Manu left yesterday. He left quietly, without any fuss. I remember how worried we all had been in 2009 when he had fallen terribly sick and we all thought he would not survive. But he did, beating all odds to treat us for a few more months to his smile and his incredible ways.
Since then millions of memories have flooded my mind, each more precious than the other each bringing a feeling of incredible warmth and comfort making me realise that he was more than just a project why child. In many ways he was a source of strength and even a mentor! I also realise that he was the most precious gift that the God of lesser beings had sent me, to show me the way and nudge me to take the road less travelled.
Many pass by the likes of Manu. Some at best would throw a coin his way others would simply recoil in horror. When I first met him he was not a pretty sight: his hair was matted coils, his body caked in his own dirt, his gait unsteady and his cries heart wrenching. I still do not know what made me stop and look into his eyes. But I did and that moment changed my life.
Manu's story is no fairy tale, of maybe it is with him being the one who transformed lives and conjured miracles. God did have a mission for this broken and fractured soul, and the mission was project why! As it is for him that project why happened and flourished. My mission was to find him a home with a warm bed and a real family. I guess we both somehow succeeded in our missions as Many breathed his last in his warm bed, with his little family: Anjali, Champa, Aunty and Prabin, the ones who had loved and cared for him for the past years. I fell short of mine as I wanted him to be the first inmate of planet why, as its seed was sown the day I lay eyes on this blessed child of God.
When we first met Manu 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!
But above all Manu was the mirror to my soul, the one who have me the courage to look at myself with candour and honesty and showed me what I was capable of. Today I am lost yet I also know that I will have to continue my work with renewed effort to honour this very special soul's memory.