wishes were horses.. But to me these simple words are the expression of the immense love and unstinted trust that have come our way since the day we took our first hesitant step on the journey called project why and has made our every wish a reality.

Our steps grew bolder, our dreams larger and each one was backed by a wonderful network of people who saw with their hearts and never turned their back on us. Hearts were mended, hopes fulfilled and new ones crafted, and challenges accepted with new found conviction as there was always someone out there who came forward and embraced them with us.

And along the way came the ultimate dream: planet why, one that would make us come full circle and above all provide a befitting finale to my swan song. It was a dream I started sharing with all those who had made pwhy possible, hesitantly at first but as days went by with more confidence and even temerity.

Today the dream seems a reality within our reach. True that some minor hiccups came our way, but none big enough to make us stop, let alone lose faith. Once again I have been overwhelmed by the spontaneous offers of help that have come our way. True that they may seem small or even insignificant when viewed against the target we have to meet but that is only if you look at them with your eyes. When you look with your heart, each one of them is priceless.

Some have offered whatever they could spare, others have proffered words of support and encouragement that infuse us with the strength to go on. A publisher friend offered us a 50% of sale profits of books sold to pwhy supporters and donors. Many have donned their thinking caps and are brainstorming about ways to raise money. Across the world, a bevy of project why supporters are at work to make planet why come true.

How I wish I had.. are not empty words at all.

chilling justice

The baffling judgement pronounced by a local court yesterday reinforced once again the vulnerability of children in India. A little girl allegedly raped by her own father was sent back to live with him as the man was acquitted because the key witnesses (her mother and sister) turned hostile.

At the time of the rape she was 4, today she is 7. I cannot begin to think what goes on in her tiny mind and am at a loss to picture the consequences that this will have on her tomorrows. This tender soul has been raped not only by her father but by all those she could trust, her mother, her sister and above all the entire system ostensibly created to protect her: society with all its trimmings: police, legal system and what not.

What is galling and frightening are the words pronounced by the judge: The acquittal in this case is painful as a blossoming child is alleged to have been ravished by her own father. But unfortunately her mother and sister turned hostile. But what is disturbing apart from the acquittal is the fact that the victim may have to live under the same roof and in the same hands of the accused.

Is justice blind to this point?

Even if one was to play Devil’s Advocate there is not much one could proffer. The mother was vulnerable in a society that is ruthless to one who dares go against her husband. The sister had no option but say what she was told to. The mother alone could not have brought up the children alone. The judge had to go by the book and so on.

And in all this the little child was forgotten and had no one to stand by her and protect her. My mind goes back to one of our students who had been raped by a neighbour when she was 4. The man was caught, did a stint in jail and came out an resumed his life. The girl grew up and became a teenager but her past followed her: she was branded a bad girl and no one talked or played with her as she had once had been raped, never mind if she was barely 4 at the time.

My heart goes out to this little child whose childhood has been ravished and who stands helpless and alone.

D Day minus 70

It is with the spirit of the soldiers of the Light Brigade that we have set out to raise the funds needed to secure the piece of land that came our way almost by miracle. When we began this daunting task we were needless to say petrified. This was way out of league. But two days later we find ourselves armed with newfound confidence as the 10 lacs needed to buy us two months of reprieve landed our way not as a loan, but as a donation from two wonderful souls that have always been there for us.

We now need to raise the remaining money. Easier said than done. But one look at the kids in the picture is enough to fuel us with determination and courage. To many the picture may seem innocuous, just a bunch of kids enjoying a picnic. Let me unravel the reality that lies behind. Most of these children are what is in our day and age called differently abled. Preeti who sits on the table walks on her hands, Sapna sitting in front is 12 though she looks 5. Champa whose smile is larger than life was abused, Ruchi will soon be unable to walk as she suffers from a debilitating neurological syndrome.. the list is endless each child in this picture has a future in jeopardy, held by a tenuous link: the life span of a mother. Oops I forgot there are two little girls in the picture who are wat one says in common parlance normal. Yashu who has been celebrating her birthdays for now five years with hers special pals, and Kiran who has known them since she was a baby.

Yesterday was Yashu’s birthday and our special kids had a day out at Dilli Hath. Like regular kids they played, blew candles, sang, ate cake and got return gifts. They too had bought their gift: beautiful cards they had made with love and care.

Most of these kids will grow up and one day become differently abled adults.. While differently abled kids are cute, adults are not. They become the butt of ridicule and are often derided and pilloried. It is a sad and harsh reality that often after the death of their parents, such children are rejected by heir won families. That is what happened to Manu who in spite of having a family was left to roam the streets and beg. Planet Why is for each one of them, as they grow old and lose all hope. It is to ensure that they live with dignity, surrounded by love and care and tended to till they move on.

We have 70 days to make this come true. Not much time but when one looks at these wonderful children one knows that we have to do it, come what may.

Ours not to reason why. Ours but to do and die.

The last few days have been spent trying to comprehend what befell us. One day everything and more seemed going our way; the next we were struggling to hold on to a dream in peril. No matter which way one looked at it and how much one beat one’s self, it was impossible to find a reason that would explain, appease and lead us to accept the situation we found ourselves in and walk away.

