of stolen shoe laces and missing dusters

Yesterday we spent some time with the kids at the boarding school. Two of the wonderful persons who have made this incredible adventure possible for were in town and wanted to meet the children. Calls were made and permissions obtained and we reached the school a few minutes after 12pm. It was refreshment time and the kids had gone to get their morning snack. We soon found them and settled under a tree for a little chat.

The kids were happy to see us and were all smiles. They answered all questions and shared a little bit of their world. We were told about Nikhil’s missing shoes laces that seemed to have been stolen by other kids just like his biscuits. Nikhil is your simple benign kid and the ideal target for practical jokes. We quickly understood that this was not in place to feel outraged, come on, things like this happen in all boarding schools! Babli told us about her dance performance during Independence Day celebrations and showed off the pictures of the event. A kid came rushing asking Utpal about the whereabouts of the class duster which seemed to have been in Utpal’s custody and was needed pronto. Utpal darted across the grounds then changed his mind as he decided there was no hurry: the teacher had not yet come back to class.

Though the children displayed impeccable manners we soon felt like intruders. Parents are only meant to come to school on PTM days and not drop by when they wish. We were undoubtedly de trop and we felt that the children were rearing to get back to their routine you see 7th period was games and 8th Art & Craft. But there was one last matter to be settled and Utpal finally asked the question all wanted to hear: what goodies had we brought. On hearing that there were sweets and chocolates, the kids instructed us to hand it over to the housemother as she would then give it to them. They bis us farewell and dashed back to their classroom.

We spent a little time with the Principal and the staff. It was wonderful to hear that all the children were doing well and were extremely well mannered. We were happy and very proud of our little motley crew that had the ability to walk in people’s heart and stay there. What an incredible journey it has been for them and though there was still along way to go, we jnew they were safe and would reach their destination.

I am here to stay

As I writes these words, little Meher is on her way home after her second surgery. She now looks like any tiny girl and not the little ET she had been for the past three months with her huge expanders. Meher will now look just like any other 4 year old, barring a a few scars and her odd looking hands. Since her first surgery that took place a few months ago she has been living at the women centre and has walked into many hearts. Needless to say she is a true free spirit imbibed with a rare zest for life.

I still remember the day she walked into my life and my heart. I knew she had come to stay. I must confess that we were all a little taken aback by the attitude of her parents and their total lack of concern for this child. Every morning she was let out of their tiny home and left to her won device. It all seemed as if everyone wanted to wish hear away but did not quite know how. We were appalled at the lack of interest of her parents in her treatment; her mom even left her two months ago to go to the village where her baby brother was born. For the past months she was cared for by the women centre staff and every night one of the teachers spent the night with her. She enthralled every one with her antics. No one escaped her special brand of love.

For her parents she was an impediment, a burden no one wanted to carry. With her scars and her maimed hands she would never be marriage material, and was marriage not the ultimate goal of a girl’s life? But Meher is a live wire, someone you cannot ignore. She will not let you do that. Her joie de vivre is infectious and she has the ability to lift your spirits, no matter how low they are.

She has been given a new lease of life, and knowing her, she will make sure she lives life to its fullest and prove to everyone that she is worth believing in. If all goes well, she will join the little band of pwhy children in boarding school and I have no doubt that she will astound us all. Meher is a child of the God of lesser beings, just like her special pal and soul mate Utpal. They are children who have come a long way and know that life is precious.

May The God of lesser beings always walk with them!

the washermen

Utpal loves taking pictures. Every time I go to his school he takes my camera and shoots to his heart’s content. He did just that last week during his PTM. He took pictures of his pals, his bed, his favourite teachers and more. Then he handed me back the camera and set out to play. Some time later he came back to me and asked for the camera again declaring that he had to take pictures of the laundry. I must confess I was a little perplexed but did hand him the camera. He set off again and took the shots he wanted.

It is only when I downloaded the pictures that I realised he had taken pictures of the washermen as they worked. I was deeply touched as such people often remain invisible as we simply take them for granted. And yet here was this incredible child who ensured that they too become visible and recognised. A lesson for all. But then Utpal knows how to see with his little big heart!

a great PTM

Sunday was PTM day for our little foster care kids. This was the first PTM since school opened. For the past week there had been a flurry of activity to prepare for D day. All the parents had to be informed and plans made. It was decided that the parents of all our four kids: Babli, Vicky, Nikhil and Aditya would pool resources and hire a car. Every one was excited.

On Sunday morning they all set out bright and early for what was to be a very special day. After meeting the kids it was time to meet the teachers. Everyone was thrilled to see the results and even more so as Babli and Vicky had stood second in their respective classes. Report cards were collected and then the children showed the school to their proud parents: the dorm, the dining hall and the play grounds. The excitement was palpable and the pride in the children’s and parents eyes was for all to see.

