Twenty one years ago my mother Kamala left me. Every year dutifully I have written her an ode, extolling her in ways dear to me. This year however I will take a different road and talk about her only child, the one who may not have been born had India become independent too late and a woman aged beyond motherhood. But that was not to be and the child was born in a free India. Now the question is whether the child has vindicated the mother’s sacrifice. It was time to answer this disquieting question as time is short.
The heavens must have conspired to make me do so as I received a troubling mail from a friend and supporter is reference to my swan song – project why! He wrote apropos my blog: Not sure how to ask this, but whenever I go over to your Project Why blog, I’m looking for some update on Project Why itself but more often than not, there are complaints about bureaucracy and life’s unfair circumstances that makes all of us angry. I do enjoy the ones about the kids, or the sentimental ones about a grandchild or the children at the PWhy or the boarding school, but there’s a transparency element I’m looking for but I’m left with opacity. The words were disturbing to say the least. It was my very existence that was being challenged and I was selected to be my own juror.
So here I am today defending my blog and my life!
The former is simpler. The pwhy blog came into being when a friend suggested I use this medium rather than the tedious individual mails I use to send once upon a time to share the day-to-day occurrences of pwhy and my inner most thoughts on things that made me happy, sad, angry, outraged and so on. Slowly the blog became the alter ego of a very lonely soul. It allowed me to unburden myself without rocking the boat. It made me feel, I must sheepishly admit, important as I was talking to the world. It also evolved with me as I grew in years and in experience. Some entries are like much needed fresh air, others reminders that one has not lost one’s conscience and yet others one’s heart. Some entries are cries for help. It is true that the blog began as a kind of journal of life at pwhy interspersed with appeals for support. Along the way came cris de coeur on issues that disturbed or outraged me. People reacted well to these. I too got emboldened to use this platform to share my inner most thoughts on issues I felt should concern us all. And many liked what I wrote and urged me to carry on. And I did, heartened by the response. So the pwhy blog became what it is today: a mixed bag of offerings that reflect my life and work, my successes and failures, my indignation and admiration, my joy and sadness and I must admit the line between personal and general was often flouted when not blurred.
But I never intended the blog to be a vindication of project why. Maybe I should have given it another name altogether. Project why was to be represented by the more official looking website. The blog was my personal turf.
Time now to address the more critical issue and write an apologia for a life. This becomes crucial subsequent to the words transparency and opacity. That anyone should feel that there is lack of transparency in pwhy is a slur on my very raison d’être. Right from day one project why was meant to be an open book. So when and how did it mutate into a closed one?
It is not easy if not impossible to be one’s own juror, but today I have to assume this role no matter what. The question that needs to be answered is whether pwhy has lost its transparency and if so why? In order to do so, one needs to look back with honesty and candour at the years gone by and see what where we went astray if indeed we did.
When we began this journey we had certain intents and many aspirations. This led us to make certain decisions that could be viewed as questionable. The first one was to have a very lean administration as I for one, galled at the sight of the pompous administration of other organisations wondering when the first rupee reached the intended beneficiary. Swank air conditioned offices, numerous secretaries and admin personnel seemed so out of place when the mission you were meant to fulfil was education of the poor or rights of battered women. So from the very outset pwhy we decided that our administration would be minimal and not a burden on our finances.
The next decision we took was to employ a maximum of persons from the social strata we worked for. Staff was found from within the community and trained on the job. We have never regretted this decision as our staff has done us more than proud but here again our choice had a downside. Our staff was not page 3 and and hence could not assume certain functions so easily handled by someone with a what is so aptly called English medium education.
This translated over time in added work for me. We never had anyone to write proposals, updates, reports and so on. We never had any one to handle the fund raising or the PR. Every time there was a new need it conveniently fell on my lap and I gladly accepted it. When we decided to have a website we looked for help and found someone to design it pro bono. But when that person left I was horrified to find out the cost of having it maintained. A vital decision had to be taken, either we gave up the idea of a website altogether, or I had to master web mastering in a day, or so to speak. You guessed right I went in for the later. It did not take a day but a few nights and I must say I was incredibly proud of the outcome. Come on a 50+ old biddy becoming net savvy. It still makes me smile. So as a true neophyte I took on the task of updating the site with almost obsessive regularity.
Those were early days when pwhy was still small and should I say manageable. And it was in tune with our transparency fixation. I remember how I reveled in making tables (a difficult task for a new webmaster) during the open heart surgeries where every thing was accounted for: shoes, clothes, food etc. The site had a section called this week at why and it was again updated regularly. We also had a section called child of the week where we profiled a pwhy kid. I had almost forgotten these. So the question is why did we stop. There are no clear cut answers. Things changed surreptitiously. Perhaps it was the novelty that wore of, or the repeated messages of trust made us a little complacent. We had established ourselves and were now trustworthy. We had sunk into a comfort zone. That was I began blogging and felt erroneously that it would keep people updated. And maybe it did in the initial stages. I guess I did not realise when it mutated.
The site became more static as the core of the project had been well defined and did not change much. A dynamic photo gallery and a live link to the blog were I must confess the only active elements of our home page. In hindsight I realise that I must have intuitively felt that something was amiss. This is proved by the other blogs I created and sadly never maintained as efficiently: a news blog, a blog about the boarding school kids, a blog on volunteers, for sponsors etc It had gone a bit out of hand!
And I must admit as I said earlier we had sunk into a comfort zone: we had our regular donors and when a need arose a blog or a mail assured we got the extra needed. And so life went on and we were blissfully unaware of the fact that our new ways were somewhat hazy. We simply relied on the trust we had built and left it at that.
I am glad someone shook me out of my smug reverie and pointed out the fact that we had lost our most precious asset: our transparency. Actually we had not lost it but it had got simply got mislaid. It was time to once again give it its rightful place. No easy task but I will give it my best shot. My life depends on it.
Pwhy is and will always be the best achievement of my life. Nothing can come in its way. I for one will leave no stone unturned to ensure that it regains its past glory.