We just took some time licking our wounds, regrouping and drawing new battle plans. We knew it was not time to recriminate neither was it time to accept defeat. We needed to review the situation and make the last ditch effort to salvage it.

The bottom line was that we found ourselves in a situation we had never faced in the past. A set of unforeseen circumstances had made the dream of owning a piece of land a reality, albeit a tenuous one. To make it happen we need to raise a whopping 70 lacs in two months. Our track record in raising funds is poor as we have always been a hand to mouth organisation. Our ability to meet our needs is best described as a constant struggle. Yet today we cannot give up and need to reinvent ourselves. Too much is at stake.

The piece of land holds the key to securing the dreams and hopes we have nurtured for almost a decade. What makes them precious is that they were not conjured by the ones who will benefit, but stars that we put into their eyes, thus making us responsible and answerable.

What lies ahead is our ability to secure a loan and then set about repaying it. A Case for Planet Why has been drafted and is being sent out to everyone we know. New ideas for funding are being mooted and discussed and will be executed. Should we not do so, then all past efforst would be in vain.

My mind goes back to the Charge of The Light Brigade

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1854

with open eyes

All people dream, but not equally.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind,
Wake in the morning to find that it was vanity.

But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people,
For they dream their dreams with open eyes,
And make them come true.

D.H Lawrence
Planet why to many is just a dream. The almost jaded dream of a tiring old lady, a dream many went along with because they did not have the heart to break it or because they felt that it was just a dream and dream seldom become reality.

Yet in the words of Richard Bach: you are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. Planet Why is just that sort of dream, one conjured with open eyes, one that aimed at securing many others.

It remained a dream for a long time till one day it a breathtaking string of unforeseen events jolted it to the realm of the possible. The dream threw up challenges that to some looked more like obstacles. It was in jeopardy and before it could be further destroyed it seeped back in to the night waiting for another morn.

I know its is safe and will reemerge again when the time is right. In the meantime we have a project to run.

The big picture – practice what you preach

When I was a little girl and things looked bad, my papa used to talk about the big picture. It was his way of explaining to his hurting child that what seemed dark and gloomy at that moment was actually a tiny part of a big picture full of colour and light that we could not see. It was his way of explaining the mystery of life, the presence of a higher Being and the reason of the fleeting woe.

The little girl was satisfied and ran off with a smile on her face. The teenager was more difficult to assuage and did turn rebellious but ultimately had to concede to its wisdom, the woman found the solace she often needed. The big picture became a part of my life and I found myself often referring to it to explain situations that defied logic.

Yet when I was dealt with a blow recently I was momentarily taken aback and wallowed in despair, giving undue importance to what was just one tiny splash of dark hue on the harlequin picture that I conveniently had obliterated. My thoughts ran helter-skelter trying to reverse the situation forgetting that time moves but in one direction. For that moment in time I had forgotten all about the big picture.

But mercifully better set prevailed. I must have given my frenzied mind a tiny break as I found myself hearing my papa whisper “look at the big picture“. I had forgotten all about it in the moment I needed it the most. We often are guilty of not practicing what we so readily preach. I remember some years back when I was trying to battle local slumlords and wondering why we had been hit by such a storm, a friend simply reminded me that one should not bang one’s head on a close door but simply look for an open window. Yet one often realises that in spite of the all the wisdom one pretends to have, one easily forgets past lessons.

I am at a crossroad I stood at before. Sadly so lost was I in my hubris that I forgot to make a simple journey into past days to imbibe lessons once learnt and draw strength from the fact that we moved on and prospered as somewhere the big picture stood strong.

I know that in spite of the gloom that surrounds me and threatens to devour me, it is just part of a big picture I cannot see but know exists. The storm will blow, the clouds lift and the big picture will once again manifest itself in all its glory. One just has to hold on.

Anything that does not grow dies..

Anything that does not grow dies where the words almost whispered by S, as I sat helpless hearing the ominous words that were slowly but surely obliterating my carefully constructed dream of many moons. A dream that perhaps seeded when the little face on this picture had lost his smile or maybe the day I first heard Manu’s heart wrenching cries.

The dream at first was barely coherent but it lived for a long time in my heart, a disquieting reminder that something was missing in the work I was engaged in. An intangible prompting urging me to conjure the absent link that would complete the picture.With each passing day and ensuing task the dream was spurred on and started assuming substance and form and above all a name. I simply called it planet why and to me it was just a logical extension of project why. And though by force majeure it could not be located in close proximity to pwhy, it shared the same spirit and was fired with the same passion and motivation. If project why was a place where dreams were crafted , planet why was where they remained safe.

As I sat defenseless watching my dream dissolve, my mind set on a frantic flight seeking desperate answers: where had I gone wrong; what had I missed; why was this happening. A new why that had to be answered as in it lay the safety of all the answers we had sought till now. It had all seemed flawless, cogent… The assault of words carried on mercilessly barely giving me time to keep up. The place was too far, the staff was not willing, the idea had not been shared, people had not been heard… I listened in silence, holding on the tears that were threatening to fall as words the heart could not express.

