On New Year day I got a call from someone very dear who has been a mentor and guide. It was lovely talking to him as always and after we had shared our angst about the recent events and hopes for a better morrow, I asked him how is new project was doing. He had been deeply and passionately involved in an field project for the past years and was spending all his time there. His answer was baffling. He simply said: I do not go there any more, I run it as if I died yesterday
To me his words have always been somewhat prophetic and I tend to delve into them far more then required. Of course I did not react immediately as is my habit. I let them take seed. For some time I simply forgot them but I knew that they would pop up at the appropriate moment. And that is just what happened when recently the future of project why was once again evoked by a well wisher. I must confess well wishers have sometimes the uncanny habit of bringing up disquieting topics! But bless them for that!
This post was started in somewhere in January. But then writer's block. The words would not come. I guess the subject was too close and personal and even somewhat disturbing. Though one can sometimes jest about one's death, when it comes to thinking about it seriously and constructively if I may say so, it is a different ball game. What my mentor's words were asking me to do was to ponder about life after my exit and plan it to the best of my ability. Now were my 'life' limited to my family it would be no issue, but I have been entrusted in the past decade with the dreams and aspirations of many souls. If I were to die today, my family would be safe and would soon learn to live without me as I did myself two decades ago when I lost my parents. True I miss them each and every day but they made sure that I would have no problem walking into their shoes. However that is not what would happen to my project why family who depends on me realise their dreams.
The way I am made does not allow me to go by the maxim 'The King is dead long live the King", though there are many who would suggest just that. I look at this in a different way altogether. The ones who make up the project why family as of this moment - the children studying in various classes, the handful of special souls that spend their day in fun and laughter, the staff many of whom have given their best years and some who rely totally on the small pay package we give them to support their family, the odd soul who reaches our door when all else has failed and begs for help to save a loved one - never came looking for me. It is I who went searching. It is I who had a wish to fulfil. It is I who wanted to repay a debt I believed I owed. They simply allowed me to fulfil my aspirations. To the world outside I may seem to be the one who has 'give' and thus should be 'lauded'. But that is not the way it goes at all. It is they, each one of them who has enriched me in a way I never knew was possible. It is they who have 'given' with alacrity and abundance. It is they who have showed me a part of myself I never knew existed. They taught me the true meaning of love, dignity, generosity, hope and so much more. They lifted clouds and blues once for all. They taught me the one and only prayer worthy of a human being:
gratitude, reminding me of If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough
wrote Meister Eckhart's beautiful maxim: If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.
I set out on a journey destined at paying back a debt. Far from paying back the debt I thought I owed, I find myself indebted to those I ineptly thought I could help. I know for sure that I will never be able to pay this debt of gratitude in this life. I will simply have to be content with being able to to continue saying than you till I breathe my last. But that is far from being enough.
I cannot leave this world without having tried to the best of my ability to secure project why so that it continues reaching out children in need of support and empowerment. Sustainability has always been at the forefront of my thoughts but never has it seemed so vital. The oft said - time is short - has now taken a whole new meaning. A routine visit to the eye doctor confirmed that no matter which I look at it, I am ageing. Time waits for one and hence I cannot procrastinate anymore. My mentor's words have to be taken literally. If I died yesterday what would happen to my proteges. The answers are frightening.
Utpal's morrows are still insecure. There is no trust fund for him as yet and no clear emotional road map. My boarding school children need support for another 6 to 8 years. The 800 odd kids who are at various stages of their school life need us to enable them to get a sound education. The 20 children and adults who for the past decade have a place where they are respected, love and cared for, and where they can laugh and learn will have to go back to homes where they are at best tolerated. My team will have no jobs, and many of them are unlikely to find alternative employment. The scores of women who every year learn enough skills to earn a little and help their families will not be able to do so. So what would say many cynics, they all managed before you and will do so after. True that is one way of looking at it, but not my way.
I realise that the best and only way to pay back my debt of gratitude to the thousands that transformed my life and made it worthy is to try and ensure that whatever exists today, continues in the same manner when I am gone. And there is no beating around the bush.
If I died yesterday, at best project why would continue for a couple of months in an irreproachable manner. I have been redundant for quite some time and do not need to visit the project at all. But were I too exit the stage the project would wither away for want of funds. Whereas the team is more than capable of handling all the ground work better than me, I know that they would not be able to raise all the funds needed once the accounts went into the red. So the one skill I need to impart to my team leaders urgently is to secure funds.
To do that it is time to take a candid look at how funds have been coming in till now. And that is where it gets tricky and not very clever. For the past decade and more, funds have been coming our way because of my ability to communicate. My grave shortcoming has been to not explore other avenues and ways that could have been handed over quite easily. As things stand now, I would have to hand the gift of the gab I was born with, my ability to juggle with words and make them moving and that is not possible. So how does one get past this hurdle.
First and foremost I think we need to change the 'face of pwhy' which has alas been mine. I should 'retire' and leave the place to the team! I would so want our regular donors to place the same faith they had in me in those who I have so lovingly trained and who have proved their mettle over and over again. And come think it is there work that I project in my appeals for help. Were they not there, there would be nothing to be proud of and show the world. That seems to be a good step to take asap!
However if sustainability is something that hounded me for a long time, and is one of my most blatant failures as I was unable to garner the funds needed for setting up planet why, I know that we need to find other ways as no donor is eternal. It is perhaps time to involve all concerned and work out the planet why 2 model. And if we are able to come up with something that looks feasible, then it would comforting to get the ball rolling. Maybe it would help me clear a tiny part of my debt of gratitude.
As if I died yesterday
are words to be taken seriously and acted upon.
to be continued....