How would you feel if your labour of 13 years was judged in 3 days and dismissed as inadequate and unworthy to be given a second chance? Not good I presume particularly if you have spent 13 years of your time to build it brick by brick from scratch. Sadly this is what happened to me, to us at pwhy a couple of days ago. I will not go into the details. I hold no bad feelings, I gave up those long ago. I simply hope against hope that this unfair dismissal will not cast a slur on the relentless effort of those who have put heart and soul in making pwhy what it is today. However, when such occurrences happen, I feel the need of taking a harsh and candid look at what we have achieved, to assess where we went wrong and could we have done things better. The recent incident made that more imperative than ever.
I feel particularly hurt as it seems that a lack of some creature comforts that could have been sorted out, reflect on the hard work of a wonderful team and the morrows of almost one thousand deprived children. These children depend on the generosity of donors the world over and the slightest slur can put an end to their hopes and smiles.
I chose to put a picture of the wonderful smiles of Umesh and Anurag who are two children of our special section and have been with us for many years. I browsed our old pictures and found these! How big they have grown and how happy they look today! I am not boasting but had we not been there I wonder what would have happened to them. For the past decade, these two lads and many of their companions have been coming to pwhy and every day and spending some hours laughing and learning, something that is the right of every child but is often denied to children with special needs. If just for that I think I can say we at least did something right. I still remember the cold morning when a lady dropped in to our office with four or five kids in tow, Umesh being one of them and asking us if we had a class for children with special needs as the one these children went to had suddenly shut its doors and moved to greener pastures. It did not take me a second to tell her that we did not but would start one.
And our first class for special children was on the
pavement. It was winter and a blissfully a sunny one, so the classes could be held out in the open. They shared their space with a bunch of class X boys who were busy preparing for their Boards. But come the heat and it became impossible for the special class to stay in the open. A quick switch was made and the English classes that were held in a small mud hut became their classroom. Soon primary classes were added and we taught every where and any where: a reclaimed park where we erected a lovely tent, in between buildings
when we were thrown out of the park, in a reclaimed garbage dump. Any space would do, as long as we could continue our work. From a handful of kids, we became hundreds and even touched a thousand! We fought every battle needed: the slum lords, the wily unions, the scheming politicos but survived each battle. We met every challenge thrown at us and found solutions: be it life saving surgeries, destitute women or unfair court cases. We did at times have to lick our wounds but they healed faster than we could imagine as they seemed paltry compared to the smiles that filled our lives.
Our kids have grown. The little girl leading the morning walk of our very first creche is now a stunning young lady in class VII. She studies in a public school as her family has understood the importance of education and has tightened their belt to give her the best education. One of our first students in class I has completed her schooling and is now a teacher at pwhy. A young boy who joined the classes we ran for a gypsy camp because of the young international volunteers who taught there. He completed his education, worked as a teacher with pwhy and is now an international ramp model
There are so many heart warming stories that make up the 13 years of project why. All of them have been shared in the 1500 posts of this blog. We have also shared our errors, our lapses, our failures as candidly as possible.
Today when I stand at a crossroad, wondering whether it would be wiser to wind up this unwieldy project that has grown because I followed my heart at every single moment, or maybe scale it down by applying some hard logic leaving the heart aside, I just have to take a walk down memory lane to see how absurd the idea is.
I only wish people did not judge 13 years of work in 3 short days!