Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Its been a year...

...since I turned to the internet in a desperate bid to do something to help the victims of 26/11. At that moment, I didnt know quite what to do, but blogging was something I was familiar with, and knew that I would get an audience. And people would read. And people wanted to know how to help. I hoped people would help.

What I wasnt prepared for was the overwhelming rush of support and love and help that flooded my inbox. An inbox that soon became our inbox as a team fell into place. A team called India Helps. People who wanted to give their time and energy. Some strangers, some acquaintances and all of whom who went on to become dear friends.

Which is what I have been shouting hoarse about everytime I read articles about how online activism post 26/11 died down. Anonymous online members donot make a team. A team comprises people who meet offline, interact, and are passionate about giving time and effort. Team members who are all committed to work together. Whether online or off. Whether it was hunting down victims of the CST shooting or their bereaved down in slums and locations on the outskirts of the city, or being available online 24 x 7 as a team to discuss issues real time to derive a solution to whatever needed to be done.India Helps comprises of fabulous people who make up a fabulous team. A team that goes beyond the 'I', and actually thinks of itself as a 'we'.

Over the past year, we have actively worked with six victims and bereaved of the CST shootout. We worked with Karuna Waghela who went from being a scared, helpless widow, with all the compensation she received being ursurped by her in laws to becoming a strong, independent woman committed to ensuring her children get a good education and go on to make a good life for themselves. We saw Momina Khatoon, bereft, with three small children and pregnant with the fourth, go through a delivery and emerge with the desire to earn her living and support herself. We have seen Balaji Kharatmal, injured with shrapnel and burdened under the obligation to provide singlehandedly for an extended family of 11, pick himself up, get his railway job and get back to the business of living. We saw young Ganesh Malpe give up his studies and take up the railway job he was offered because he was now man of the house. We watched as the Narkar family got their bearings together and emerged from their bereavement. We went to Harkabai's home, a woman who had struggled to bring up her children singlehandedly, and got them settled, and was killed just when it was time for her to retire and lead a life of ease. We met the Asranis, who had lost their young daughter Neetu, and marvelled at the stoicness of the mother. We met many victims. We stood on pavements after initial meets with families of victims, tears streaming down our faces at the injustice of it all.

On the way, we encountered some stray families who wanted to cash in their tragedies. I will not name them here. But it was disheartening. We disassociated ourselves from them and moved on. Our need to help was genuine. That was what mattered.

Today, India Helps has moved on to helping special cases, providing flood relief, and we also co-run three pavement schools in Goregaon West. When I look back at this year I think of it as the turning point in my life. It was this year that taught me that it is important to try to make a difference to someone's life, no matter how small. It doesnt take much to help. And there is no greater reward than seeing someone you've helped to their feet after a disaster, take charge of their life.

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