Happy I day

There is a post waiting to be published but I have decided to hold on to it, maybe till just tomorrow, as I wanted today’s post to be one of celebration and joy and the post I refer to was to borrow the words of a friend the kind that drives one to utter despair. But today is Independence day and in spite of everything, it is a day we need to honour. I must admit that two days back I would have been at a complete loss to find something to share with you but the God of Lesser beings decided otherwise and gifted me another perfect day.

Normally Independence day and other such celebrations are closed door affairs in the children’s boarding school but this year the school decided to launch a Literacy Mission in the slums near the school and were graceful enough to ask us to associate ourselves with them. The mission was to be launched after the I day school festivities. We were on cloud nine as this is the very area where Planet Why was to be located. And I must admit to be privy to what happens in school on days where parents are not allowed was indeed a rare treat.

The day was cloudy and humid but we were hoping and against hope that the rains would not play spoil sport. We reached bright and early and were greeted by a walk of honour where children held little flags and wished us Happy I Day! Utpal was one of them and I was terribly proud to see him smile and wave his little flag. We were then escorted to the tent where the show would take place. I must admit that I was a little weary as I wondered how long we would have to wait for the proverbial chief guest. We were seated on the front row making us sort of VIPs! A short while later a young student came to ask us to come for the flag hoisting and we knew the real VVIPs had arrived. The flag was hoisted as the school band played the national anthem and then there was a march past.

Once we were again seated the show began. I must again admit that I was on the look out for our kids and wondered when they would appear on stage. We had seen some of them all dressed up and were eager to see them perform. There were a few items by the older children and then it was time for the little ones and there they were Aditya, Meher, Yash and little Manisha who had been in school for barely a month. They performed what is called an action song to perfection and my eyes misted – as they always seem to do in such occasions – as I watched them dance and sing. It was a touching petition to God and I think that the God of Lesser beings was moved too as the heavens opened and it started pouring. The tent came down and every one ran for cover. My heart stopped. What would happen now. What about all the kids who had not performed yet. I dared not ask, too scared of the answer I may receive. I just waited with bated breath for what would happen next.

We were soon asked to move to the Principal’s room where the customary ‘refreshment’ was hurriedly served. There was tea and cold drinks and an array of eats. Then some time later as we were still guessing what would happen next the good news: the show was to continue in the dining hall. I was truly impressed by the speed at which everything had been reorganised. The show as the young MC said must go on! Babli danced in a lively number on national integration and Vicky was part of an enthralling yoga display. A few more songs and a great performance by the school band closed the show. There were a few speeches and then it was time to go. But the day was not quite over as the school had planned to launch its literacy mission on that day.

It was still raining but we were all very excited. The school had identified a nearby slum cluster and children and parents were waiting in spite of the pelting rain. A distribution of pens and notebooks had been planned but soon we realised that there were far more children then notebooks! The number of children was overwhelming and each one wanted to be part of the programme. Parents were eager too as the only municipal school in the vicinity did not really seem to be working as there were more then 80 kids in each class and not much teaching, and many children just did not go to school.

The literacy programme envisaged by the school was to be held on week ends when students would come and teach their little underprivileged peers. It was undoubtedly a great idea but we knew from past experience that much more was required. What was needed was an outreach programme like the ones we ran and I knew what had to be done. We had to start one as soon a possible. My mind went on overdrive trying to work out the logistics: how to start, when to begin etc. And as innumerable thoughts crowded my mind the rain stopped and the sun came out and somehow I felt that the God of Lesser Beings smiling.

I had been given my very special I day gift, one that showed me that for me the show was no way near over.


a touch of magic

Yesterday was PTM day. A day I have come to look forward to for more than reasons than one. First and foremost it is the one and almost only forced day off I find myself taking with regularity. Come what may, rain sunshine or biting cold,the monthly trip to the boarding school has to be made. It is also the only time when for a few hours I get off the spinning wheel for a few blessed moments. But above all it my special time with what I would like to call the real India, where no differences exist, where all children grow and learn together freed of all labels and tags. So you would have guessed by now it is a day I look forward to with glee and excitement.

