#atozchallenge : Utpal, Project Why’s Miracle Child

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.

 It would take volumes to write about Utpal, Project Why’s poster boy.

Damyanti Biswas talks about the Nonprofit ProjectWhy In the slums of New DelhiUtpal and his family moved into the tiny hovel adjacent to the Project Why office less than a month before that fateful day in March 2003, when he fell into a boiling wok.

It was left unattended for just the time needed for a sleepy toddler to topple in. The tiny boy sustained third-degree burns. Project Why nursed Utpal back to health, and the child walked into his Anou Ma’am’s heart forever. As his scars healed, the frightening reality of his existence emerged: alcoholic parents, violence, abuse and the total absence of any tomorrow. His completely dysfunctional family was one where no child could thrive.

If the days were safe as both mother and son were under Project Why’s care, the nights were at risk. Anything was possible from no food in the belly to a night at the police station.

Damyanti Biswas talks about the Nonprofit ProjectWhy In the slums of New DelhiUtpal negotiated both worlds the best he could. He was an endearing child and wise beyond his years. Should anyone want to visit his home he would run ahead on his chubby legs to hide the bottles consumed at night, saying:  “Mama was naughty.”

His days were spent at his Anou Maam’ji’s hip as he went along with her from place to place and imbibed the world around, with huge curious eyes and a charming grin. But things at home went on free fall till the day it became too much. The mother’s alcoholism was out of hand and the child unsafe. That is when Project Why unfolded plan B: mother to rehab and Utpal in boarding school. He was just 4.

Utpal is now 14 and in class IX.

Damyanti Biswas talks about the Nonprofit ProjectWhy In the slums of New DelhiThe intermittent years were not easy. Utpal learned to integrate into his new life but would still come to his family on holidays, where the situation continued to worsen, and he was still at risk. Another incident compelled Project Why to the next step: secure his legal guardianship as they feared the family might take him out from school and vanish. Anouradha Bakshi was made the legal guardian.

The next blow for Utpal: his mother disappeared one day, not to give sign of life for 4 years. Utpal was lost and thrown off balance. He became aggressive and his grades fell. He became withdrawn and not communicative, and it took years of counseling to make him whole again.

Today Utpal is making up for all the lost years and the wise little chap of yesteryear has given way to a delightful adolescent with all flaws that come with teenage. He has made friends with his scars that had made him the butt of a lot of bullying and riling. He’s now a natty lean young lad, a mean skater, who teaches skating to smaller children in his school, plays tennis and football. He’s extremely fond of ‘engineering’ : he takes apart a multitude of objects and rebuilds the when he’s home with Anouradha for the holidays. He loves music and dancing and locking himself up in his room like any other 14-year-old.

Utpal’s life wove together an incredible network of supporters that broke all barriers. They come from across the world and from diverse social backgrounds: from the high commissioner’s wife who went to her staff seeking used and softened dupattas to make his baby clothes after his accident, to the young student who worked extra hours to send him a treat from across the seas.

Utpal is a true pied piper for those who see with their hearts.

What would you say to Utpal? To Project Why? Do you have school kids in your community who suffer due to issues in the family?

To Donate  Project Why, CLICK HERE.
To Contact Project Why, Click Here

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Add Yours
  1. hilarymb

    Hi Damyanti – what an amazing story – Uptal has shown huge strength to come through all those terrors – but thank goodness for Project Why being next door, able to help, continue to help, then take control … to enable the child, who has such huge talent, to become the young man he now is … and where he will reward the world with his characteristics and attributes to be spread to others, as he’s already doing …

    Fantastic story – so sad, yet all is well … congratulations to Project Why – cheers Hilary

  2. Denise Covey

    Hi Damyanti

    I am back from my travels and doing the rounds on some of my favourite people’s A-Z posts. What a wonderful theme you have chosen. I loved reading the story of Utpal. So beautiful that Project Why has been able to step in and care for him. Now he looks like a happy adolescent.

    When I was a classroom teacher I often had similar sad stories of children caring for alcoholic or drug addict parents. How desperately sad it was to see their everyday struggles. One found his mum dead one morning before school. I’ll never forget it and neither will he, I’m sure.

    So thanks for highlighting these children. They deserve the world.

    Denise 🙂

  3. Glenda Funk

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the stories behind the faces of kids I see each day. When I began teaching at my current school, the school had the reputation as a wealthy school. Our demographic has evolved over the years, and we are much more diverse now. We still have kids w/ much but also have kids w/ little. We’re a feeder school for an Indian reservation. I often share these thoughts w/ students. I want them to know that I see them as people first and students second. I’d tell Utpal “thank you for not giving up. Thank you for fighting and learning.” I’d tell Utpal to think about his future and to have a vision for it. I’d tell Project Why “thank you. These are two little words, I know.”

    I appreciate this blog and the stories you share. I have you bookmarked in Diigo and will share w/ my students about Project Why. I’ll be visiting even after the A to Z Challenge. We’re starting persuasive speeches in my speech classes, and Project Why might offer a topic for some students who will then be able to share the project w/ their classmates, too. Glenda from
    Evolving English Teacher

    • Anouradha Bakshi

      We are happy to hear that Project Why can feature into your lesson plans and hope your students enjoy learning a little bit more about us. Thank you for helping us to share our stories!

    • Anouradha Bakshi

      We couldn’t agree more! We look forward to seeing what Utpal decides to engineer later in life- his latest idea is a car that is also a boat and plane so that he can visit his friends all over the world!

  4. cleemckenzie

    What a horrid accident. But from the picture of him as young boy he seems to have flourished under the care the people at Project Why gave him. A wonderful story in the end.