Don't lose faith in India were the dying words of my father who left me twenty three years ago. He died a few days before the destruction of the Babri Masjid. I am glad he did.
Over the years I have held on to the words of a father I adored in spite of all adversities and because I knew he was always right. Was he not the one who explained life's bad times to a child with his big picture theory where bad moments were simply the dark blotches in a large and beautiful canvass. With are limited vision we only saw them. Happiness lay in your ability to imagine the full-blown image. So I held on to that image in spite of stark realities of children dying of malnutrition, of rapes and abuse, of hunger and cold. I held on to the invisible colours whilst trying to address what disturbed me to the best of my ability and finding my little patches of light and sticking them on the dark spots. These little sparks were in the shape of a child's trusting smile, of a report card handed with pride, of a box of sweets in celebration of a new job. I must say I found them in ample measure and they helped me soldier on.
A day or so ago a furore took over the social and regular media. A celebrity shared his concern about tolerance and his fear of bringing up his kids in India. Frankly I feel that too much has come out of his remark and become fodder for political agendas as is always the case. Come on, even I have said in the privacy of my room that Delhi has become unlivable with its pollution and but that does not mean I am packing my bags.
As luck would have it, I visited the Yamuna Project yesterday and spent some time with the kids. If there was any iota of a doubt about my faith in India, it was set to permanent rest as I laid my eyes on little Priya. She is the youngest of the brood and was the reason we started a class for tiny tots as she would come everyday with a copybook and claim her place in the sun. Take a moment and look at the picture. Her eyes reflect unending dreams that she may still not be aware of but that we can easily unravel. Her smile is infectious and her determination incomparable as she leads leads her class in English counting. She is confident and striking. But look at her hair. They seem streaked. But that is not because of some costly hair treatment but because of her severe lack of protein. Priya, like all her classmates is under nourished, something we are trying to counter on a war footing as past a certain age, the damage is irreversible.
That is not all. Priya and her friends do not exist as they do not have birth certificates or appear on any enumeration. They are invisible. And yet these kids are the brightest you can find, each displaying a insatiable hunger to learn and learn more, knowing intuitively that this could be the door for their dreams to be unleashed, dreams they carry in their eyes, dreams they have entrusted to us, dreams that give meaning to the my father's words: don't lose faith in India.
How can one faith lose faith in India as long as little Priya has dreams in her eyes.
I for one, can't.