The morning dawned and blissfully there was no rain. Had there been rain the journey would have been a nightmare given the present state of our city!. No it was a warm day but the breeze was cool and clouds were playing hide and seek with the sun. It was also a special day as my little grandson was coming with us making the day perfect. The previous day had been spent shopping for goodies – cookies, pizza and doughnuts – and some little knickknacks that good old Maam’ji is supposed to have in her bag. This time we were also accompanied by Steve our volunteer from Cambridge and Gary a photographer friend who also brought along his vintage camera with tripod and black sheet. By the time the clock struck 10, we were at the school gate.

Mamaji our trusted trustee had preceded us and we were greeted by all the 8 children almost at the gate. Seven beaming smiles and one tiny unsmiling face. That was Manisha who had just been in school for three weeks and was still a little lost. It was her first PTM after all. I remembered Utpal’s first PTM and his tearful face and murmured words: I want to go home with you. Today, three years later he was more interested in the boxes and bags we held and in sharing all the happenings of the last month. Boxes and bags were retrieved and it was soon time to make the customary rounds: each child’s class and then the hostel after which we would all sit down and break bread – oops I mean pizza together.

As usual walking from classroom to classroom was a pleasure as every child was given a glowing report by the respective teachers. By this time most of the children’s parents had joined us and little Manisha had broken down as she held tightly to her mommy’s hand and murmured the expected: I want to go home. At the hostel the children once again proudly showed off their little beds and cupboards and once again we expressed our wonder and admiration. It was all part of the act. We spent a few minutes with the warden and were given a list of missing items: Utpal had broken his sandals and Manisha needed some undergarments. After warm farewells and see you next month, it was time to let our hair down.

We found a place to sit under a tree and boxes were opened and goodies handed out. The pizza tasted like heaven because it was laced with so much joy and hope. The cookies fared well too. It was a blessed moment. A picture perfect glimpse of my real India. There was Mullaji, Meher’s Muslim cleric uncle and Yash’s christian dad. Then the rest of us from all walks of life and both sides of the usually impregnable walls. All labels and tags had been left outside the school gates. Here we were one, brought together by our children. You cannot imagine what a wonderful experience it was. I am getting goose bumps writing about it. It was the India of my dreams come to life for a fleeting spell. I could feel the presence of my friend the God of Lesser beings.

But all good things do and must come to an end or else we would turn complacent. After a fun photo session the antique way, one that even the Principal joined, it was time to go. The spell was broken and the world awaited us at the other side of the gates. The only thing we knew as that come September the magic would be recast.

where angels don’t fear to tread

Last week as I drove to the project down our little lane, I saw a small posse of men standing on the street in front of our centre’s door. There were about 3 or 4 of them, and one held a sheaf of papers in his hand. They looked harried and worried and I knew at once what was happening. It had to be another broken heart that needed to be fixed. I must confess that my initial reaction was one of mild exasperation: not again were the words that fleeted across my mind. We are just barely recovered from the tragic death of brave and beautiful Heera. I really did not feel we could quite face another ordeal. But of course I did not let any of my thoughts appear on my face: the show had to go on.

This time the little heart that needed to be repaired was that of Kajal all of six years old. Kajal is a tiny little girl who hails from Bairi Aghu a small village in the Beghusarai village of Bihar. She has one older brother age 8 who is in school in class I. Her father earns 2500 rs a month and her mother stays at home. This is their sole income. The family does not won any land or property. When she fell sick last month the family took her to the local dispensary, then the hospital who referred them to Delhi and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. They came to Delhi, and took a little room on rent @ of 1000 rs and set off to get the little girl checked. They wanted to do everything they could for their little girl. They were told she has a hole in her heart and would need surgery. The cost a whopping 70 000 Rs, almost 3 years of the father’s wage. They were stunned and did not know what to do. Someone told them about pwhy and that is why they stood in silence clutching their papers on that hot morning with hope and fear in their hearts.

My mind was working on overdrive as I alighted from the three wheeler and braced myself to meet them. At that moment I did not know whether we would be able to once again raise the needed funds. Our erstwhile heart fix supporters had long vanished and getting funds now was a long and tedious process. I could imagine myself composing the appeal, posting on the net an hoping for the best.

Not wanting the family to have too much hope. I told them quite frankly that we would do our best but that I promised nothing. I added that I needed a picture of the little girl and that I would get in touch with them as soon as I had some news but it would not be before a few days. I remember the early days when one spent time with the families, trying to talk to them and counsel them. This time there was nothing like that. I was taken surprised at my dismissive behaviour. Had I become inured at the pain of others. Not quite. In hindsight I realise that I was apprehensive and did not really know whether we would be able to live up to the family expectations.

