Six years ago, I gathered the courage to write a requiem for a dream. The dream was Planet Why the guest house with a difference that would have allowed Project Why to be sustainable. In a nutshell, Planet Why was a guest house indeed, but would have also been home to Project Why’s special needs children when their family support dwindled with time as parents faded away and the next generation took over. The gentle souls once loved and cared for would suddenly find themselves at the mercy of people who considered them a nuisance. That is the plight of mentally challenged people in a country that has scant support for them. They too fade away in a tiny corner of a home where they are not wanted, let alone loved.

This happens across the board, in rich as well as poor homes; the difference is an invisible golden cage versus iron bars.

This was a reality one became aware of very early in Project Why’s journey. Manu was the perfect example.

Hence, no matter what direction the dream took, there was a constant: Planet Why would be a place where the special children of Project Why could live and die with dignity, a place where they were loved and tended to till their last breath.

Planet Why was not to be. At first a series of serendipities made us believe that everything would happen. The land was bought, feasibility studies done, architectural plans drafted, budgets made. However we were unable to find the needed funds, in spite many promises. Finally the dream had to be laid to rest. Manu for whom it all began breathed his last leaving us lost and looking for direction.

Planet Why too was relegated to some obscure corner of our minds.

But  dreams have a nagging way of remaining at the surface and need a simple prompt to come alive. They never truly die.

This is what happened recently.

For the past weeks S our die hard special section inmate has been absent. In the initial days we thought it was yet another mood swing and she would be back. When more days passed a phone call was made and we were informed that her mother was sick and wanted Shalu near her. This was understandable as her mother had been ailing for some time. More time passed and it was decided to go and visit her to find out the situation and offer assistance if needed.

The reality left us speechless. S’s mom is in a bad way and the house in being looked after by Shalu. That is not all. There is a baby a few weeks old that is also left in her care. It was heart wrenching to see her scuttle around trying to do her best with a smile, knowing in her heart that her mom is very ill. It was heartbreaking to see the unspoken question in the mother’s eyes” what would happen to her child after she left? It was heart wrenching for us to have no answer.

The  girl we saw was a far cry from the often stubborn and yet adorable little woman who is the soul and spirit of her class. A mean dancer S is always at the forefront of every fun activity and can bring a smile on the sternest face.

It was uncanny how everyone who visited her immediately thought of Planet Why! Never was the need of Planet Why more real than at this moment. It was for people like S that Planet Why was conceived. A place where she could dance with abandon into the twilight.

The Planet Why Land 
This is what Planet Why would have looked like!
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