agastya's class

I have just experienced one of the most difficult day in my entire existence. It was the day I had to sound the first stroke of the death knell of one of our classes. For the past weeks and even months the sword of Damocles has been hanging on my head. The precarious condition of our funds has been such that the inevitable had to happen. All pleas and entreaties fell on deaf years. Maybe I cried wolf too many times and was not believed.

It is true that all looked well to one and all. Yes project why ran like a clockwork orange and delivered its promises as hoped. The only one who knew the reality behind the scenes was me. For the past year I had been juggling numbers to keep afloat. Yet I knew that it would not be possible to do so forever and that it was time to see the writing on the wall. We had to see reason and make the needed adjustments. I know many will ask why we allowed ourselves to grow beyond our means. It is a very valid query. However the answer is complex. Our growth has always been organic and stemmed out of real needs. And each need was always sustained by our supporters. Hence one of the reason for our crisis is the last moment withdrawal of committed support. A real case of force majeure! Yet this is not the first time we have faced such a dilemma. When such a situation occurred I always managed to find alternatives though it was difficult. Today I have grown older and cannot muster the energy needed to make this option good. Moreover our inability to secure funding for our sustainability plan has made it imperative to garner all efforts to find a plan B. So to cut things short, we need to make some savings for want of a better word.

Reason decreed that the ones to go would be the babies. Sounds terrible and brutal, doesn't it? But somehow it meets all the criteria of reason. Our early education programme was started because we felt that the toddlers needed to be cared for and have a safe enabling environment to grow and learn, particularly as the 0 to 6 are out of the ambit of free education in India. Actually the creche was one of the first programmes we started way back in 2001. All was on course in the initial years as project why was small and in one neighborhood so the kids could move from one class to another. I can never forget the days when we taught under a huge tent in a reclaimed pig park and all classes were under one big yellow plastic tent. But then the Gods got jealous and courtesy wily politicos and their scheming alter egos - small officials - our tent was bulldozed and project why got scattered. Today the creche has the most adorable children but sadly a large chunk of them come from a far away slum where we have no primary outreach. The rest come from better homes from the area where we are located. This results in our losing most of the children once they have completed their 2 or 3 years with us. The former resume roaming the streets as their parents do not get them admitted in school, and the later go to better schools. They never become project why alumni!

So the moment one has to start contemplating a cut in pwhy, they seem to be the most logical ones to chose. Never mind if they are the most assiduous, the most endearing and the most innocent. Never mind if they have been Agastya's classmates for many many months. Never mind if they have the most endearing eyes or the infectious smile. They are the ones the sword has fallen on and they will have to go. And all this because a old biddy was unable to walk that extra step and save them.

I cannot begin to describe what is going on my mind. Words are too paltry to convey the emotions and pain I am feeling. The countdown has begun and soon the day will dawn when these lovely souls will take their last autorickshaw ride back to their homes. Will I have the courage to stand and wave them goodbye for the final time knowing in my heart that I am sending them back to the streets. Or will I hide in a hole and weep. Will I ever have the courage to ever look at myself in the mirror and like what I see. Will I be able to live with the guilt of having broken the dreams of these innocent souls. I do not know.

I shared this with a dear friend and all she could say was 'who will hold your hand'. The answer is 'no one I guess'. This cross is for me to bear alone so help me God!