Some time later we had the photograph of the little girl and I set the operation in motion. The first appeal was posted on the pwhy page of facebook. At that time I did not even know the little girl’s name. I wondered how long it would take to garner the needed funds.

I had forgotten that pwhy was a place where angel’s do not fear to tread. A short time later a response appeared on our page. It asked a simple question: how much would the surgery cost? I answered and a few instants later, thanks to the magic of the net, from thousands of miles across the globe I got another message: I will sponsor the surgery. I was stunned. It was all over. Kajal’s little heart would be fixed. It was only a matter of time. The God of Lesser Beings had hear, listened and acted. One of his angel’s had appeared.

This angel is a very special one as she has often appeared in our lives. I remember the first time many years ago when we were battling to survive, she came out of the blue and took charge of things and settled everything right. And since she has always been around, watching us form far. And yesterday she knew we needed her and there she was dispelling all clouds and making the sun shine again. God bless her.

Yes, pwhy, is truly a place where angels do not fear to tread!

Note: we have the funds for surgery but do need some more help to ensure that Kajal gets all her medication and proper nutrition to make sure that all goes well.

what is on my bucket list

What’s on my bucket list? I must admit that till a few days I did not quite know what a bucket list was. Like everyone else I know what a bucket is – don’t we all:) -, had heard the song there is a hole in my bucket and the expression kick the bucket. I actually came across the expression bucket list on FB recently and deciding to do some digging. While doing so I stumbled upon a light hearted website that asks with impunity the bold questions: what is on your bucket list? And then goes on to add that if you have not yet begun one it is because of some serious reasons:

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“.

Or is it just because one has been to busy, to scared to find the list in a waste bucket. The website goes on on a lighter vein and you may enjoy reading it, but I stopped and decided to create that elusive bucket list even if the hair is getting grayer by the day and the years fewer, no matter how ridiculous I would look or how ludicrous the exercise.

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.

Too much to ask? I leave it to the god of lesser beings to decide. I will just end by quoting a poem by George Bernard Shaw that sums up what I feel:

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.

soul mates

They are true soul mates and they have proved it more than once. And they are soul mates in more ways than one! Last Monday they took the road to the boarding school, Utpal a now 5 year pro and Meher the rookie. I was a little concerned about Meher as she tends to get over emotional and melts into tears for nothing. But this was not to be. She took to the school like a fish to water. maybe, as all survivors, she knew this was her road to many beautiful morrows.

Utpal, intuitively knew, his little friend had to be protected and cared for. He knew how unkind kids can be when you look or behave different. He remembered how he had to fight the nasty barbs children threw at him because of his visible scars and he also knew that he would ensure, as best he could, that Mehar would not have to suffer them. The invisible scars they would have to deal with privately, in their own special ways and with a little help from the God of lesser beings.

empowerment to ownership

Empowerment to ownership! I wrote the title of this blog some days back and then somehow writer’s block or was it the God of lesser beings at play? I do not know. When I did write the title I was feeling a little saddened as my dream of going from empowerment to ownership seemed to be a tad turning sour. The blog was supposed to be logical extension of my cri de coeur written a few days back.

I had ended that blog with the words I had said my bit. As usual the teacher has not uttered a word. I asked him to think about matters and get back to me. I know he will ultimately accept to move. The other option is still too scary. But a see has been sown and I hope it will bear fruits sooner than later. I had perhaps also sent a silent prayer to the God of lesser beings urging him to show the young teacher the way as all said and done I was quite fond of him. That was also the time when I must have decided to write a blog about ownership, at least to make my views and thoughts clear. I must confess that when I wrote the title E to O, it sounded grand and somehow outlined the initial mission of pwhy. However over the years as the project grew somewhat organically the O got lost en route. Any feeble attempt to bring back the concept of ownership was met with such resistance and furore that one quietly hid it under the carpet. Maybe it is was too early, too scary, too ambitious.

