To the manor born

I do not know at what age I had my first party, the one where you incited boys too! Though I am a child of the sixties and a rebellious one for that, my rather older  and a tad traditional doting parents did not quite warm up to the idea and I must have been in my late teens when I was finally allowed to have a party at home. As far as I remember my girls had their first part when they entered their teens. Yesterday Utpal had his ‘first’ party and sleepover. Actually it turned out to be in two parts as the boys arrived late and the sole girl had to leave early. Believe it or not, the one who enjoyed the experience the most was yours truly! Organising parties for my girls was always trying as most of them happened when we were in Prague or Paris and with scant help at home  from the planning to executing via shopping and cleaning was on my to do list. Not so this time as I sat back and enjoyed it all.

For the past week, my house has been in party mode. When Utpal asked me some time back if we could invite few pals for lunch during his summer back, I not only agreed but was thrilled as in his earlier school he had made no friends. What I told him was that he was the one who had to plan and execute everything menu, shopping, picking up and activities. My little man took it all in his stride. First he needed to confirm it all so my phone was requested many time and rang many times for him. Then as a great organiser he got a diary and made a menu with Shamika’s help then found out all that was needed to be bought and went on many shopping expeditions. Finally the day dawned and he was up early, all dressed up and his room was spick and span. Oops I forgot to share that during the week he had made many plans on paper on how he would set up his room. There were many discussion sessions with Shamika who was the ideal mentor for the occasion.

Utpa, is a perfect host and has always been so. I can never forget how I was invited to tea almost 10 years ago by him 10 years ago! So this time too Utpal behaved impeccably even pulling the dining room chair for his lady friend whom he seems to have a crush on, and making sure everyone ate and drank to their hearts’ content. After dropping the young girl it was all boys but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well behaved everyone. There was not a sound as they all played and chatted in his room.

The lunch turned into a sleepover as 3 boys stayed back and once again they were a dream to have as guests.

Actually I always said: Utpal is to the manor born!

To better manipulate you my child

Look at these kids. They are kids just like yours and mine born in the same country, protected by the same Constitution and having the same rights. But that is all on paper. These kids have no rights, are not protected by any laws and come to think of it do not even exist as they appear on no enumeration.These are our Yamuna project kids. Their parents are agricultural labourers who grow vegetables on the banks of the river and till recently had never held a pencil let alone see a school. Their days were spent helping their parents in the fields, tending to siblings or helping at home if you can call ‘home’ a thatched hut that has practically nothing inside. In between and whenever they could find a moment they did what every child does: play!

Today we run a small project for them and they are the most eager learners what can ever find. If you ask them what they like best pat comes the answer in unison: STUDY! If you prod a little more you may hear ‘cricket’ but that is all. As they do not go to school, we run a proper school like activity with a warm midday meal and subject classes including art. Were hope to add more extra curricular activities and sports! Given a little help I am sure that each one of them has to potential to become every and any thing.

But this may not happen as the powers that be in their extreme wisdom are on the verge of amending the child labour law to legitimise use of children under 14 years as labour in family enterprises and though they add after school and during vacation we all know which way these caveats will go. Anyway, what about kids like these who do not go to school. With one stroke of the pen they are condemned to the family enterprise: agricultural labourer! Voila. End of dreams. So who says the cast system  is dead. I has had just been  surreptitiously reinvented, repackaged and ready to be marketed. Father cobbler: son cobbler. Daughter married to cobbler. And so on.

I am sick and tired of the empty and supposedly politically correct ramblings that purport to end social ills; the pro poor discourses, the Messiah like pandering. No one is interested in the ending poverty. Why should they. It is such a great political platform with innumerable causes to espouse. Deprived of the  poor how would politic as we know it survive. Gosh where would they find an alternative were every child educated and empowered. I get reminded of the Little Riding Hood where the wolf would say to defend such an abhorring amendment: to better manipulate my child.

I would like to meet the individuals who actually came up with these amendments. How can any right minded human being can accept to see any child under 14 work and forget the family enterprise as in this case it is not a swanky one. The family businesses we are talking for can be just about anything from domestic work to begging with everything else along the way.

And yet these kids who are condemned to grow vegetables could be anything they want with just a little help from society. But therein lies the problem. Over the past decades I have witnessed the degradation of a society that once was caring with values and morals to one that has lost its heart totally. Come on let us look at ourselves. We drive past a beggar child without getting outraged. We see a child toiling in  a friend’s home without batting an eyelid. We see statistics of children dying in thousands every day and do not get disturbed. I could go on and on. The reason is they are NOT our kids, they are someone else’s kids. They belong to another planet. Now the government you get is a reflection of the society. So if we do not care, why should they.

