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#atozchallenge: QueenRani ProjectWhy’s Success Story

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.

Damyanti Biswas talks about the Nonprofit ProjectWhy In the slums of New DelhiThe story of Project Why is also Rani’s story. In Hindi, the word Rani means Queen, and this queen has been part and parcel of Project Why from the time it was still a thought.

Project Why first met  Rani at her formidable mother’s house. At 15, her life was totally controlled by her mother. She had dropped out of school, beaten for not paying her fees in time, and her mother had decreed that there was no need for her to go back. She was considered to be of marriageable age, so her family enrolled her in a nursing aide course till a groom was found.

Under Rani’s docile and meek appearance, there lay a feisty and burning spirit waiting to be unleashed, and Project Why proved to be its playground.

Rani was the first student of Project Why’s English classes. When Project Why decided to start a nutrition program for children and pregnant and lactating mothers, she offered to ‘help’. Within a day she had a list of beneficiaries and a distribution schedule. When she was told that there could be no remuneration at that pount, she smiled. Rani had come to stay.

Damyanti Biswas talks about the Nonprofit ProjectWhy In the slums of New DelhiRani soon became Project Why founder Anouradha Bakshi‘s executive assistant, and her never-say-die attitude ensured that within a short year Project Why had a crèche, a section for special kids and the trademark after school support. Wise beyond her years, she was a huge asset in assisting with staff selection, and finding space. Her biggest role however was to negotiate the tricky pathways of slum society.

Rani is imaginative, industrious and resourceful. After the departure of the Project Coordinator a few years ago, Rani became the obvious choice.

As Project Why grew, so did Rani. Over the years, this school dropout managed to clear her board exams from the Open school and completed her graduation from the Open University.

From running the Giri Nagar, Govindpuri, and Okhla centers, to making volunteers comfortable to receiving guests, Rani does it all. In between she troubleshoots, resolves crises as varied as dealing with the local cop or politician to counseling a parent, to finding a repair man on a national holiday, to organizing a wedding elephant for a special donor!

She meets all challenges head-on. When a German donor invited a Project Why member to Germany to talk about the Project, she hopped on a plane all by herself and addressed the gathering with confidence, winning many hearts.

Not only did she change her own life but she slowly transformed the life of her family. One of her greatest feats was to win over her mother and the dowdy girl wearing clothes selected by her mother was seen in jeans and even dresses.

Rani has made sure that her nieces and nephews go to good schools as she has understood the importance of education. Her family now does not go to quacks but to good doctors and even the menu in the house in now healthy.

Rani single-handedly ensured the upward mobility of her family.

The marriage that had been in the making for the past 15 years finally took place in April 2015. Rani chose the man she would share her life with. Rani’s story is the story of a seemingly shy and withdrawn young girl who blossomed into an incredible woman of substance. I’ve met Rani several times, and worked with her: she’s very hands-on, efficient, and cheerful!

If Rani’s success story moved you, and you’d like to help other girls like her,  consider donating to Project Why: CLICK HERE.

To Contact Project Why, Click Here

What would you say to Rani? Do you know girls like her who blossomed into a woman of substance? How do underprivileged girls in your community fare? How does the school system work where you live?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

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