However all this changed and the clouds lifted when the very teacher who had first refused a posting for some flimsy and inane reason and then retreated into a state finally came to see me yesterday. I must admit that as once bitten and twice shy I feared the worst. Was it to be another trip to the dreaded courts? He sat silently as he always does and needed as usual to be prodded to talk. I asked him gently what he has decided. To go to my village in Bihar and start a branch of pwhy he said in a barely audible voice. I thought I was hearing things and asked him to repeat what he said. He did and I wanted to whoop with joy but noblesse oblige! He slowly explained how he wanted to go to his village for a few days and explore the possibilities of starting something there. Yes, yes, yes was my excited answer. This was my dream come true: to empower people and show them that their real future was in their place of origin. Th real success story was to teach people skills they could then take back. This was more than I has asked for. The excitement was palpable but it was also time to quickly regain composure and be Anou ma’am the wise one. And above all it was imperative to guide the young man and show him the way.

I told him that it was a wonderful idea but that he had to take it one step at a time. The pwhy model would not just be replicated in a Bihar village. It had to be modified to local needs. I suggested he went to his village for a few days to assess the situation and then came back with a short term plan that we would support. Then he would have the necessary time to work on the field and slowly craft the long term needs and make a proper plan. I reminded that we too started with spoken English classes for just 30 kids!

This was truly a ah ha moment for pwhy, the vindication of the seemingly absurd dreams one had held on to: to be able to empower people and have them go back to their villages and create better options there. I know the road is long and tortuous but I know we will overcome all and I know understand why the blog took so long to write.

sweet dreams are made of this…

I remember the day when I first met Sanjay. It must have been 8 years or so ago and he must have been 14. We had just begun teaching a primary class at the Lohar Bati, gypsy camp, located next to our first centre. Sanjay and some of his pals, who had all dropped out of school, use to hang around our open air class, mesmerised by the foreign volunteers who sometimes taught classes. After some time we suggested they too come and join and some did, Sanjay was one of them. Little did I know that one day the somewhat rebellious good looking kid would break all ceilings and walk the ramp.

But let us not jump the gun! Let me tell you Sanjay’s story as I know it. Actually it begins well before I met Sanjay. Like many of you who live in Delhi, I too must have passed by the umpteen Lohar camps strewn across the city and never really looked at them, certainly not with my heart! It is only when we opened an outreach programme in what is called the Janata Jeevan camp, that I had to walk by the Lohar camp situated next to the Kalakaji bus depot. The sight and plight of the small bright eyed children running about and breathing if not choking on the fumes of cars revving up at the red light caught my attention and I decided to do something. The first thing that came to mind was to start a small creche and a primary section. Now Lohars, like all gypsies, are proud people, and not one to accept charity of any kind. We met Tau, the head of the camp and explained what we wanted to do. He immediately saw the wisdom of our request and accepted it. There was an open space behind the camp and that is where it all began.

As months passed, I found myself often heading towards the camp and spending time there, imbibing the rare wisdom and sagacity of these proud people. Somehow being with them was a way of stepping off the spinning world and recharging my batteries! They always had a cup of tea ready for me if not a hot hand slapped roti. I also discovered to my horror that they had been living on the pavement for 30 years though they had been promised rehabilitation by the government. I decided to do something and urged them to file a PIL in the High Court. Sadly nothing came of it and they continue to live with the Damocles sword of destruction hanging over their heads. Sadly again we had to discontinue our classes because of the authorities. We hope to be able top resume them again soon.

In the early days of our work there, I use to spend time with the children and often asked them about their dreams. They use to share them with me and they were often small and simple ones. I urged them to dream big, very big and to hold on the dream, because dreams had sometimes an uncanny way of coming true! I remember the older boys standing in the background and listening to what I had to say. I guess Sanjay was there too, but he never then shared his dream with me, though he joined classes and went on to complete his schooling. Geeta our creche teacher was Sanjay’s elder sister. When she got married she requested us to give her job to her brother as they needed the money. We did though I recall telling him that with his looks he should become a super model. I never knew my words would be prophetic.

Sanjay has been teaching primary children for the past 5 years. His gentle ways and his boundless patience have made him a great favourite with the children. And for me the simple fact that this almost drop out gypsy boy became a teacher was something to be terribly proud of. And that is why when Camille Ponsin, a reputed French documentary maker wanted a ‘story’, I thought the one of the pavement born gypsy boy turned teacher was one he should go for. I was far from knowing that it would become a fairy tale, where seemingly impossible dreams come true.

