Sanjay in Paris

About a year back I had written about Sanjay our Lohar teacher who walked the ramp in Bombay! It was a dream come true and a super success story for us at project why. But the story did not end there as Sanjay became the subject of a film shot by our friend Camille and aptly entitled Bollywood Boulevard.

Last month Sanjay went to Paris for the promotion of his film and to meet modeling agents. He is back with stars in his eyes, possible contracts and the proof that miracles do happen, you just have to hold on to your dreams tight! Another miracle of the God of Lesser beings and a great moment for us at project why!

well done vicky!

An SMS from the boarding school informed us that Vicky, one of our kids, had won a merit scholarship. Needless to say we all leaped with joy. Vicky is from an extremely deprived home and has two handicapped siblings, one being our very own Munna! Had fate decided otherwise he would have probably never finished school and joined the ranks of child labour. But the God of Lesser beings decided otherwise and have him a break. He has played his part and proved to one and all that he was worthy of it. Bless you Vicky you did us proud!

on borrowed time

It was a little over a month ago that I launched my appeal to save the women centre. What we needed to save this centre was 200 people who saw with their hearts and were willing to give us 500 Rs ( ~ 11 US$ or 8 Euros) a month on a regular basis. The response was heart warming and fifteen days later we reached the half way mark. However you will agree that we cannot save half a centre and that if we do not reach the magic figure of 200, the women centre is living on borrowed time and still faces closure.

I must admit that the thought scares me. The women centre is very close to my heart for more reasons than one: first of all it is our last born and thus a cherished one, but that is not all, the women centre was set up in the memory of an incredible woman who defied all odds to get an education. Closing the centre would be letting her down. I cannot see myself doing that.

For the last decade or so, it is my pen that has helped me get funds to keep pwhy going. My virtual begging bowl is made of words I guess. Today I need these to be poignant enough to reach the heart of the missing 100 so that we can save the centre.

Cynics may ask: what is so great about this centre. The question came to my mind too and so I decided to drop by the centre and view it in a dispassionate way. As I entered the yellow iron gate I was greeted by a warm and loud Good morning ma’am. It was the class V children. Then I heard a more subdued Namaste Madam. This came from the handful of ladies of the sewing class. Just looking at all them warmed my heart. I then dropped on the spoken English class where a bunch of kids were busy practicing for a play. I watched them for a bit and was truly impressed by the progress these children had made. Next a quick stop at the tiny computer class bursting at its seams where about a dozen young children were unraveling the mysteries of the computer. On the way I saw Roshni busy cooking the lunch of the day! It was time to go to the roof where classes were being held.

I somehow always get amazed at how well the women centre uses space. The big roof is carefully divided into many classes and everyone is busy studying. It is heartwarming and moving to see these children studying hard notwithstanding the weather. Believe you me it can get very cold in winter and extremely hot in the summer under the tin roof. But the children brave all odds and are always present. And as always all the children have passed their examinations and got promoted to the next class. The determination of these children is something unique and motivation enough for me to carry on fighting them.

So though the centre is at present on borrowed time it has become imperative to save it. The question is how? I only have my pen and my words to try and convey this need. So help me God!

Two incredible souls

When things look bleak and disheartening something always happens to lift your blues. I must admit that I have been again worrying about the future and needed a shot of optimism. I got two!

The first one was an email that I reproduce below as it speaks for itself:

I read these words on your blog today: ‘Sindutai’s story proves that you do not need to be rich and affluent to help others. What you need is the will to do so’.

Regardless of the world economic crisis, we can all help in small or large ways. If people are feeling the effects of cost-of-living rises in the west, we can only imagine how much worse it is in the world’s poor countries, so surely we all need to give more, not less.

Andy and I feel blessed every single day to have a comfortable life – we’re not rich, but like most people in the west, we have more than enough, so it´s really no hardship to give a little more. And what’s even better is that we’ve been able to substantially increase our donation to PWhy, without feeling the pinch at all.

Here’s how we made our savings:

Andy cycled to Spanish class six times instead of taking the car – 15 euros saved

I bought a new handbag, already reasonable at 12 euros, with a 50 per cent discount – 6 euros saved

On a 4 day holiday, instead of sharing a bottle of wine each evening, we had a glass each – 22 euros saved

We changed to a cheaper brand of laundry detergent and our clothes are just as clean – 3 euros saved

And our piece of luck – the petrol station undercharged a tank of fuel – 20 euros saved

Total: 66 euros, or 94 dollars.

If only all PWhy supporters started their own economy drive, think what a difference it would make to the Women Centre.

Amazing is it not. But that was not all. Some time later another email dropped by. This one from another friend and supporter and was entitled: “I am going to do a Marathon before I die”! Yes this incredible lady is going to run the Edinburgh Marathon and goes on to say : As an extra incentive and an acknowledgment of just being able to have a go at something physically and mentally challenging I want to raise money to be divided between two organisations. One of the organisation is project why!

These are two amazing women who are neither rich or affluent but who have a will to help others and are determined to do so. This is truly overwhelming and makes me ashamed of allowing myself to sink into despondency, even momentarily. As long as we have supporters like Irene and Bev we are blessed and safe.

a very special birthday gift

This year I got my birthday gift a day in advance. It was a very unexpected one and a wonderful surprise. Let me share it with you.

It was result time for our little boarding school stars. Like all parents I must admit I was a tad nervous. We reached the school early laden with bags for the new term: summer wear, new school bags and lots of tuck. After a brief stop at both hostels – the boys and the girls – it was time to go to each class and collect the reports.

First stop the prep class and the results of three kids: Meher, Yash and Manisha. The teacher was all smiles as she handed over the report cards. They were replete with Excellent, Outstanding and Very Good and of course the promoted to Class I! Meher had stood first. She was jumping with joy. Then it was class I and Aditya. Again more Excellent and Very Goods and promoted to Class II. Vicky did well too and was now in class III and Utpal, Babli and Nikhil in class IV. I must admit I was a very gratified parent. All my kids had done my proud. As I held the 8 report cards in my hand and looked at them over and over again I was overwhelmed. The children had really done well exceeding all expectations.

This I realised was the most perfect birthday gift and I wanted to savour it fully so I decided to postpone perusing the reports till I got home. Later in the evening I sat with a cup of tea, my precious reports in hand. It was time to enjoy my present. I read all the reports. There was the scholastic assessment and the attitude and values part with headings like: shoulders responsibility, respects other’s feelings, confidence and so on and ALL our kids had straight A+ses. And everywhere the results were stunning. I was amused by the appreciation that said that Meher recites with expression. I wonder if our lovely imp would turn out to be an actress, she is such a star already!

Babli’s report only had Excellent and Outstanding. How could I ever forget the little girl with a broken heart who told me many years ago that she wanted to be a Police! Did I see a budding administrator! My little Utpal brought many Very Good and Excellent and earned the remark of being a well behaved and obedient child. This meant a lot as the past year had been difficult for this child learning to cope with his moms disappearance. I kept on reading, my smile getting larger by the second. Vicky had done well even though he was a tad mischievous but boys will be boys and slow Nikhi was improving and getting better by the day.

I held the 8 bright blue report cards in my hand for a long time. What a journey it had been for this very special children. Utpal and Meher had to pass the fire test, Manisha grew up following her mom rummaging garbage dumps, Yash grew up in the most dysfunctional family, Babli had to undergo complex and life threatening surgery before they could enter the portal of their boarding school and reclaim their hijacked childhoods. And today they proved once again that they were worth the gamble and silenced all those who felt that this programme was too ambitious.

For me these report cards were the best present I could have hoped for.