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Ranjan’s cancer, let us call it by its name as I always feel that is the best way to put things in the right perspective, has had a bitter sweet side effect: time to make our bucket list(s). I must admit that I had often thought of bucket lists and even written about them. Rereading the one I made on April 15, 2010 made me smile and cry at the same time. It all happened when I stumbled on a website that gave reasons for why we did not make bucket lists in time. I will quote the reasons stated:

– you’ve probably never taken the time to figure out who you really are, let alone ponder why you’re here.

– you’ve even avoided doing what really matters to you because you didn’t want to admit to everyone that you’ve got a hole in your blessed bucket;

– maybe you’ve just convinced yourself that, by some miracle afforded by the fountain of youth, you’ll never have gray hair or lose it, or ever have to “kick the bucket”.

Those were happy days! Healthy days! Days when you did not even think that anything could go wrong. Or were they simply days of hubris. Anyway I did start making a bucket list of sorts. In those days my list sounded rather airy and a tad flippant and I quote again:

As I sat pondering at what I would write on that my bucket list, I realised that I actually have already begun one surreptitiously and that it has one big item looming large and named: Planet Why whose bye line should be: ensure that my work of ten years does not go waste and secure the lives of those God in his wisdom dropped my way. Whether Planet Why will be the green haven that will house my wards, or a cold bank deposit that will pay its monthly deposits, or something still unknown I do not know. All I know is that this is the most important thing on my bucket list. I could expand it in many ways: see that Manu his pals live with dignity till their last breath, see Utpal and his pals graduate with honours and become worthy citizens, ensure that as long as God permits hundred of children are given the skills and education needed to break the circle of poverty they are locked in and so on. Ambitious maybe, but a matter of life and death for me.

I would also have a small personal and somewhat selfish list: see my daughter settled and happy, write at least another book, see my grandson grow, take that long due holiday with my life partner, heal all unnecessary hurts, be healthy and brimming with energy and exit with a smile.

It sounded as if I was in control of the rest of my life and quite content.

Let us forward to 30 September 2013, 3 years after I wrote those words. Planet why is now a distant dream, Manu left me but lived his last breath with dignity so that is a big check on the list; Utpal is fighting demons I could have never conjured in my hubris, and project why is thriving on the field on  very fragile foundations.

Never in my wildest and worst nightmare would have I thought that the opening lines of my personal list would be: see Ranjan survive his cancer! Cancer was banned for those I loved, it had claimed too many and I would have only accepted it if it were to hit me! So though all the other items on my personal list remain intact, they are now overshadowed by the arrival of Mr H and by the battle to boot him out. Everything becomes dependent on my victory.

But there is the other list. The one that concerns my extended family: my precious and adored team (even the ones that may have been troublesome or even hurtful) and my children present and future as God has given me the blessing of adding on kids by the day. No nine months here! All that is needed is a big heart and that is something I have. Here again I will make sure that hubris does not blind me. Planet Why will not be the fancy structure that would have raised funds and empowered communities. But planet why in its new avatar will certainly continue the dream, truncated, diminished but still very much alive.

This is probably, after resettling Utpal ( and the process has begun), the item number one on my project why bucket list. My thoughts are still hazy and vague but the idea is to find a small piece of land close to the women centre and near a legal resettlement colony and build a small centre. This will be made possible when we sell the land we had bought for Planet Why avatar 1! The appreciation and size of that land would make it possible to buy and build a smaller project. Of course it will built in the model Laurie Baker had created for slums! We will build as much as we can and later the succession can raise money to extend the building room by room!

The next item is more tricky as the funding model we have is fragile and dependent on one person. The miracle would be an Angel willing to place a certain sum of money in a trust fund. The capital would remain theirs and we would run with the interest. This is wishful thinking but I know the God of small things is listening. I also know he will test me before deciding to send me an Angel or not! In case of the later, I will just have to believe in the maxim: The King is dead; long live the King. At lest the new kind will inherit a building and the goodwill I have garnered over the years.

This is where I stand today with a small petition to all those who have helped, trusted and believed in me: please send a little prayer up in the sky to see that my bucket list is completed in time.

I will again end this post with George Bernard Shaw is poem which says it all:

True Joy of Life

This is the true joy of life.
The being used for a purpose
Recognized by yourself as a mighty one.
The being a force of nature
Instead of a feverish, selfish
Little clod of ailments and grievances
Complaining that the world will not
Devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life
Belongs to the whole community
And as long as I live,
It is my privilege to do for it
Whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly
Used up when I die,
For the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch
Which I’ve got hold of
For the moment
And I want to make it burn
As brightly as possible before
Handling it on to future generations.
I chose this picture because I know God listens to children

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To the manor born