For the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I’m blogging 26 days in April based on the alphabet and bringing you stories from the nonprofit Project Why.
Project Why’s relationship with the Lohars of Rana Pratap Camp dates back to 2003 when it opened a center for the children of this gypsy camp. The question that begs response is : who are the Lohars of Rana Pratap Camp? Those of you who live in Delhi must have zipped past them. They live on Delhi’s roadsides, often selling ironware. 1000 families of the nomadic tribe, Gadiya Lohars, stopped wandering half a century or so ago and settled in Delhi, 30 of them near the Kalkaji bus depot.
The sight of their small, bright-eyed children running about and breathing the fumes of cars revving up at the red light caught the attention of Project Why. After a chat with Tau, the head of the clan, the Project Why Lohar center opened its doors.
Tau told Project Why that politicians had got Voter’s ID cards for these people living in the most deprived conditions, and promised them relocation and proper housing. Most of the papers had been lost as camps such as theirs were regularly destroyed and rebuilt after paying a bribe to the authorities, since 1985, when they first arrived.
The reason the Lohar Center doesn’t exist anymore is that in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games were held in Delhi, the camp was razed to the ground and Project Why’s Lohar friends were scattered. They left behind memories.
Project Why did not veer from its stated policy and employed two young women from the camp as crèche teachers. When one of them left, she requested Project Why to give her job to her brother Sanjay, who had joined the Project classes and gone on to complete his schooling. He was fit to be a primary teacher, and was taken on. But his story does not end there.
A French filmmaker visiting Project Why liked the story of a boy born on the roadside who became a teacher, and made a documentary on Sanjay’s life. In the course of the filming, Sanjay revealed his dream on camera: to make it to Bollywood. It was not to be films, but that documentary led Sanjay Padiyar to the fashion ramp. In 2010, Sanjay walked the ramp for a top designer.
In June 2011, Sanjay walked for Agnès B at her Paris Show, and has become a poster child of rags to riches.
But the Lohar boy hasn’t lost his ways and the wisdom of his people. When asked on the eve of his show whether he was nervous pat came the answer: “Chalna hi toh hai. Do saal ki ummar se kar raha hoon (All I have to do is walk. I’ve been doing that since I was two).
Would you like to visit Project Why, where a slum child becomes a teacher and then a ramp model? If you cannot make it to New Delhi, would you donate to bring a smile to a child’s face? What would you say to Sanjay and to Project Why?
To Donate to Special Section of Project Why, CLICK HERE.
To Contact Project Why, Click Here
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