7.6.11

Project Why

The girl on the extreme right is Tanjali. The picture was taken against the boundary wall of the Indian Institute of Technology, Ber Sarai, New Delhi. Tanjali and her family and a host of other beggar families lived (still live?) on the pavement next to IIT. That particular red light -- on the intersection of Ber Sarai and Outer Ring Road -- was where they earned their living. Tanjali -- and the other kid -- are both wearing tee shirts that I'd painted. It was part of a small project started through the Indian Shitizen, a blog that I stopped writing. That blog received extreme reactions from people.

Many young Indians like me responded positively to it. When you are not a true citizen, when you don't do your verylittlebit, you are a shitizen: that was the philosophy behind the monicker. The blog also angered many people. Surprisingly a large number of them lived abroad. They all felt that by labelling (most) Indians 'shitizens', the blog and by extension I, was pandering to what the rest of the world -- particularly the Western world -- already thought about India. That India and Indians are corrupt, that they don't give a damn about their many, many poor or anything else that's wrong with the country and can be fixed. Anyway, that blog is now sitting unpublished. Perhaps it will be revived some far off day in the future.


But unlike that blog's failed attempt at making a difference -- it didn't last more than three months! -- there are some people/organisations that are making a real difference. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the phrase "non-profit organisation seeks donations", I instantly think of it as a money-making scam/scheme. So when I first heard about the Delhi-based Project Why and that it was being supported by the French embassy, I rolled my eyes and thought, "Another rich, page-3 woman and more white people with we-have-a-better-life-guilt." with nothing else to do." I don't know about the French embassy but I was absolutely, 100 per cent wrong about the woman.


The slum was in the Govindpuri area of Delhi and I was visiting because the dude I was dating back then (2000) was volunteering for Project Why. Govindpuri looked like a a slightly better-off slum area: There were more brick houses than shanties, the gutters were relatively clean and definitely not overflowing and the kids seemed to be wearing more clothes. And then the kids came out, a group of 10 or so, different age groups and in unison said, "Goodmorning didi, how are you today?." As in not namaste, but goodmorning and everything else in clear English. I smiled back, shook some hands and the cynic within thought, "So they speak few lines in English, even beggar kids can speak some." Then I entered the room the kids had come out of. There were a couple of computers there, with kids sitting before them... working. I was quite surprised. Outside the room, an argument was in full swing. I heard a woman's coarse voice, angry and bordering on abuse; and another gentler but firm voice insisting, "Par ussey school nahin bhejogi to woh ricksha bhi chalayega." (If you don't send him to school, he too will only ride a rickshaw)


The angry woman was another slum kid's mother who refused to understand or accept that her son needed to go to school or learn English. What was the need? "Sahib thode hi banega." (He won't become a sahib/ officer). Strangely and despite the distance and much more that separates India and Australia, many non-government workers/volunteers/organisations working with Aboriginal Australians face similar questions and attitudes. But I won't write about that yet...


The firm-but-gentle woman was Anouradha Bakshi, founder of Project Why. She eventually did manage to get that particular boy and many, many more to 'school'; that room I'd seen the kids come out of. A whole lot of these kids speak English, many use computers and as of June 3, 2011, "‎6 of our primary kids from the new Govindpuri Centre stood first in their exams, 8 second and 8 third!"


These kids are getting educated. Will they get jobs when they grow up or will they join the throngs of educated Indians who can't find a job? No one can answer that but at least and for sure, they have a better chance at finding a job. I wonder if someone will find Tanjali and give her such a chance.


Project Why has it's own website and blog. There are some really good, REAL stories on the blog...and shockingly few comments or reader participation. It would be very nice if you would go read. Don't take my word for it, check out what Project Why has done for yourself, see their website, Google them and if you're in Delhi, call and drop in on them. And if it's not asking too much of your time and/or your blog-space, promote them. Write about their work, send people to their website/blog. And no, they are not paying me to do this and neither have they asked me to.

5 comments:

The Lover said...

Good job! I am part of a similar NPO called The Orphanage Project. When I was in Delhi, we focused on a slum area near PVR Priyas. It was amazing spending time with the little kids there. I feel we need more people to come forward with whatever help they can give, not just monetary. Otherwise we truly are Shitizens.

Love.

jogibose said...

Well, nice way to introduce"Project Why". I hadn't even heard of it. I promise I shall pursue it and, in all likelyhood, promote it too.

JB said...

@ Lover: Firstly it's really weird saying "Hello lover!" Which slum area is this? That's pretty much where Tanjali used to live and work... I also knew of another ngo that taught kids opposite the Barista at PVR vasant kunj. Those guys were called Faith Foundation and they did really, really good work. When you say you're a "part of", what do you mean? What's the work you do and what's the work this organisation does? What did/do you guys focus on specifically?

JB said...

@ JogiBose: Hope you do. Here is a quick link from their website. They ask for as less as Rs 10 to sponsor a child's education. Minimum commitment is to sponsor at least one school year. See what you can do. You have friends who are doctors -- there's B n Chandigarh, you know who i mean -- maybe he can help as well. And as always...thank you for reading. :) I LOVE hearing what you have to say.

Bikramjit said...

I am surprised that people from abraod sadi that .. before i read that line the first reaction that came to my mind was to ask you where can i get those Tee's , I would not mind wearing one of those ..

It is the truth... and people who doing good things are so few wish all of us someohow sometimes do something together EACH one us and our country will be a different picture .. altogether ..

I know a person Swaram who is doing such tremendous job in india with the kids and I salute her and everyone else who are doing there bit.. but lets not stop at the OUR BIT... lets do more of the BIT...

Bikram's

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