not to the manor born

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In my quest for a future for Utpal there have been many lessons that have come my way. The overwhelming support for this child, the kind words of people from far away lands have crated a network of friends till date unknown.

Many have also pledged their support to finance this child's education and maybe he could stand as an example of how a good education from the word go can make any child compete in an open field.

The first step was to locate a residential school which was not too up-market and in or near Delhi. We did find one, an hour's drive away and it looked very promising. The school authorities were willing to accept him provided Project Why be the local guardians. We got our legal friends to draft a small paper which stated that we would assume responsibility of this child. Everything seemed to be on course till a mail dropped in my mailbox with a new draft from the school.

While some parts of the document was acceptable - assurance of payment of fees, participation in PTAs etc - there were two provisos that were beyond comprehension. One that the school would not be responsible for any mishap that occurred in school or during picnics. The other that we would be responsible for any legal claim made by parents/relative/individual/ government etc.

Utpla may have had an initial setback when he sustained burns, but he is a healthy young boy. Now any child can either develop a problem or get hurt and a residential school has to assume that responsibility. As for the legal claim, Utpal has a mother who by the law of the land is the sole person to decide on his future.

The draft the school sent makes me uncomfortable as it subtly sets Utpal aside from the others. Will he then be treated fairly or is this one more case of preconceived notions based on the origins of a child? Here is a case of a baby who has been in our care from age one, and who has received the kind of attention, care and love that our kids get. Come to think of it, more than many as he has people the world over willing to help and ensure he gets the best in life. One would have hoped that the school would accept him as a challenge.

In the light of the reservation issue that is dividing our land, Utpal's story stands out as an example or how difficult it has become to smooth differences and yet the only hope we have is that such preconceived ideas are done away with and a healthy acceptance of each other sees the light of day.

I have always held that many of the problems in India need to be addressed simultaneously from top and bottom so if the non-political committee to review the entire reservation policy that is being sought by students is the top, then maybe securing Utpal's future is a step to be taken at the other end.

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