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When at the Edge of a Precipice, What Gives You the Courage to Go on? #FridayFeature

Courage Project WHY

Anouradha Bakshi Project WHY courageIt takes courage to run a non-profit like Project WHY: Anouradha Bakshi does it with conviction, without taking recourse to any funding that would compromise the integrity of her mission: to support education among the underprivileged and do it in a way that empowers the community from within.

From April onwards, we’ll hear from her the second Friday of each month, for a Friday Feature–when she takes over Daily (w)rite to talk to you from the other side.

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Courage Project WHY “ You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.

~St Exupery. The Little Prince.

Once again I find myself at crossroads. I should be used to it by now as in the 20-year journey of Project Why, we have found ourselves at a crossroads many times, sometimes even at the edge of a precipice! But then each time a miracle, for want of a better world, has occurred and we have been given a new lease of life.

At times it has been a tiny message from the heavens above nudging me to not give up, like a little box of coins that found its way to me. The initial years of Project Why were high on expectations, it was as if nothing could stop us and somehow the heavens too conspired to make us believe that, as we grew from 40 to 1000 kids in four short years. Raising funds almost singlehandedly on a need-basis seemed to be the way to go and nothing could tamper the enthusiasm we all felt. It was as if we were invincible. There were problems, but we met them head on and carried on. Somehow the courage to continue never failed us.

Though I did not talk about it much, the need of making Project Why sustainable was always on my mind and we came close to doing so when we came out with a plan of making a green guest house cum children centre that would raise the needed funds. We even called it Planet Why. But though we acquired the land we were never able to raise the funds to build and had to give up the idea.

Since then the need to attain the elusive sustainability has been on my mind more so because I feel responsible for all the people who make Project Why. I still remember the day when one of the success stories of Project WHY, and my ward, Utpal, at age 10 or 11 at that time came to me and said: you are old are you not, you will die one day, what happens to me when you die?

The truth always comes out of the mouth of children. I could only be reminded of St Exupery’s words: you become responsible for what you have tamed!

A few years back my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was a true wake up call as the man had never been sick. Once again the responsibility of Project Why weighed heavy on my shoulders and I set out to free it from the loving stranglehold I had held it in. I gave more freedom to my team and they did me proud. I invited new members to join our Board and sought their help to raise funds.

With their help we found support for 50% of the Project and we felt we had achieved some stability as we have some long term donors who have been with us for years. Our excitement was short lived as we were told that the donation we had hoped would be long term was going to end and we are back at square one of a real life snake and ladders game!

Today I again find myself at the edge of precipice. If I do not come up with long term support I will be compelled to shut one or more of my centres, and thus let down the very ones I am responsible for. It is daunting and I must confess I lie awake many nights.

Courage at Project WHY Okhla centre

Kids at the Okhla Centre, Project WHY

But just as the little box of coins came to me some years back to nudge me not to give up, a  recent fundraiser organised by Damyanti has given us the much needed breather to pull up our socks and soldier on.

New friends have appeared on the horizons and I know they will spread the word for us. Our social media outreach is increasing, new institutions are being contacted and our board members are busy looking for options.

I also know that the heavens too are conjuring a miracle, and as Churchill said:  Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. 

We at Project Why must have the courage to continue!

 

What words of courage would you give Anouradha Bakshi? When at the edge of a precipice, what gave you the courage to go on? What does courage mean to you? When courage is in short supply, who do you turn to?


festival of words project WHYAnouradha Bakshi is the descendant of an indentured labour and a freedom fighter, and the daughter of a senior diplomat. She travelled the world before settling in India.

A professor in French, an interpreter and a conference organiser, she found her true calling when she set up Project WHY in the year 2000.

She is a wife, and a mother not only to her two girls, but also to the scores of children whose dreams she holds in custody.


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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 forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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34 Comments

  • Birgit says:

    She has done and keeps doing amazing work. When I was ( and am) faced with something that seemed impossible I think of Audrey Hepburn’s comment which she says the word simply can mean “I’m possible.” Usually I am in great fear at this time whether it is fear of failure, people, my own self worth but I have to find the courage to go forth anyway and not show that fear.

