when the gratitude begins.

The struggle ends when the gratitude begins wrote Neale Donald Walsch. We tend to forget this indubitable truth. Come one even I whose email signature bye line is: I am busy being grateful, don’t remember to be: grateful! Grateful to the one who gives unabashedly when you ask. I chose to illustrate my post with this picture as it has a story worth sharing. My little bloke would have been at best 5 when this incident occurred. I had the mother of all headaches and nothing was helping. Utpal was in the kitchen eating some wafers and asked me how I was. I told him my head was hurting. Without batting an eyelid he folded his pudgy little hands and shut his eyes tight and stayed like that murmuring to himself for quite some time. Then when he was ready, he quietly and solemnly took a chip and gave it to me: I have asked God to make your head stop hurting, you just eat this chip! I guess God hears the prayers of little souls and my headache vanished. I guess for us adults, it comes with a rider: first you thank me for all I have given, then I will give what you seek.

All this to say that a last week, our Finance Director whose words I often dread told me that finances were at an abysmal low – due to some sources drying and some delayed – and something needed to be done. Now this after a senior staff meeting where I had ascribed myself the role of mentor and handed over the reins in a matter of speak. As many know the biddy is unwell and prone to bouts of panic attacks for the asking. Hence the scary words had the required effect: a monster panic attack. This was followed by stress, restless night and the whole caboodle!

My mind was going all over the place and the the body reacting as expected. Hundreds of options were flooding my mind but none made sense and so the restlessness was at its peak. That is when I decided to call upon a friend and mentor whose simple words were: be grateful and God will show you the way.

This was like a bucket of cool water that brought me back to earth. I stopped. I prayed. I expressed my gratitude for everything that had come my way and above all for each and every time a miracle had come my way when I needed it most and Gosh I had forgotten how many miracles I had experienced. If I spent the rest of my living days on my knees, it would not be enough to express my gratitude.

The next day I sat down and wrote a few mails seeking help. I was not upset but strangely calm, as if I knew deep within me that things would fall in place. A few hours later an answer dropped in mailbox: it was another miracle, a most unexpected one.

All it had needed was for me to be grateful. The rest just happened.

Who says miracles do not happen?

Looking Away

I have borrowed the title of this blog from Harsh Mander’s hard hitting book: Looking Away. The author himself summarises his book with the following words: it is about the need for people to care for each other, in other words not look away! The cover is stark and disturbing and makes you want to look away before your eyes fall on the bye line: ‘Looking Away, Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India.’ How easily we look away when faced with anything that disturbs our perfectly and carefully constructed life and what a sad reflection on our lives as we know subconsciously that it is as frail as a house of cards that would crumble if we dared open our hearts, so we keep it shut and as for the eyes, well we look away. We look away when we see a child begging at a street light; we look away when we see a child working in a shop or even in a ‘friend’s house, come on our house of cards stands on acceptance and conformity. We cannot say or do anything that would alter that. We look away when faced with a news item about anything abhorrent: women being trashed in public, kangaroo courts ordering rape as retribution; children being beaten to death. Gosh the list is endless. And this Looking Away Syndrome also translates in our refusal to part with a few pennies to help the other side of the fence: those who don’t look away. And to ease our consciences we come up with axioms like: All NGOs are crooks! And having ingrained that thought in whatever has replaced the heart, we set on finding new ways to spend our money. Even Depression is better than Donating!

For the past almost two decades I have born the brunt of this attitude and have had to look for greener pastures across blue seas. In 1998, I began my journey with the naive belief that I would be able to achieve my dreams by simply asking a small amount of people to donate one rupee a day! Biggest joke of eternity that left me shame faced. I then set out to seek people one supposedly knew, all page 3 material thanks to the social circle of the husband to give 100 paltry rupees a month. Some gave just for ONE MONTH! Some even had the cheek to ask the husband to give it to me! Once at a small party where everyone knew everyone and when we were collecting money for a heart surgery, I was stupid enough to ask those present to empty their wallets, in a manner of speech. All looked away. At a fair in my old college when we had a table selling tombola tickets where the first price was meeting a superstar, we sold barely a dozen of 30 rupees tickets whereas our neighbour who was a tarot card reader made a hefty sum. Looking away is now in the DNA of the Indian Rich.