A set of incredible circumstances enabled these four children and their little pal Utpal to break the circle of poverty and a life in the slums and accede to a good education, the kind you would give your child. This is nothing short of a miracle. Had they been left where they supposedly belonged, most of them would not have completed their school, and even run the risk of becoming child labour. It almost happened with Babli! And that time no one would have believe that the same little girl would one day be in a boarding school happily building her morrows. And yet that is exactly what she is doing today with her little pals.

After the grand tour it was time for a little outing to a nearby park. There was a surprise in store for the children: the moms had packed loads of home made food for their children and everyone had an impromptu picnic. Then the happy party returned to school to share lunch with the children in the dining hall. A grad moment for all. Soon it was time to leave an say bye till the next time.

You can share some glimpses of this very special day

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remembering nanhe

It was very hard to walk into the pwhy building yesterday. For the past 6 years I had been greeted almost every morning by Nanhe’s huge smile, and if for some reason I was lost in my thoughts and failed to look in his direction, Nanhe, the child who could not speak, always managed to get my attention and treat me to his huge smile and I knew that no matter what, all would be well.

Yesterday there was no smile to greet me. The building seemed strangely empty and hollow. I knew things would never be quite the same. One may wonder what a little broken soul like Nanhe could mean to someone like me, how a little seemingly useless being could become such an important part of one’s life. It is once again a matter of looking with one’s heart. Nanhe was undoubtedly an Angel that the God of Lesser Souls sent our way. His message was simple and clear: no matter what life is still beautiful and no matter how bad it looks, it is still worth a smile. And the little chap lived by the book: even in his worst moments of pain, he never lost his smile. And when you looked at him smiling you suddenly felt uplifted. No matter where and when, in a hospital ward where he lay or in his tiny hovel Nanhe smiled.

Tomorrow maybe Nanhe will be forgotten. His is not a life you commemorate. The pain we feel today will undoubtedly lessen and even vanish, life does have to go on. He more than anyone else would have wanted it to. But for me it is important to ensure that it is not a life lived in vain. I did hear his message loud and clear and it is a simple one: never give up, no matter how dark the night looks dawn is only a few moments away. And I promise you little Nanhe, I will not give up. You have left many smiles in my custody and I promise you they will be safe.

Let this blog be his epitaph. I urge you to look at the pictures below. You too will be touched by the magic of a little angel’s incredible smile.

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That Nanhe was important is borne by the number of blogs written for him. read them if you have the time.
when today is over
to die for
for the little ones
urban treat
how many times must nanhe
a smile in custody
pwhy and beyond
back with a bang
praying for a smile
because of your smile
the spunk of a smile
when nanhe’s eyes are smiling
smiling on
a smile lost
a smile referred to
a promotion for nanhe
wish I had a dreamcatcher
whose life is it anyway
an unequal battle
is it walking towards him
miracles happen everyday
return of the buddy
a samosa and a jig
nanhe is back
mazza a gaya

a smile lost forever

Yesterday the God of Lesser beings reclaimed what was rightfully his: Nanhe’s smile. Yes, you heard it right little Nanhe is no more with us, he left for a better world taking his smile with him. I still do not know how I will make it through today and days to come, I had got addicted to his smile.

And yet we all knew that this smile was in custody and never rightfully ours. Over the past 5 years we have feared for it many many times, fought for it and felt relieved each time it has come back to us. And he too held on to his smile no matter what, and came back as if on cue to light our lives and made us forget how fragile it really was.

Over the past five years Nanhe and his smile have defied every rule in the book, every doctor’s prognostic and stood firm. And though we knew he had no tomorrows, he made us believe that he had many and we did believe him. Even when we were told that he needed a brand new kidney and logic screamed that the end was near. He simply survived every challenge and was back with his smile. With him miracles were every day occurrences! Nanhe simply defied every obstacle that came his way,

The last few weeks had been relatively uneventful: some sniffles, a bout of indigestion – normal for one who loves samosas -! Last week he had a nasty fall in his home but he was back his smile in place looking a little lopsided amidst the bruises and stitches. He was in class two days back, looking his usual happy self. It is only yesterday that he did not come and we thought nothing of it. How were we to know that finally the God of Lesser Beings would decide this was the day to reclaim what had always been rightfully His.

Mornings will never be the same. I will never be greeted by that very special blessed smile that made me believe that nothing was impossible and that miracles did happen.

I am lost.

where are they now..

Recently a donor asked us to find out where the pwhy alumni was today. I felt a little sheepish as this was an exercise we should have done but somehow it slipped our minds. So it was time to set out and find out where all our past students were. We began class XII classes in 2006 and our class of 2006 all 5 of them have good jobs. One of them is also doing his BCA while working.