I wonder what and whose interest this proposed amendment serves. I guess we all know.

It is time each one of us went looking for the heart we have conveniently lost or sacrificed to the alter of some supposed Good that we all should be ashamed of.

Mom

Mom! What a wondrous word and more than a word a fuzzy feeling no matter which language or abbreviation you use. Mom is the place real or virtual you seek when you are hurt or in need of comfort. It is the one you call when is despair or the one you remember in your happy moments. It is the lap you run to when your graze your knee and the arms you seek when life does not treat you kind. Mom is where you feel safe. I became a Mom at 23 and then again at 29. I thought that would be it. Two beautiful girls! What more could you wish. But I was in for a surprise or should I say many as when I decided to give life to another family, I never thought I would become Mom again. The family I am referring to is Project Why!

Over the years my Mom persona has acquired many children some quite grown up. I must say that I love them all unconditionally just as a Mom should. But there is one little chap who landed in my lap 12 years ago scalded and moribund and walked into my heart in a space I was totally at a loss to define. I was 50 when he was born. As he slowly healed from his terrible wounds and caught up with all his milestones he decided to call me Maam’ji when he learnt to talk and it worked as Mam’ji could be anything as it defied age-based  and non-conventional relationships. I forgot to mention that in my opinion, the heart of a Mom is expendable and fits anyone who needs love.

We carried on for 12 years through all the problems and challenges and met them head on and with success though there were some that were really scary. To the question: who is she to you? the answer always was Maam’ji.

But then a few days ago Maam’ji fell short as the child, now a teenager was faced with a difficult decision and choice and the need of a safe haven was critical. The young boy changed his answer to the question:who is she to you? Without batting an eyelid he said: Mom.

This happened in a rather austere environment where I could neither jump up and hug him, nor allow tears of joy to shed. I just held on to the moment in my heart.

So here I am, Mom again. With it comes the job description. Come to think of it there is none. You just have to conjure one as you go along. No second chances, just one and you better get it right. Children do not come with an instruction book.

Am off to making mine!

On cloud nine

Yesterday the recluse was forced out of her hole. It happened like this. Some people were meant to visit the women centre and Yamuna Project to initiate an adult literacy programme that would be taught by our senior students. They were to swing by place first and I blissfully thought that we would have a chat and a cuppa and I would then send them with Dharmendra and would crawl back in my hole. However things did not happen the way I had planned as the gentlemen in question practically dragged me out. Before I quite knew what was happening, I was squeezed in the back seat of a car and we took off. The traffic being light we were soon at the Yamuna Project. It was rather crowded as it was also the first PTM day. I headed straight for the kids and was again amazed at the palpable energy that emanated from them. They were all keen to show me their work. Copybooks were thrust my way with complicated sums solved correctly. I decided to have some fun and told them I was very bad in maths and needed them to teach me. They first looked a little perplexed but when I told them i had forgotten my table barring 2 and 5, they all decided to test my knowledge with the table of 7. I pretended to falter after 3×7 and they were amused as they recited the table and watched me dutifully repeat it. It was a unique experience with these free spirited kids who have no issue in handling any situation even that of an old biddy who decides she wants a math lesson. You want a math lesson, well you get one.

From maths we went on to the subject of teaching moms and all the kids were ticked pick at the thought of they teaching their moms. I wish the serious posse that accompanied me had realised how this could be a great project, but as all people tied to organisations and their protocols did not warm up to my idea as they had specific requirements. I wish programmes were flexible. Imagine these kids turning teachers. How empowered they would feel. Never mind the staid programmes I would conjure my own and put it to test. The few moms that were present were also quite kicked at the idea. It can only be a win win one!

It was soon time to leave and I realised a tad sheepishly I good I felt outside my hole in the company of these incredible kids. Must air the old biddy more often.

We then went to the women centre where five of our class X kids were waiting for instructions about the adult literacy programme. I was still in my happy bubble and let the adults talk. I think some programme was initiated. While the parleys were on I feasted my eyes on my class X kids who had all passed their Boards and was filled with immense pride, more so because these incredible kids were spending their vacation working at project why! Some were helping Meher do her homework. Others were teaching the weaker primary kids and our in-house artist Aman is the Art teacher of the Yamuna Project and even plans to continue teaching after school reopens.

I was truly on cloud none, my batteries recharged and ready to take on the world.

It was really the feel good shot I needed.