As you know, a few weeks ago the dreaded meltdown hit and this is what I looked like metaphorically of course! Many suggestions were made and I followed them all: rest (haha), yoga, barefoot walking, healthy eating, meditating and I did them all. I also thought that the message from above was to let go and hand over all responsibilities to the team so that they could find their feet. Deflate the armbands in a manner of speech! So a meeting was held to do just that. On my part I was to heal myself and then taken on the role of a mentor. What was left unsaid was that I had to find another cause to fight for. All this of course rested on the premise that we had sufficient funds to allow everyone to find their feet. But my friend the God of Lesser beings had other plans and it was a day or so later that my Financial Director let out that we were dry. This of course is due to the fact that many regular donors backed out or cut their  donations and one was not able to find a lasting solution so it had been a hand-to-mouth situation for a while. So all carefully made plans came crashing and I knew that at least for the time being I had to jump in the ring and provide sufficient oxygen. Maybe that was what the doctor ordered in my case and the face in the mirror looked a tad more normal, and the ‘writer’s’ block seemed to vanished.

In the past, I have always tapped my international network as the Looking Away Syndrome was too much to deal with and created more harm than good as it infuriated and riled me to a point that I became unproductive. But this time is a little different thanks to my meeting two wonderful souls (and I hope you recognise yourselves if you read this) who have everything that the Looking Away kind have but have one thing they do not: the heart and courage not to look away. These two blessed souls help us with abundant generosity and with no strings attached. They trust us.

So this time, I decided to make another valiant attempt at reaching out to those who have money with a caveat: I would take the help of these two warriors.

Project why with its 1000+ kids and 45+ staff does not require much to run. It can be divided into 15 modules each costing less than a pair of shoes or a bag at a upmarket mall or a dinner for 4 at a restaurant. Even our most expensive centre is less than what a bunch of young rich paid for drinks according to the article. Imagine now the same amount spent on: providing a safe and secure and happy place to 20 children and young adults with disabilities who are rejected by their families; teaching them a skill that would ‘buy’ them some dignity within their own family; take them out to parks and open spaces a far cry from the holes they live in; provide them medical care and counselling and more for ONE WHOLE MONTH. Does the equation balance? One evening against one month.

So my next task is to make the Project Why Menu where each ‘dish’ will have its price of course and a description of all the ingredients that make it delectable.

I hope it will work because it is not only a matter of project why children but also a way to get people not too look away and see that what they experience in return in far more than the most expensive thing that money can buy: the smile and trust of a child.

So help me God and his 2 Angels!

In the corner of my heart

For the past 10 days we have been flooded with the twist and turns of a high society crime , twists and turns which would beat the imagination the most prolific crime writer. And it is nowhere ended. Wonder what other skeletons will pop out of dark cupboards. It has even caught the eye of foreign newspapers! A master whodunit. In all the coming and goings, the hidden faces some under headgear that resemble the KKK, lies a sad story: that of an unwanted child murdered in the prime of her life for greed and ambition. Imagine being abandoned by your parents when just a toddler and then when you enter your youth being told not to reveal your relationship but pose as the sibling of your mother. And then when you become too much of an embarrassment or impediment, you are slain, hacked, burnt and buried and not missed for three long years. That is in short the story of the young girl who is making the headlines. What is tragic is that no one is truly mourning for her as one should for a life so brutally taken.

This morning we were told about a diary this young girl allegedly wrote when still a teenager. Diaries should remain private but in this case it becomes the young girl’s voice, a voice otherwise unheard. In the diary she writes of loving and hating her parents, even the father who washed his hands off her. And what is most poignant is that tiny entry about her mother where she says: she is in the corner of my heart.

These words brought to mind the often unsaid words of a little boy I love and who too was abandoned by his mother and has no clue about who his biological father is. He has memories of his mom of the times when he was a toddler and she cared for him. But she too had other ambitions and pursuits that were fare more important than caring of a child. And she took off, coming back sporadically when she needed to use the child to fulfil her needs. In her case too it was money, money to feed her addiction. She too met many men and ‘married’ them; the latest being a few weeks ago. The child who is now a strapping teenager has not met her for years but still carries her in the corner of his heart. For her she is the caring mom who plied him with biscuits his still favourite treat as any biscuit he eats is tempered in maternal love. Children never forget.

An abandoned child will often state that it hates its mom as hate is also a form of love. The real opposite of love is indifference and no child is indifferent to its progenitors.

It is strange how the story of these two women are akin in spite of the fact that they belong to opposite part of the social spectrum. Both were born in small towns and humble homes, both had children at an early age, children they left with their parents to hit city lights. Both had needs that were way beyond their means and both used men to fulfil these.

For the past days as this sordid stories unfolds my heart goes out to my little Popples who God was kind enough to entrust to me before more hurt could come his way. Over the years I have seen how his mother has been present in his inner most thoughts be it when he buys biscuits, has to make a family tree for his home work or asks for pictures to put up in his hostel room. But the image he carries in the corner of his heart is a far cry from the reality.

I do not know if my love will be strong enough to help him find healing answers to all the disturbing questions that still lurk around the corner.