Today's staff meeting was a watershed in the history of project why. It was a meeting I had delayed for long as in some ways I knew it would change things forever, at least for me. It something to think about a situation and its possible aftermath and keep your thoughts to yourself. It is something else when you share them with the ones who have made your dreams possible and stood by you at every step you think. All the kudos I have got past decade or so, all the respect and esteem that has come my way, all the people who have come into my life because of what I have achieved would never have happened without the support, hard work, commitment and love of an incredible team. I had a dream. It was more than a dream. It was a debt to pay for a over privileged life that I was given on a silver plate. It was a way of bring some meaning to my life. I often thought of it as my magnum opus and swan song. I guess the swan song bit has changed a little with present circumstances beyond my control but it is still the one thing I would like to be remembered by. Sorry for the digressing but it sets the stage for what is to come.
For the past 13 years my life evolved around project why. Every thing else had to fit around it. For me it was no ordinary work but a mission and a challenge. It was also my redemption. The hitch was that the dream was so big that I could not have done it alone. It needed people who were willing to run an obstacle race with their eyes blindfolded and the hurdles a mystery. It was my magical mystical tour! A course where reason takes a back seat and only the heart is allowed to lead. What made it somewhat exasperating for those who had to execute it was the poor if not non-existent understanding of the ground realities of the one who made the rules: me! So all the esteem, kudos, recognition etc should not go to one ageing woman and her dreams. They go to the ones who not only followed my dreams, but made the need corrections and fulfilled every one of them.
Imagine you take up a position in what looks like an 'organisation'. You rightly believe that you will be given instructions and a way to execute them and that they would be reasonable and stand the test of time. Not at all. If I were to give you a quick tour of project why's history it would go something like this: woman meets beggar man (Manu), decides to change his life. Sets up spoken English classes for two scores of kids and adults; sees welt marks on a boy's arm - corporal punishment - marches to government school, decides to ensure 10 lads pass their Xth in 3 months; finds 2 young men to do so on a road side; enters a lady with a few disabled kids; the woman decides to start a a special class. (one common strand in all this: scarce funds and no staff). Sees the results of some kids, decides to run primary and secondary support; finds destitute women starts a residential woman centre; finds third degree burnt kid with alcoholic mom, decides to change his life; finds one man needing help for his child's heart surgery manages to sponsor 20. The list is endless and leaves you breathless but every one of these heart steered decision was fulfilled with love. At the end of the day over 1000 people benefitted from these impossible dreams lovingly fulfilled by a team of incredible people with no fancy bio datas and resumes but with huge huge hearts. I salute them all!
For the past months while we tried to figure out what ailed Ranjan, I hoped that things would fall in place and nothing or little would change in my life. But that was not to be, and though I pushed it as far as I could, it would be unfair to keep my team in the dark anymore. So yesterday in a short meeting, where I held on to my tears, I informed my team about Ranjan's cancer and about putting my life on hold for a few months. The people sitting around me were one of a kind: there was those who had been with me right from day one; there was also those who had been with me from day one but as students in class I or even the first creche and today were teaching! My heart was filled with love, gratitude and emotion. But I could not let the flood gates open. I said my piece and quickly walked out.
It was a meeting to remember.