The 66 days bogey

As you know I have had the expected meltdown that I had been dreading for quite some time but I must admit I was on such a adrenalin high, that I did not expect it to happen to me. Come on am I not the control freak superwoman who battles it all! So I can control my meltdown as I do everything else. No No! That is not how it goes and a few silly triggers and the cookie crumbled. The body. mind, sou, spirit said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! And to make sure I heard LOUD AND CLEAR they took away my one and only panacea for all ills: my desire and thus ability to write. That was a real red flag and I knew I had to take matters in hand and take a break. So am on a break. My FB page is ample proof. No blog a day!

The doctors ordered rest, yoga, breathing, exercising, mineral broth, green juices and more. I am being good and after a few days of resisting – noblesse oblige – I realised I quite enjoyed this state of total farniente. La Dolce Vita. Let alone writing and even reading has taken a back seat and I find myself doing nothing for long spells. 

I do not know how many days it has been but it suddenly struck me this morning that if I let it happen for 66 days then it will become a habit. That was a wake up call. I could not and cannot let this happen. So panic attacks or not here I am writing a blog.

Mercifully being on forced rest I still find myself browsing the net, zapping TV channels and thumbing through magazines. This is how I stumbled on two articles that got my somewhat dried up creative juices trickling, and the 66 day bogey did the rest. One is about the plight of Delhi’s Rich Kids. Reading it made me sad and also angry. Parents have no time for their children and give them everything they want except happiness so these kids surrounded by luxury in every form imaginable are lost and depressed. They buy expensive things they do not use or drink themselves silly paying a whopping 60K with alacrity. No one is there to spend time with them or inculcate values. The only mantra is money! Money the elusive coin the likes of me break their proverbial back trying to collect each day not to buy expensive items but to keep dreams alive.

What anguishes me most in my otherwise enthralling project why journey is my inability to reach out to these lost kids and young adults and open their hearts. Giving up just one bag, shoe or drinking binge could run a whole pwhy centre. How does one reach out to these poor rich kids and teach them compassion and sharing. I do not know. What is frightening is that the gap is going wider by the second as the rich shut themselves behind real and virtual gates.

The second article I read warmed my heart though it angered many. This article is about a High Court so disturbed by the plight of government schools that they directed t he chief secretary to ensure that children/wards of government officials/servants, those serving in the local bodies, representatives of people and judiciary, etc., send their wards to these schools. Sadly this will not happen as there are too many stakeholders that would rather ‘die’ – or I guess pack their kids to another planet – then have their children share a bench with what we call the ‘poor’. And yet if this were to be true, India would change. I have always yearned for a common school for all where children from all walks of life would study, play and grow together in an enabling environment. Is this a miracle one can pray for?

So here it is. I have broken the 66 days bogey. Whether it is for good or just for today, only time will tell.

It’s much more than that.

You might wonder why I’m sending you a photograph of a tin is how the email from a very loved friend and die hard supporter began and then she added: it’s much more than that! As I read on the mystery was unravelled. This beautiful box was given to them by two of their friends Yvonne and Geoff and was filled to the brim with coins meant for Project Why that they had collected. The sum may seem small to some but is huge for us. And that is not all: they want the box emptied and back so that they can collect more.

This wonderful news arrived on a day when I am/was feeling blue and heavy hearted. Grandma’s Blues I guess, as my little grandson leaves tomorrow and we are both trying hard to be brave. But as is always the case when one is doleful and choked, then thoughts turn dark and all that worries you takes centre stage. Project Why’s is undoubtedly Top of the Pops.

For almost a year now, I guess since we lost a large chunk of regular funding – a whopping 1000 Euros – I have not been able to make up the shortfall, let alone garner more support so its truly Bleak Street as far as I am concerned and though I put on a brave face, I look for messages from the Heavens to enable me to soldier on.

Now Messages from Up There are not miracles. They are subtle hints that need to be interpreted with the heart. So at a time when I was almost on the brink of saying Basta, to my missing 1000 come a tiny 40 but what a 40 when you look with your heart. What these coins mean is that someone is hearing my prayers and nudging me to carry on with a silent promise of being there should I fall. I cannot say that the blues lifted immediately, come on we still have 24 hours till a big plane takes my little chap away, but I know the task that lies ahead once the plane has flown away and the tears dried on my ageing face. I will need to put my heart and soul in securing project why’s morrows.

Now in this strange equation where 40 > 1000 some explaining needs to be done. These coins have been collected by lovely people who see with their hearts and live thousands of miles away. They are friends of Irene and Andy who came to volunteer with us many years ago and fell in love with the children of project why. Though they were here for a short time, barely a week or so, they left a little bit of their hearts with us and took a large part of ours. Come on it does not take long to fall in love, does it! Since, they have been perfect Ambassadors for Project Why and over and above being never fail donors they have managed to get many friends involved.