The filming began and all seemed on track. One day Camille called me and told me that Sanjay had shared his real dream on camera: that of making it to Bollywood. At first I just smiled. Was this not the dream of every kid in the land, the one that sustained you through your darkest hours? I must admit I let it pass. Then another call informing me that Camille had a possible entree into the hallowed land, someone that could perhaps make this crazy dream happen. He wanted to take Sanjay to Mumbai and simply take it from there. The rest is now history. Last Sunday Sanjay walked the ramp for a top designer and did it with flair and aplomb.

It is with immense pride that I read the next days papers. I was tickled pink by Sanjay’s answer to a journo who asked him if he was nervous: “Chalna hi toh hai. Do saal ki ummar se kar raha hoon (All I have to do is walk. I’ve been doing that since I was two). His words reflected the spirit he was born with, the one that is the heritage of one who belongs to a proud people who have roamed for centuries without fear. Reading those words I knew that no matter what lay ahead, Sanjay would take it in his stride, whether it was walking ramps or simply walking the road of life.

My thoughts went back to the day when I had jokingly told him he should become a super model. I wonder if the God of Lesser Beings was listening.

road to freedom

Only the educated are free wrote Epictetus in 100 AD.

Today young Yash and little Meher took their first step towards real freedom. They are to sit for their admission test for boarding school and if all goes well join five other children of a lesser God: Utpal, Babli, Nikhil, Vicky and Aditya. For Yash and Meher this is a red letter day!

Yash and Meher both have incredible stories. Yash came to us when he was barely six weeks old. He came into this world for all the wrong reasons. No one had a road map for him. We decided to craft him one. Easier said than done and I must confess there were many setbacks. We had first thought of finding him a new home but that was not to be. Legal tangles and uncaring hearts ensured it did not happen. The little boy weathered every storm with patience and grit. He spent the first few years in our creche and then moved to a little neighborhood school. We knew that something needed to be done. Only education could save him and give him a future. He needed boundaries and proper care. That is when we decided to send him to boarding school.

Meher came into our lives one fine day, quite perchance. But as soon as we lay eyes on her beautiful scarred face we knew she had come to stay and that the God of lesser beings had a road map for her. Her morrows would be safe. Thanks to a wonderful network of caring souls her life changed: plastic surgery repaired her scalded scalsp and maimed hands and soon this spirited child was ready to taken on the world. We knew that she too needed an education and the only place she would get that was in boarding school.

If all goes well, and why should it not as we are on hallowed ground, both Meher and Yash will begin school in April. A small miracle indeed!

The clock struck one .. and still no one

Yesterday was the Annual Day of the Shanti Gyan International School, the little boarding school where five of our kids study. The show was to begin at 11 am, and we were there on time! None of us were prepared for what was to enfold. More than just a school function, it turned out to be a taste of India in more ways than one.

Needless to say we were the first to arrive, guests I mean, the children were all there, dressed up and ready to put their best foot forward. And boy they did. The show was enthralling and that is what I first want to share with you. It started with a beautifully executed Saraswati Vandana by the senior girls, a delight for the eyes and the soul. Then the school orchestra took the stage and my heart swelled with pride when I saw Utpal come on stage tugging his little Casio. The piece was a foot tapping percussion and keyboard original composition and we were again spell bound. Next was the turn of the tiny ones whose action song got the audience clapping and cheering. We were then treated to a patriotic song, befitting the coming Republic Day. I was amazed at the perfect rendition and beautiful arrangements.

The moment we were all waiting for was finally there. A dance medley that included four of our pwhy stars: Babli, Vicky, Nikhil and Utpal. The children put the best of Bollywood to shame as they executed the intricate steps to perfection, swaying their hips with abandon and swinging their arms with the expertise of a professional. They were true stars and I was moved beyond words. What a journey it had been for these children of a lesser God. The next part of the show was a beautiful ballet entitled the Golden Rules. All religions were portrayed in an enchanting way: the Jewish wedding dance was perfect, the Gurudwara scene was touching, the Qawali got everyone clapping and the Bhumi dance was mystical. The finale was filled with energy and enthusiasm, a perfect ending to a perfect show. But there was more: the stage was slowly filled by the entire cast with faultless entries and all the children sang the National Anthem again impeccably.

