Sunday, April 20, 2014



A dozen thoughts raced across my mind even as my daughter kept up her barrage of questions. I knew her inquisitive mind and box full of curiosity won’t give her any peace of mind, even as I told her “You will find out when you get there.” She always marched me though this drill. I tried to answer her queries as best as I could and some I passed over to my mother. My son too young to comprehend or contemplate about the affairs of life, was deeply engrossed in clicking pictures of food stalls, a wandering cow, or a man riding a rickshaw on the road. His experiments in photography may not qualify him for any contest but they sure kept me relaxed and the photographer occupied.  
I wondered how they would react to all of us. I am guilty of housing a little fear in some corner of my mind. Fear about how my children would react on seeing them; about the safety of my children least they turn aggressive. My mother’s presence and the fact that she had visited them earlier, reassured me. I began to think how close relationships, and love for our dear ones makes a human weak or susceptible to weakness. I was unaware that on the retrospect after the visit I would be left wondering about my ignorance and complacent attitude about the issue.
The car approached the “Open Learning School”, which was hidden from the main road by the high wall and rows of trees. As the car entered the gates of the school I couldn’t help revealing my amazement to mother “It’s so big, with an impressive lay out! I didn’t expect this!”There were a few yellow buses lined outside the school building. The school was a learning center for autistic and differently abled children in Bhubaneswar. The buses brought in children residing with their parents and teachers from various parts of the city. As we were visiting on a weekend we were certain that the school schedule won’t be disrupted. Our destination was the hostel ,(the haven )housing the 25 orphaned/deserted,  autistic / mentally challenged children, which  was at a little distance from the school, but within the compounded walls. As soon as the car stopped and we alighted from it we were greeted by the abandoned joy, laughter, dance and shout of a few kids. These were children who were relatively less challenged. There were about 25 children in the approximate age range of 5-20 years and about 5 -6 care takers. 

 Open Learning School is a organization for disadvantaged children and is registered under Indian Societies Registration Act.
Bakul (In Orissa, Bhubaneswar) an organization based on voluntarism carries out wonderful activities regularly in such NGO's. To participate in such activities or help out at OLS(Open Learning School) visit :

When I first encountered the children I was too unprepared and stunned to react. The warmth with which the children welcomed us, completely overpowered me. As my mother (better acquainted with the school and its inmates) introduced me to the caretakers I began to get over the overwhelming feeling brimming up inside me. Adults with their rigid rational minds falter and fumble; finding it difficult to transcend the distances between hearts.  Children blessed with their innocence travel past the awkwardness even when dealing with strangers. Yes, it was the children (whom I thought were challenged, less fortunate) who helped me get acquainted and break the ice. A few of them uninhibitedly touched, clasped my hand, chunni and smiled at me. My daughter had meanwhile made friends with a seventeen year old girl (Lalitha) and was playing with her bouncing one of the few balloons we had handed out to the children. I saw Papa bouncing a balloon on to another girls head as she giggled and laughed. The table was brought out even as the children introduced themselves to us. Some of them were restricted to their wheel chairs, their limbs and mind totally uncooperative with their spirit. One boy kept kissing the floor and smiling in joy. We put out the cakes on the table and cut it out for the children. Mummy had advised me to get something soft for the children least some of them swallow it without chewing and choke on it.  I watched some of the children whose body and mind allowed them to, help out those who were more helpless. The warmth, empathy and understanding between them was touching. I should also give credit to the caretakers who must have trained them in these tasks. The caretakers told us heart wrenching stories about how the children had come to be adopted by the home. Some had been found wandering in the streets, a few obviously deserted by parents at the doorsteps of the home, who were either too poor or ill-equipped to handle such children. They told us how the children who could, help out with the gardening, cooking and caring for the more challenged kids. At this point a boy of seven, Priyaranjan, tugged my hand asking for more cake. “I want it for my friend Gaurav.” He said. This child appeared quiet intelligent and when I asked him what he liked to do he replied “I like to read and write. I learn about vegetables, animals, counting etc.” He even recited a poem, sang a bhajan and an Oriya film song “ Aajeee Akasay ki Ranga Sajila” (What colors the sky is adorned with today?). Priyaranjan asked me to get a toy bus for him and a toy van for his friend Gaurav. This little impish child had made a special place for himself in my heart within just a few minutes of interaction. A beautiful girl of 15 with hazel eyes, was introduced to us as the class topper. We went upstairs to see the children who were unable to move out of their beds or were too unwell to be brought downstairs. There sat a little girl, frail beyond imagination, blind and expressionless, awaiting an operation, till the time her body was strong enough to bear the surgery.Lalitha liked my daughter's clips and asked her to get one for her next time. She took off her clip and gave it to Lalitha. She latter remarked to me "Mom you know how well mannered Lalitha was? She was reluctant to take it. Only when the caretaker encouraged her did she accept it. Mom I feel very good inside." There she had summarized it so crisply. I was thinking exactly that. By such visits and a few gifts we are of very little help to the children we only help ourselves,  feel a little healed, a little less guilty. I was filled with a lot of admiration for the care givers. Yes, they may be trained in the task, and yes, they do get remuneration- but it is when one actually handles such children, their tantrums, cleans them up and yet maintains self sanity and treats the kids with dignity even in their most vulnerable state that one can hope o be truly redeemed. Perhaps that is why no matter how many charitable organizations the rich and famous build, we respect and admire those who actually work on the ground.

It was time to leave and say good bye. The children asked us to come back again. I do not know what prompted me to visit them but I left with a heavy heart. I had done nothing for the children in a day of visit, except perhaps for myself. I had reinforced that guilt that I contribute absolutely nothing as I live my complacent life in my world. I began to think how little these children ask from the world and how much joy they derive out of the simplest things. When I revealed my thoughts to mother she consoled me saying, " Think that you have contributed some of your time, thought about them and brought smiles to their faces today." Till the time the way opens out this consolation is something to hold on to.

No comments:

Follow by Email