For the past one year now a motley crew of six have been sharing a home. For the past one year they have learnt to live together, love and respect one another and have shared some unique and wonderful moments. Funnily of all our programmes and projects this is the one that never got a proper name: from foster care, to children's chance, to happy home each always falling short of what it truly was. Even its genesis was complex. Does it lie in the dream conjured silently almost a decade back when I first lay eyes on Manu, or in the almost clinical vision of social change foisted upon us by a potential saviour who came and went leaving unfulfilled dreams in our custody. Or perhaps in both.
In a few days or weeks at most, four of these children will leave the safety and comfort of their little home and begin a new life in boarding school. And in a few days or weeks at most we will need to find a new option for their their three remaining roomies: Manu, Champa and Anjali. And as they enjoy the last days of their time together, I find my pondering about the year gone by. Was it only a year back that I sat vehemently opposing the idea mooted by our erstwhile potential funder who wanted to include what he called a foster care cum scholarship programme in our planet why vision? As he juggled numbers and worked out projections, I sat stunned wondering how anyone could play with children's lives in such a way. To me the whole approach reeked of social engineering, something I could and would not accept. But beggars cannot be choosers and at that precise moment the person in question was willing to back our own dreams and vision for the future. One had to find a via media, and one did: a small trial programme with four carefully selected children in order to assess the viability and validity of the proposed project.
Things did not turn out to be what we had hoped for, and the person disappeared leaving us holding the dreams of these four kids in our hands. There was no going back even if we could not even begin to fathom how we would pull this one through. We walked into uncharted territory boldly and bravely if I may say so. The little foster care programme began in earnest. The four children - Babli, Vicky, Nikhil and Aditya - were sent to a small prep school where they learnt was would be needed to take the big plunge in a world normally reserved for the privileged. They surpassed themselves and past the litmus test: their entrance examination to the boarding school. Today they are all set to join it, once we manage to muster the funds needed for them to do so.
While the children played by the rules and never faltered, we began the uphill task of finding people who would help us fund the education of these incredible kids. Easier said than done as we came up against unbelievable opposition. What we were doing was crossing the invisible line and that was anathema to many. But we have not given up hope as to us it would be anathema to send our little slumdogs backs to the slums. Wish we had a millionaire show where we knew all the answers.
The story does end here. As we sat wondering about how we would manage the days ahead, we realised that once the four kids have left us, our present premises would be too big for the remaining three inmates. The obvious choice would be to rent a smaller flat and hence save some pennies too but oh daring yeh hai India and people do not rent homes to disabled human beings and Manu, Champa and Anjali belong to the kind our society rejects and would like to wish away. For the past weeks we have been looking in vain for alternative accommodation. It looks like we may not be able to find any.
As I sit in what looks like a twilight world I ask myself a simple question: where do they go now and wait for a miracle to come my way!