This is, to me, the loveliest and saddest landscape in the world. It is here that the little prince appeared on Earth, and disappeared wrote St Exupery. I am reminded of these words as I look a this picture. This is a picture of land where Planet Why is/was to be. There are moments when the picture comes alive and I can imagine planet why just I want it to be: a beautiful green guest house filled to capacity with happy clients and a wonderful children centre buzzing with activity. I can visualise the place to the last detail, see the smiles and hear the laughter. Then the image changes and the land remains as it is: barren and sad.
If I am true to my words then we have just three months to conjure a miracle, failing which planet why and all it stood for will be laid to rest. To quote St Exupery again: a rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral, I have contemplated my barren land it time and again with the image of my cathedral but till now nothing has happened. My prayers and pleas to gods and men have remained unheard. Now I have under hundred days to offer my ultimate entreaty.
So let me take it from the top one last time. The challenge of every self respecting not for profit is sustainability: how to ensure that it generates its own resources and thus can carry on its work unheeded. Needless to say it is and has always been up most in my mind. Our sustainability story began way back with a series of naive attempts: candle making, chocolate makings, card and bags production. It goes without saying that these not only failed miserably but also burnt a hole in our lean pockets. We quickly realised that this was not the way to go. Then came the one rupee a day a project. This was something we truly believed in! Somehow it seems in sync with who we were: a grassroots project with a grassroots team and this approach seemed eminently doable. The idea was to contact a wide cross section people and ask them to give us one rupee a day! This would be something any one could do, or so we thought. To cut a long story short the whole idea fell flat: people did not warm up to it believing that one rupee could not make a difference and many of my won staff found thought it was infra dig to ask for such a tiny sum. The whole idea had to be shelved though I somehow still believe in it.
The quest for our elusive grail continued. We flirted with the idea of making clothes for children, of running a nursery for oil seeds, of Diwali hampers and so on. Needless to say they all boomeranged! Sustainability had never seemed so elusive. Time passed till the fateful day when someone mentioned the Ninos Hotel in Cusco. It was an ah ha moment; the grail seemed within reach. Our sustainability would be through hospitality. A guest house would be our way of raising funds. The idea looked so perfect. It was almost scary. There were many false starts and hiccups but we managed to purchase the land and begin planning in earnest: architectural plans, costings, 3D model and to crown it all a validation of the business plan by renowned consultants. We just had to raise the funds and we would be in clover! Alas things did not turn out as we would have hoped. The figures and numbers were huge. Our contacts into the world of the rich and endowed non existent. Our network inadequate. Many did try and help and at one time we even thought we had succeeded. But it was not to be. The end result is that we are today exactly where we were a year back.
The problem I think is that project why is where you see with your heart, something very few people still do. When you pitch a proposal like planet why which requires people to dig deep into your pockets you have to come up with cold statistics to convince them. We do not have such figures. What we have is intangible yet precious: dignity, care, compassion. Your return on investment is measured in smiles, success in examinations, better opportunities for those who have none and so on. These don't cut any ice when you are on the market for big bucks.
31 December 2011 is the day we plan to lay planer why to rest if nothing happens. We have less than 100 days to make it happen. So help me God!