As I watched the intense little faces singing, my eyes filled with tears and I quickly mouthed a silent prayer to the God of little beings beseeching him to always walk by the side of these five little kids who had braved all odds and done us proud.

Please spend a little time and see the pictures below. They are nothing short of small miracles. Enjoy the pictures before you read on!


The picture I conjured above should have been the one that played out in reality: an uninterrupted show by a bunch of lovely kids for all to enjoy and revel in. It would have been the case in any other land but ours. What if I told you that the show that was no longer than 2 hours at best, lasted almost 5! That the children who were dressed in their costumes at 11, appeared for their final tableau at 16.30! Never mind if some of them were tiny, never mind if some costumes were too flimsy to withstand the winter! Sadly that is what happened as concurrently to the children’s show we were unwilling spectators to another one, this one produced and staged by adults and whose main protagonists were Very Important People – or should is say Irritating -, the necessary component of any celebration in India. My heart went out to the management of the school and above all to the young and charming principal who stoically defied all odds and never lost his smile or composure.

Before I go on to describe to you the happenings of the day, I must stress on the fact that in India, the very existence and success of many business and other activities depend entirely on your ability to garner adequate support from the powers that be. No honest or hardworking soul can ever master the intricacies of the laws that govern us: they seem to be made in such a manner that help is always needed. The help comes at a price, one being the compulsion to include personalities in any celebration you organise. So the annual day of a school needs to have its plethora of VIPs!

As I said earlier the children were ready by 11.30 and so were we. But the clock ticked on and the front rows remained empty. An announcement was made requesting us to go and have a cup of tea. We did. The clock continued ticking. The children were seen peeping from behind the curtain. The head boy and head girl of the school stood patiently at the lectern, their big sashes gleaming. Another announcement informed us that the chief guest was on his way and should be with us in a few minutes. The clock struck one and still no one! You could see worried faces and people talking frantically on phones. The children waited in the wings. Then some activity as one of the guest had arrived. The show could begin. It did. It was 1. 45. The first three items were performed after the guest had been duly welcomed with flowers and speeches. We were to say the least relieved. But our relief was short lived. Around 2.20 the show was stopped. The chief guest had arrived. More speeches, more flowers.. and the children waiting.

After some speeches, prizes were distributed to a batch of kids. Great photo ops for the VIPs as I have forgotten to mention, there was a band of pressmen and photographers in attendance. The guests were plied with refreshments as is custom in our country, while we could amost hear our stomachs rumbling. This drama went on. One had to go through 4 VIPs each seeking their place in the sun. Finally it was over and the children could perform their final acts.

What got my goat and left me speechless was the fact that none of the so called VIPs had bothered to even remember the name of the school whose function they were attending and had to be prompted. The speeches were mutually or even in one case self adulatory. One wondered who their were being addressed to. The whole act was to say the least galling. A necessary evil one could well have done without. A total disregard for the hundreds of people who had waited patiently and for the little children whose day it was and who were the real VVIPs. But I guess we were all parents and thus vulnerable. Even I waited patiently. Had it been any other occasion I would have walked off!

As is often said: Oh darling this is India!

the gift of life

Heera is a young girl from Bihar. She comes from a very poor family. For the past two years Heera has been very sick and parents have been running form pillar to post to get her cured. To do that they spent every penny they had and even sold the little land they possessed. But Heera did not get better. Finally someone suggested they bring her to Delhi. They did and last week Heera was diagnosed with a hole in her heart. She needed corrective surgery and it came at a whopping price: 70 000 Rs. The parents were shattered and did not know what to do. That is when the God of lesser beings decided to intervene and told them about project why.

Heera came to see us with her parents. I was taken in by this quiet girl who stood there silently as her very life was being discussed. She did not say a work but just looked on. I learnt that she was studying in class 10. This was indeed remarkable as in Bihar, where she comes from, young village girls seldom go to school. That her parents had given her a good education in spite of their being poor showed how much they cared for her. There was no gender inequality in this brave family, a lesson for many! We had to help Heera.

Our heartfix hotel that had somehow taken a back seat for quite some time had a new guest. W swung into action and as I write these words help is on the way. Heera will soon be operated upon and will live. Not many can give the gift of life, we must be truly blessed.