Manu and Champa have now been flat mates for over six months. They share the flat with four other little residents and are all part of what we call fondly our foster care programme for want of a better name. In a few months if all goes well the four little ones will leave for boarding school. Whether others will replace them is a million dollar question and will depend on the dirty but life giving word: funds!
But that day is yet to dawn and for the moment life is bindass in our little flat. What is amazing is that our attempt at inclusive living is a success. Not because of well defined rules or training but simply because every one in the flat follows his or her heart. It does not matter if Manu is in his thirties and Champa in her twenties, for little Aditya and his pals they need to be helped and looked after.
I remember the days when the issue of Manu's daily bath was a huge issue. The simple act of helping a mentally and physically impaired soul have his bath brought out the ugliest side of our land: caste, gender and more of the same. Compassion, humaneness and such values were all forgotten. Yet Manu's bath at the foster care is no big deal. If Praveen the housemaster is busy little Vicky and Nikhil set out to task and help Manu with his bath. One pours the water the other applies the soap and in a jiffy Many is squeaky clean. Then little Aditya climbs on a stool and sloshes Manu's hair with oil and voila Manu is ready for the day. If Champa needs help with her mane of hair and Aunty the housemother is not at hand, bossy Babli sets to comb the unruly tresses. For these little kids caste, gender, age, social origin, disability or all of the these are not an issue. Manu and Champa are their flat mates and if the need help our little brigade is ever ready!
When the idea of setting up this programme was first mooted I smiled with glee. here was my chance to show to all that children were the ones capable of ironing all issues, bridging all gaps and fostering humane values if given a chance. And this is what I see each and every day as this motley crew learns to live, laugh, play and learn together. Inclusion is not something that needs to be taught, you simply follow your heart.