  • Even though I know Anou and have visited her wonderful Project Why more than a few times I felt as if I was getting to know her all over again through this lovely blog post. Still racking my brians on how to make this thing viable. I will be in touch.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you so much Kalpana for your warm and touching words. I am touched and overwhelmed. Thank you for your support and for thinking about how to make Project Why viable. It is the miracle we need. Let us meet soon. Love and hugs

  • Mayur says:

    Death

    • anouradha says:

      Life, and not death is a choice. Whether we choose death or not, it will choose us some day. Everyday we must make a choice towards life, to love it fully, irrespective of the challenges that come our way.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful story about a wonderful and caring person Anouradha Bakshi.. reminds me of words by Stephen Grellet “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
    As for courage, I had a school teacher tell me “the day I need not gather any more knowledge were the day of my funeral” and I have followed his advice even though there are times when I must leave “safe harbor”… 🙂

    “Any piece of knowledge I acquire today has a value at this moment exactly proportioned to my skill to deal with it. Tomorrow, when I know more, I will recall that piece of knowledge and use it better. “ Mark van Doren

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words. One just tries to do what one feels is right. I simply follow my heart
      And as your teacher rightly says we have to keep our mind open to learning till the very end.
      Thank you for sharing these beautiful quotes

  • Denise Covey says:

    Anouradha Bakshi is indeed an inspiration. Loved reading about her determination to keep Project Why operational.

  • Puru says:

    This is such an inspirational post. Donating 🙂

  • Pam Lazos says:

    Just donated!

  • Pam Lazos says:

    I think for me it’s less courage and more a fear of falling that makes you keep going. Maybe that’s just what courage is for some. Tremendous work on Project Why. May funds fall like manna from heaven to keep it going!

  • Mick Canning says:

    What can I add? Just look at the wonderful success you have had so far! You clearly have a talent for making the project work.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you Mick for your heartwarming words. They mean so much to me. I feel blessed and overwhelmed. I do not know if I have talent or not, I simply see with my heart and follow it. I was only able to achieve what I have thanks all the wonderful souls who believed in my dreams and trusted me. God bless them all. Lots of love and hugs

  • Unishta says:

    I truly believe that the Universe conspires with you to support a good cause. I always find that when the intent is genuine, the Hand Above truly works its miracle to make things work. So dear Anou, keep going. Things will always find a way to get done.

    • anouradha says:

      Thank you for our warm words. I feel overwhelmed and humbled. You are right in saying that the Hand Above works miracles as I have seen so many in the last twenty years! Thank you for believing in me and for your love and support. Hugs

  • I find courage from dreams and friends/family. I’ve rediscovered my courage to start a non profit as I dreamt about in 2014.

    • anouradha says:

      How wonderful you say you found courage in dreams and in those you love, and that you have started the non profit you dreamt about. More power to you and lots of love and hugs.

  • Sha'Tara says:

    Courage is a strange thing and it probably means different things to different people under different circumstances. When I was an activist and received death threats and felt empowered by that, was I being courageous? I thought about it and decided it was just who I was, who I am. These days I make tough choices in order to live the compassionate life I wish to demonstrate as workable antithesis to much of what goes on around me. Tough choices but I wouldn’t call it courageous, just fulfilling my nature. I get the feeling that Anouradha Bakshi has a similar nature. It’s who she is and what she does and even if everything comes apart there is always room under a mother’s wings for a couple of kids to nurture and teach. Life isn’t about quantity and in an essentially unjust world we can do some things but can never fill all the needs that vortex in when we offer help. To change the system you need the Village behind you and this Village is a planet with seven plus billion people, most of whom have never tried to develop their sense of empathy.

    • anouradha says:

      You are so right in saying that courage means different things under different circumstances. Like you I too received my share of threats and they definitely egged me to go on. In hindsight you are right it is who I am and yes we seem to be quite similar in the way we address situations. Thank you for making me look at myself this way. True we cannot do everything we would want to but will always do the best we can. Food for thought for me as I stand at a place where I really do not know what the future holds. And yet I know that I will not give up even if few stand behind me. The last twenty years have been ample proof that there are people who share my dream and believe in what I do and above all people who have entrusted their dreams to me. For them and for myself I have to carry on being who I am.

  • Nathan says:

    Wow!

  • StuHN says:

    She is inspiring

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