Many of you have reacted with spontaneity to some of the human problems that I write about..and some of you have suggested solutions that seem plausible and humane.. these are the very solutions that used to come up to my mind when I began my work.. but most of them had to be reviewed and corrected as one discovered the reality of India and life in urban slums..
What was important was to define what one aimed at: short term patch up options that satisfied one's own conscience, or long term solutions that may seem harsh in the beginning but could sow the first seeds of long term changes..
We opted for the latter..
Let me share some of the unimaginable situations that we have had to deal with.
What do you do when a severly malnutrioned mother tells you that they do not eat left overs!
What do you do when clothes you have given are not put on the child because the local soothsayer tells the parent that the child's ailment is due to her wearing given garments that have spells acst into them..
What do you tell a woman who defends a drunkard husband who beat her and her children...
How do you fight the local quack or the local money lender who lends at 10% a month!!
How do you fight the need to impress which makes people buy a TV but not food...
How do you fight the stranglehold of religious diktats where enormous amounts of money are spent to fulfill the hunger of the Gods, where milk and fruits are bought for a stone deity but not for a little child..
What do you say to someone you want to help when he says that he is happy with his pathetic life because his employer gives him the timely carrot..
Hopeless.. one may say.. not quite. There is a way, albeit a slow one.
We chose to walk that path at pwhy. It entails getting the confidence of those you work with and slowly setting small examples. What you have to keep in mind is the long term objective.
One has to remember that one is fighting with age old traditions, outdated mores, atavistic feudal attitudes that will take time. Mothers are always a good starting point and children the real strength. You have to play a judicious game of slow empowerment, where you demistify existing values and slowly introduce new ones..
In city that are bursting at the seams and are real tinder boxes, the message you have to send is that the future lies back home, in the villages and smaller town; start telling the children that all the skills and knowledge they acquire should be taken back. Each problem you encounter should become a larger lesson..
And then you know you are on the right path when a Vicky tells you: I will go back and set up a pwhy in my village in Bihar..
The road is long but it is the right one...
Oh darling yeh hai India!