the only way to go

Yesterday our four little foster care kids celebrated their first annual day in their little prep school. While the three older ones were dancing, little Aditya was an elephant in a Panchatantra tale. Babli, Nikhil, Vicky and Aditya are incredible kids. For the past 8 months they have been living with their very special pals Manu, Champa and Anjali. And they all are truly a terrific seven!

A year back they lived dreary lives and barely knew each other. In a few months they will take their first step in brand new world when they join little Utpal in his boarding school where a a whole new world await them.

These four kids have done us proud. They have secured excellent marks in their terminal examinations and have truly walked the talk! Yesterday, as I watched them get ready for their big show my heart filled with pride. How little it took to change the world of a child. Their willingness to accept new ways and excel in them is truly touching. They seem to know intuitively that what is happening to them is special.

My thoughts go back to the days when the whole programme had been put in question as support we thought we had secured was withdrawn without an explanation. I remember the sleepless nights I spent wondering how to salvage the programme at least for these four kids. I recall the reactions I got from those I approached for help. To many, giving quality education to slum children was anathema. And yet I could not send back these kids to their homes; I could not take back dreams that their parents had conjured.

Thank God, there were friends who felt the way I did and soon a wonderful network was created to try and help these children. Asha Seattle and Asha Canada have adopted this project and others have promised to help.

One must remember that this is a long haul. The children have to be able to complete their education that they are just beginning. It is also a long term commitment and one does not know what awaits us. It is not simply a matter of funds, for the next decade or so these children will depend on us at every step. One will have to be there at each PTM, smooth bruised egos , laud every achievement, chide when needed and heal every hurt. We too embark on a new journey, one we know will be filled with wonderful moments but also challenging ones.

My mind again travels back to the time where I first laid eyes on each of them. The day Babli told me herself that she needed an operation but that the family did not have the money. And then long after the operation the terrible day when I found out that Babli had stopped going to school. My mind also goes back to the very first time little Aditya walked into our lives a lost child with his huge eyes filled with questions. or the day we first moment I saw Vicky in the arms of his mother as we visited his family? Children whose dreams had been put on hold by seemingly insurmountable circumstance. And yet the god of lesser beings had his own plan. One that took many twists and turns but ultimately brought these children together under one roof and salvaged all dreams just as he had done for little Utpal.

In a few months these children will fly to another coop. We will miss them but for them it is the only way to go.

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