It was then time for alternatives, suggestions, other possibilities..

I sat and heard them all, processing them to the best of my ability and attempting to see if they could replace the dream. Anything that does not grow dies and yet each option proffered excluded growth and though attractive in the present moment was doomed to die. Something needed to be done, the dream had to be saved, too much depended on it.

A day has gone by. I have tried to process all I heard. I must admit that much of what was said made sense when considered within the realm of today: the today that hues the reality we see: the choice of place does seem incongruous for a guest house we hope to fill to capacity. The distance seems alarming to anyone who simply walks to work. The list goes on: it is true that I bear the guilt of pushing my ideas and not giving time for people to react. It is also true that I often do not word things appropriately. Whatever the reasons and the past errors it is not time for recriminations but time to come together in solidarity as no matter how perfect a dream it cannot become reality without the conviction of all concerned.

However as one held guilty I think I do have the right to pen a defense. Planet Why came to be because one took a quantum leap into the future in more ways than one. I understand that there is a sense of comfort and reassurance in the present day scenario. Pwhy looks manageable and viable. Planet why was conceived for the day when the need may be felt for a larger place that one owns and where one can grow; the day when all are tired of seeking rented space or angry at seeing our special kids now adults not being welcome. Come that day land would be a chimera. Our rock pile was certainly what not I would have wanted had I got all the cards in my hand but was the only one that fitted our tight pockets and one that is poised for a sparkling make over. One can never chose the ideal situation and perhaps the end of a dream came because we do not have the ability to look at the future.

I also fully comprehend that no one would like to invest in a dream that looks very fragile and shaky at present and deprived of its sustainability element planet why loses its raison d’etre and looks like yet another liability. I more than anyone am loath to take on any more than we have. The task of meeting the present requirement is already weighing on my tiring shoulders so I should be the one to refuse any added burden. Then why am I finding it almost impossible to let the dream go? Why is it that just like on many occasions in the past when my team seemed reluctant to take on an new task, I feel compelled to soldier on. There is no urgency, no child hurting, no cause to defend and yet the drive is much the same.

I know no one wants to see pwhy die for want of combattants to use the famous quote from Corneille (Le Cid Act IV, Scene I) and yet unless we think of a doable alternative this may just happen. In my 9 years of begging I have seen that if there is nothing new on offer, sources dry out. One has to reinvent oneself all the time even if it means taking on a new responsibilities. Once again we are faced with the sustainability issue. And one again I am at a loss. And yet anything that does not grow dies

Some ideas were mooted but quite frankly each seemed daunting. One of them was that of ISR (Individual Social responsibility). I have been saddened by the total lack of heart I see and the total lack of compassion. I had placed great hopes in my one rupee a day dream hoping it would change attitudes. I was shocked at myself when as I sat redoing my website I wondered whether it still had a place in it. The ISR idea was welcome but then why did it seem jaded.

As I write these words I am at a loss to find answers and yet they need to be found as this is surely the most important why in our journey.

project why versus planet why

To many die hard project why supporters planet why is an aberration. I can understand their reaction as at first sight the two may seem totally incompatible. I beg their indulgence and beseech them to keep in mind that both emanate from the same source and have come in much the same way.

If project why saw the light of the day as a result of a chance encounter with Manu when a deafening loud why screamed for an answer that needed to be found, planet why was perhaps conceived more gently as a result of a string of quieter whys in no way less poignant.

Fate has played a curious role in my quest for answers to disturbing questions that have come my way in the bemusing journey called project why. It has set the course of this journey and steered it in directions that I could not have anticipated.

The vision of a man hobbling into my office with the help of a huge stick led us to create our heartfix hotel. At first this new venture of ours did seem to many yet another aberration. Such large sums of money to be spent on saving one child, a child whose future was uncertain, one that would just become one of the many millions barely surviving. Yet we did not give up and today over a dozen such children have had another go at life waiting for their destinies to unfold.

To some our decision of putting Utpal in a boarding school and helping his mom overcome a severe addiction and a debilitating psychological ailment was one more exorbitant deviation, but we again stood by what we believed to be right. To us it was simply a matter of finding the right answer to yet another why, a why that we never went seeking but that came our way as if guided by an invisible hand.

Hence slowly project why took a life of its own, one that often defied all logic, but one that I knew was the work of a far greater force. Time carried its inexorable course. Project why grew from why to why and with it the realisation of its extreme fragility and precarious nature that rested on the failing shoulders of an aging being bringing the inevitable question of its ability to fulfill all the responsibilities that laid upon it. What would become of the Manus that had come its way and of the hopes and dreams so tenderly nurtured.

Yet another answer needed to be found and it was planet why: a place where dreams would be secure. The journey seemed to be reaching its logical end. But fate once again, or the unseen hand, decided otherwise. The sheer magnitude of what was at stake was frightening and yet not accepting the challenge would have gone against everything we had stood for till then and negated the very spirit of project why.

To me project and planet why are intrinsically linked; the only difference being that the later has to have the ability of outlive me, and hence have foundations solid enough to weather any storm that may come its way.