An India Story

Today I write an India Story. The reason why I entitle this blog so is that this little story reflects how things work in our beloved land. In an earlier blog I had mentioned how the husband was all excited about starting a sports project in the neighbourhood and how thrilled I was at his finding a project that I truly felt/feel will give him a new lease of life. His first visit to the school went on well as I was told by him. According to him, the Principal was amenable to Ranjan's ideas and Ranjan who is quite a greenhorn at dealing with the likes of the Principal thought all was hunky dory. Any reasonable person would feel that way. Why should anyone in their right mind refuse free help for their children. Ranjan was ready to make a state of the art facility for the 2500 kids of the school and that too for free. But darling, this is India, and things do not quite work like that. Before he ventured too far in the wrong direction, I knew I had to intervene. You see he had gone to see the Principal of the school with one of my coordinators and must have spoken in an English the poor man could barely comprehend and as things go in India, the man must have nodded along and been lost. For Ranjan it was all spot on and he was busy calling people who would help in his project.

It took me two days to convince Ranjan to make one more trip to the school, this time with me. The ploy I used was that people like the Principal needed a bit of PR or else they would think that one had forgotten them. The real reason was that I wanted to make the Principal talk and state the real picture. The man was all smiles and very welcoming and called his PT teacher to join the talk. It did not take me a minute to have them say that they could do nothing without written permission from the top, whatever the top was. This was still quite incomprehensible to Ranjan as, like any sane person, he could not accept the fact that a Principal could not allow someone to do good for his children for FREE. Ultimately we had to cross the Ts ad dot the Is. The problem was that should the Principal give his permission the powers that be would come down on him and ask him what he got out of the deal and how much money he made. This was a shock to Ranjan but as I said this is India.

The PT teacher then told us that a well wisher had tried to do the same and the then Principal had agreed but sometime later when the activities were well under way they had to be stopped and not only was the Principal called to task and transferred, a case was instituted against the poor man for trespassing on Government land!  Ranjan was shocked and I was relieved. And there is more: the school has been trying to get the grounds levelled for months now but the file is stuck somewhere as no one seems to know which agency will do that: the PWD says it is the Horticultural Department who says they only plant grass and so on and so forth. In the mean time, and this is heart wrenching and infuriating, the children cannot partake in any sorting activity though we were told the school has a cricket team, a hockey team, a kabbadi team, a football team and so on. This is what we do to our children.

Ranjan is determined to beat the system and I know is anyone can it is my man! I want him to because I know that this project will do him immense good. I just hope and pray it happens. I know how hard it is and how you have to dig your heels and not give up.

Sports is an integral part of a sound education system. We have our own India story to tell. The picture you see was taken circa 2004 when we organised our own Sports Day. As you see most of the kids do not have shoes! The ground is uneven and only determined and motivated kids would accept to run in such conditions. The ground is part of a building complex that once housed the Labour Court and then lay unused and empty. Sometimes it became a wedding venue. We even had two of our Annual Days in the hall of the building which must have been the court room. Still naive and credulous I had made a project report to transform the place into a community centre with all kind of activities sports being one of them. Of course the file is still lost in transit but what happened was something else. One fine day the place was spruced up and we were told some swanky NGO was moving in. A board was erected that stated that the NGO did everything under the sun that could get UN and other funding. For a few days it housed destitute women that were poorly treated but even that stopped and the building does again once all funds had been collected. Needless to say the NGO belonged to the progeny of a very important person. Today the building lies unused and children have nowhere to play.