There is so much to celebrate at Project Why each and every day, but this week was a very special celebration: Utpal's 14th! To the uninitiated it would have looked like any birthday with cakes and candles and singing and cheering. However, Utpal is a very special child.
He came into my life 13 years ago when he was barely one year old. His first birthday was nothing short of a nightmare: he accidentally fell into a boiling wok and sustained third-degree burns.
He was given up for dead but there is a God of lesser beings, who had a plan to change the destiny of this child born in a dysfunctional family to an alcoholic mother. A moribund bundle landed in my heart via my arms and two lives changed: mine, and his.
But his ordeal was not over. It took three more years of living in a violent and turbulent environment before Project Why stepped in once and for all. At age 4 he went to boarding school. When he turned 7, I became his legal guardian.
Utpal, or Popples as I fondly call him, is a survivor and a braveheart. At an age when children are pampered, this boy had to deal with the trauma of his mom going awol. But he bounced back, and is all set to enter class IX.
Utpal is now your regular teenager. I guess years of living with his Maam'ji - the name he has given me - and being spoilt, have taken their toll! He has tantrums and demands but it is all part of the game. On the other hand, he is extremely kind to others and has a way with smaller children. He is also a born leader and very clever with his hands. He loves tinkering, is a serious student and has a great sense of humour.
So it was wonderful to see him with his pals happy as a lark but also the perfect host. Every one was given cake, including the guards. That's Utpal for you.
As for me I feel grateful, humbled and blessed.
What was your week like? What were you grateful for? Would you like to support Utpal and other children like him? To do so, get in touch here
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