The coins in the box are laced with so much love that I would be unable to know the number of zeroes to be added to the 40! I feel humbled. But more than that I feel honoured by the trust people who have never met me or seen Project Why have reposed in me.

How blessed am I that people in Sunny Spain spend time and energy to ensure that the dreams of a woman in the autumn of her life come true, dreams for children no one cares about.

So Thank you Irene and Andy. Thank you Yvonne and Geoff.

And how can I forget Valerie who spends her free time making lovely bags the proceeds of which have the ability to make dreams come true. It is because of people like them that one can carry on in a world where people seem to lose their ability to see with their hearts at the speed of light.

Thank you all. I love you.

A question of safety

A few days back a young friend was sharing his dilemma about shifting homes. He lives in one of the what is known as ‘posh’ colonies of South Delhi and has a floor in one of the stand alone houses which are the hallmark of these colonies. I live in one too. His wife wants to move to a satellite town, in one of the self contained upmarket gated communities. My first reaction was instant horror! I would never give up my rambling and even crumbling home for the most luxurious apartment in a gated colony. Gosh it is like living in a gilded cage. But as the young man started stating his case I realised his wife’s concerns and even understanding them. I still would not move a toe out of my home but then I am an ageing woman with grown up kids and a grandson that lives thousands of miles away. The young woman in question is a mom to young children, one about the age of our resident ‘imp’ at the Yamuna centre.

The young mother’s concerns are many but can be resumed in a single word: safety. The present location of her home is ‘unsafe’ for her children. They have to breathe fumes of the constant traffic; cross busy roads to get to a park to play; drive miles to get to a pool or simply to school. In a gated community all the child needs to do is take a ride in the elevator. The world is literally at her feet.

I could not help but think of my little imp and of her ‘house’. It looks like the one painted by one of her school mates in this picture. Thatched structure as the law does not allow the ‘poor’ a single brick on the flood plain – that is only the prerogative of the rich who can build temples and sky scrapers -! The agricultural labourers who tend to the vegetable fields in the flood plains can only have these flimsy structure where a spark can set a fire and snakes can lurk in the straw of the walls. And when the river is in spate and the fields are flooded the families move on higher grounds tucking whatever they can of their homes under their arm: often the precious blue plastic sheet and a few belongings. The rest has to be procured again when the water recede and the home can be erected till the next rain sweeps it away. I wonder if little Preeti’s mom can have the luxury to worry about the safety of her child. I guess it is better she did not as the dangers that lurk are unimaginable: snakes and bees; contaminated water replete with bacteria of all shades and hues and heavy toxic  metals thrown in the river with alacrity and impunity by the likes of us. The poison seeps into the very ground these children run on. In the case of this mom ignorance is bliss. If she had an iota of knowledge she would take her children and run. But where to?

The family had to ‘run’ from their ancestral homes as not only did they not have any means of sustenance but they had the misfortune of ‘belonging’ to the wrong political party, and I use the verb ‘belong’ with utmost confidence.

Feudalism has not died in India. It has simply changed feathers! Gone are the feudal lords and enter the politician. Just as the erstwhile feudal lord who needed hands to work his land, they too need ‘hands’ to clap at their rallies and shout slogans. The feudal master fed and cared for his brood; the political master hands out a few coins and unlike his predecessor, leaves you in the lurch to fend for yourself and your loved one when the battle is lost. What no one realises is that predators lurk and target those who dared cheer for the opponent. So you run. Just as the families of our Yamuna centre did and you hope the hounds will lose your scent.

You build your life again having only Nature to contend with and you learn to survive again. But your scent never leaves. It is called ‘poverty’. One day it will be picked up again by the new lords who will make you run again. I wonder when the land these brave people till will come into the eyes of the politician-builder duo duly blessed by the bureaucrat ready to do what is needed. So more than the river there is a larger danger looming.

Apologies for this digression. But it has to be said.

Let us get back to the topic: safety of children! How easily we identify the slightest element that may endanger our child but then why do we not have the same attitude to the multitude of children that come our way when we step out of our ‘safe’ homes. Have we ever bothered to give a thought to the dangers they encounter every minute of their tender life. I am talking of the child that knocks at your car window at every street light. Have we ever thought of how she weans her way in the dense traffic? And when she sleeps under a bridge what does she breathe: toxic fumes. I guess you get the idea. The child that works at a tea shop, a brick kiln or even in your neighbour’s home have we ever bothered to look at her the same way as we do when we think of our own.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: the test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.

I do not think we fare well as a Nation.

Makes me hang my head in shame.