Our class of 2007 is more studious. One of them is doing Chartered Accountancy, four of of them are in college and one is working while doing her BA. The class of 2008 is also studying. Shashi Kant who was the South Delhi topper in Government schools is in college. Three of his classmates are doing their Chartered Accountancy, four are in college and two of them are working and also studying. And this year’s batch is not to be left behind. The class of 2009 has 6 Chartered Accountancy aspirants and the remaining 6 are in college. Wow is all I can say!

It is heartwarming to see all these children of a lesser God bloom and shine. The number of budding CAs brings a smile on my face as I remember how Naresh our secondary teacher spent two years taking accountancy classes to be able to teach the subject. This was before we actually began class XII teaching. And today many of his students are aspiring to become CAs.

I was thrilled when I got all this information. It was really fulfilling to see that all the efforts we had put in bore fruits and that perhaps we had helped a handful of kids aspire to a better morrow. I must confess that I sat for a long moment taking all this in, my heart filled with pride and joy.

where it’s due

This is the I time normally remember Ram and what he meant to me. Every year since his departure I have never forgotten to reminisce about him, particularly on his birthday, celebrated on the very day of India’s Independence. There is however another birthday that is celebrated within our home the day before: it is the one of R, my husband.

R has been my life partner for 35 years. In all those years he has always stood, albeit quietly, by everything that I have done. If not for him pwhy would not have seen the light of day. Very often in life we take people simply for granted and forget to express gratitude where it’s truly due. We often fail or forget to realise that there are some people who give us the strength to fulfill our aspirations, who clear the path so that we can walk, who give invisible yet strong wings to our dreams. R has done just that. In his strong yet unobtrusive way he has stood by me in my moments of weakness and doubt. He has been the shoulder I can always lean on, the sounding board of all my ideas before they get translated into reality and has never failed to boost a sagging spirit or calm an irate one.

I was thrilled beyond words when R accepted to come by pwhy on his birthday and see the little show that the special children had put together. R visits to pwhy have been rare. Somehow he has always chosen to remain in the background and let me soar in what is my world. I realise today that he did this for me, respecting the space I had created for myself, not wanting to take away anything that was duly mine. It is indeed very humbling. That he decided to come by and spend some time with us on this day – his 60th – was indeed special.

Thanks are due today to this wonderful man without who nothing would have ever been possible.

Happy Independence day

It was I Day celebrations at pwhy! And a very special one at that. It all began with a request from the special section teachers to drop by their class before I left the building. I was in a for a big surprise. The children had planned an entire show with many items. As I entered the room I was greeted by a warm good morning as all the children sat at one end of the room, with wristbands in the national colours. Manu held a small flag in his hand. The other part of the room was the stage. The show began with some individual items. A song by Champa and two dance items: one by Anjali and the other by Preeti.

Champa’s song was touching. Here was a girl who can barely look after herself and yet who manages a perfect rendition of an old devotional song. It was awesome. Then came Anjali and she danced with her heart and soul, her awkward body moving with perfect harmony to the tune of a Bolywood hit. But that was not all, the next dance was Preeti’s, the girl who walks on her hands. She danced with her soul and spirit, her arms swaying and her expression perfect. After the individual performances we were treated to a group song: the children sang Bum Bum Bhole from the film Tare Zameen Par, a song celebrating difference. Every one sang, the one who did not hear and the one who could not speak. They sang with their heart, soul and spirit. I sat silent, a knot in my throat and tears welling up my eyes, watching these children of a lesser God. They sang with abandon, as if every dream of theirs was fulfilled, living the moment to its fullest, without a though of what tomorrow held.

The show ended with a very special rendition of the national anthem, one that suddenly acquired a new meaning and lifted all doubts about tomorrow: just for these special souls pwhy had to carry on so that every I Day would be theirs to celebrate.

The Okhla children too celebrated I day, in their garbage dump. A flag was proudly hoisted and songs sung. A poignant reminder that every child of India deserved to be free.

Share some of these very special moments here:

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a fun filled day

Last Friday the Sari Kids had a special treat in store for the creche children: an outing to the Children’s park. It was truly special as most of the creche children belong to extremely poor families and never get to go out. Notes had been sent to the parents informing them of the outing and most of the children came in their best clothes. It was a very hot and humid day but no one seemed to mind, the excitement was palpable. The children were rearing to go and son it was time to do just that.

A ride in a big bus, a snack in a huge green park with trees and flowers and birds chirping and then it was time to attack the swings and rides. And boy they did, to their heart’s content. Not a swing was missed, every one had to be tried. It was touching to watch them as they giggled and laughed and were real children, even if it was for a very short time.

You can share some the very special moments here:

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