A rather irksome and totally unwarranted incident occurred a few days back needing my intervention. It was a rather unwelcome moment, as I do not like playing boss! But it did need my attention as one of my dearest staff member had been deeply hurt and I absolutely had to show my displeasure to the instigators. I did,though I did not like it at all. But when you are in a position of supposed 'power', you have to exercise it when you see your carefully erected edifice in danger of crumbling. Everyone is looking at you to set things right and you have to walk the talk.
However this post is not about the incident which I hope is done and gone and will not have any ugly repercussions. This post is more about how this occurrence brought to the fore my role at project why. It is true that I was the one who created, founded and seeded project why. That was more than a decade ago. In those early and somewhat benign days, project why was a small organisation, with a handful of staff and volunteers. Its outreach was small, the beneficiaries few and the problems fewer. Funding simply required me to take out my cheque book and sign a cheque as one has to be in existence for a stipulated 3 years to get all the registrations and other official stamps to be eligible for serious funding. The papers were in process and one could only wait. That was the time where I spent most of my days with the children. It was also the time when one could sit with a cup of chai and dream big. I remember the lunches shared with Manu in the warm winter sun. I also remember how I spent my day sitting on a red plastic stool on the little street where we were located, 'lording' over what was project why: behind me a small mud hut that housed our English classes and across the tiny street the pavement under a plastic awning that was our first class for special children. Those were moments of intense satisfaction and pure joy. Today I sometimes find myself yearning for them, knowing in my heart they will never come back.
Time passed. Formalities were completed. Project Why was ready to take off and my role would change surreptitiously with each passing day. True I still spent a lot of time at the project having graduated from my red stool to a small office in a mud hut next to a family whose income came from slaughtering pigs. I today wonder how we managed to carry on day after day in spite of the howls of the pigs! But we did. Somehow we human have the capacity to bear anything if the need arises. I simply remember murmuring a prayer each time a pig was put to death. The project was now larger as we had been given the use of the derelict park nearby. From 40 children we were now a few hundreds. And though I still spent time with the children, fund raising seemed to be what I found myself doing day in and day out as we had the nasty habit of taking new challenges without thinking where the funds would come to meet them. Actually this is what is called seeing and thinking with your heart and we were masters at that.
In the initial days we were lucky to be supported by several expats in Delhi: the French community, the Irish and the British. I can never forget how the then British High Commissioner's wife and dear friend came with a posse of gardeners and a truck laden with pots, plants and bags of organic pesticides. You see we had been given a park but its previous inhabitants were pigs and we needed to make it fit for human kids. She spent the day with her hands in the mud, much to the horror of her staff and to the surprise of mine. By the end of the day we had a clean park with new plants and even flowers. That was our space for a couple of years till the authorities decided to bulldoze us with the false promise of building a centre for us. The centre was build but given to an outside organisation. Thus began our nomadic existence. The expat community organised many events for us: a ball, an Irish evening, a Parisian night and thus we could not only carry on but grow. But then our friends left and the successors found other projects. It was the end of our Page 3 status and back to the grind for me. Mercifully it was the time we got our permissions and could start raising funds seriously.
As I said no more page 3 status but nose to the grind! I had always been a disaster with money and related matters. That was probably my bete noire. But then it is said that the Gods have a way of getting back to you and the one who found it infradig to ask for money, even what was owed to her had to master panhandling in a jiffy as hundreds of smiles dependent on her just doing that. By that time the easy option of dipping into one's pocket was gone as no inheritance, however large, is eternal. Blissfully this was when a wonderful soul dropped by and decided to help us big. He set up a support group for us in France and a chunk of our needs was taken care for. But there was always a shortfall to be met. And having become a sort of recluse, I found myself happier creating of network on the world wide net. The initial days were laborious to say the least. I was an Internet neophyte and I remember writing individual mails not having found the magic of bcc! The mails were long and often recounted the day to day activities of pwhy: the challenges, the achievements, the failures. I chose to be as transparent as possible and relate things as they were. It was a mind numbing task. Then one day, one of the recipient of my mails took pity on me and introduced me to the magic of blogging. That was an ah ha moment for me in more ways than one.
Dreams have an uncanny way of becoming reality particularly when they are heartfelt. They often strike you out of the blue when you least expect it. When I was a young girl and even later in life, I always wanted to write but never found the right avenue. I never knew that I was at the threshold of my dream the day I began to blog. Blog I did, a tad hesitant at first and then with more confidence. The proof almost 1500 blogs on my site and counting! Along the way I also wrote a book; the next is on the anvil. That was an aparte I needed to write. Apologies for that, but let us carry on with my supposed role. As you may have guessed I had graduated to chief fund raiser with just one skill in hand: words. In hindsight it seems I did pretty well as we managed to create a worldwide network that today supports our work. However it needs constant cosseting as any prolonged absence is quickly noted. This method is somewhat relentless, you are not allowed to have a writer's block.
Somewhere along the way I became aware of the fragility of this approach to fund raising. It was time to think long term. Planet Why was conceived and 'marketed'. But to no avail as I was unable to raise the funds needed. My words were not good enough. I really missed the page 3 days but getting them back was not possible.
Today I am still the sole fund raiser juggling two hats: the short term and the long term! Not an easy task and one that has to be completed before curtain time. So no respite there. I still go to the project everyday, even if it is just for a short time. That is because I want my team to get the confidence to work independently without the somewhat smothering presence of AnouMa'am. But I too need my feel good shot! I need to see my little ones and hear their laughs; I need to see my special kids as they always make me walk the extra mile effortlessly. I need to imbibe the spirit of pwhy, the very spirit I help create. I need to feel humbled and elated at the same time and sometimes give myself a pat in the back.
I have a dream. I want to see project why become sustainable and freed of the need of an ageing woman. I want to spend time with the kids, sharing their joy and pain. I want once again to sit on that red stool and watch pwhy live. Today I need my very own dream catcher.