ward no 10, bed no 27

Ward no 10, bed no 27 is where Manu sleeps today. It is not what I had wished for him when I first set eyes on him in May 2000 and threw myself a seemingly impossible challenge: to give to this street soul a home with a warm bed and a family. I guess it is at that precise moment that planet why was seeded and perhaps immediately forgotten as the task at hand seemed daunting. Manu was a street beggar, caked in dirt, with a mane of tangled hair, and a wild temperament that made him almost unapproachable.

We had to take things one day at a time. Tame him at first, just as the little prince had tamed the fox. Learn his ways and decipher his moods. We did just that and to do it had to settle roots in the very street he roamed. Thus began pwhy.

The first days were difficult as he used to hobble away each time we tried to get close, or let out a heart rendering yell that stopped us in our tracks. But then we realised that he too was beginning to learn our ways and would find him waiting for us or hobbling towards us as he saw our car approaching. As I look back on those days I am filled with an incredible and yet indescribable feeling of warmth and love. My mind is flooded with feel good memories that I had forgotten. There are so many of them that come rushing, each filled with hope and tenderness. I remember the first meal that I shared with Manu. We had got him some warm rotis and dal and sat him on a stool in front of our little classroom, his meal placed on another stool. He picked up his plate and balanced it on his knees and then patted the now empty stool and gestured me to sit on it. He then broke a piece of roti and dipped it in the dal and held it out for me. I took it and ate it oblivious of the glares of those around me who saw the dirt of Manu's hands. I only saw love. That was perhaps the very instant when I was taught the true meaning of the fox's secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. Yes I realise today, as Manu is fighting for his life, that he was the one who taught me to look with my heart.

There are many special moments in the nine years that we have known Manu. Many huge moments like the first time Manu ate with a spoon or the first time he picked up a pencil and drew a picture (it still sits on my wall). I remember his fist ride in a car when we went to the jam session for special children and the first dance I had with Manu. I was amazed at how well he danced. I remember his first pedicure with Shalini rubbing his feet with a pumice stone and he making funny faces and sounds. I recall with pride and satisfaction the first meal Manu had in his own home after spending a night in his warm bed. And that is not all, this child of the streets who had spent the best part of his life as a beggar, turned into a perfect host as if he was to the manor born!

There are so many memories as Manu is intrinsically linked to pwhy, our very first student and the one who made it all possible.

Many may never believe that one such as Manu holds the destiny and dreams of many in custody. And yet if it was not for Manu pwhy would not have seen the light of day. It is because he came into my life and taught me to look with my heart that the rest happened: be it the child salvaged from the flames who now runs in the sun, or the fifteen little mended hearts, or the hundreds of children who pass their examinations every year.

Everyone lands on this planet with a purpose and a role to play. Even one who may seem hopeless and woebegone. Every child of God has a destiny to fulfill. And Manu is a true child of God.

Ward no 10, bed no 27 is where he sleeps tonight. I had dreamt that he would be the first inmate of planet why that I wanted to be his home. Will the God of Lesser Beings grant me my dream just as he has granted the dreams of all those who have been touched by Manu's smile.

For those of you who do not know Manu, here are some glimpses of him


Note: Manu was transfused with a unit of blood yesterday night. he is holding on. please pary for him

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