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Who are Your Friends ? How Do You Know?

who are your friends
The second Friday of each month, Anouradha Bakshi from the non-profit Project WHY takes over Daily (w)rite. This small organization with a big heart is trying to support education among the underprivileged and do it in a way that empowers the community from within.
(In today’s post, Anoudi goes on a little about me, and as usual she goes overboard, as moms tend to do. I’ll do my best to deserve her trust and her praise–it is a wonderful thing, positive enforcement, it makes you want to be the person you’re seen as. Moms know that.)
If her stories move you and you have a little to spare, please consider making a small donation to help women and kids who are working hard for a better life.

teacher writing project why

I get by with a little help from my friends sang the Beatles! I should make this song my anthem as it is only with the help of my friends that I stand where I am today. Almost two decades ago, when I decided to give up life as I knew it, and follow the road less travelled I could never have imagined the journey that awaited me and how what seemed like the whim of a middle-aged woman would become the best thing I ever did in my life: Project WHY.

It all began with a debt I felt I owed to society for the privileged life I had been so generously endowed and the hope that I would find a way of paying it back. I do not know how successful I have been but what I realize today, twenty years down the line is that I have acquired a new debt that would take many lives to pay back: a debt to the friends that have stood by me through thick and thin, believed in me and given wings to my dreams. Today I would like to share the story of three of them.

who are your friends

Xavier, Anouradha Bakshi, with the Project WHY boarding school kids


Enter Xavier Ray, a man with a heart as big as the universe. I met him at a wedding almost two decades ago when Project Why had just been seeded and I was all starry-eyed and could not stop talking about it, though I realize now it was just a tiny initiative at that time.

Xavier listened patiently and offered to come and visit us the next day. True to his word he came the next day and spent time with us. At that time Project Why was located in one tiny jhuggi (a ramshackle group of temporary homes) and the pavement opposite it. In the jhuggi we had our specialneeds children and the pavement was our primary and secondary class. The ‘office’ was two plastic chairs and a stool on the roadside. Xavier spent quite some time and even offered to drop the special children home. I did not hear from Xavier for quite some time and thought he had forgotten about us.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of months later I get a long mail from him wherein he shared that he had set up a charity in France to raise funds for Project Why! Enfances Indiennes was set up in 2003 and has since been supporting Project Why in a way that has allowed us to grow and fulfil new dreams. I cannot imagine Project Why without Enfances Indiennes. The French Connection is really strong. But that is not all. Xavier has been with us in every struggle and every challenge. He is also Utpals’ French Dad.  Xavier Ray is really a true ray of sunshine!

who are your friendsTwo.

Who would imagine that a young girl of barely 14  who spent a short week at Project Why would become one of your staunchest supporters? I can. Harriet Page came to Project Why with her parents way back in 2008.

Some time later I got a warm email from her where she shared that she had collected some funds for us with a bake sale at her school and even written an article about us. Harriet became one of our most dedicated fundraisers.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer and I has to take a back seat, Harriet conjured yet another miracle by managing to find us a substantial donation that enabled me to look after my husband without having to worry about Project Why.

Today Harriet is a lawyer and is also one of the trustees of Project Why UK soon to be a registered charity. Harriet Page is an Angel with invisible wings.


Who are the friends that have held your hand? How do you know who your real friends are?In 2006 Kim Wong Hoh, a journalist from the Strait Times Singapore came to Delhi to do a feature on Project Why. Many read the article and sent their wishes and even help.

But there was one person who would become a friend forever. Damyanti Biswas a young, spirited woman read the article and decided to get in touch. That was the beginning of a deep friendship between a young woman and an ageing lady.

Damyanti says I am her hero; I call her my mentor! For the past years Damyanti has been a staunch supporter of Project Why and has  ensured that Project Why emerge from the shadows a recluse like me had consigned it to, and be known to the world at large. Thanks to her patient and continued support  we have moved into the halls of social media. She has held my hand and taught me the finer points of blogging and writing for the world. She has coaxed my somewhat shy team to find their wings and given them the confidence to begin taking ownership of the Project. Damyanti is my go-to person every time I hit a roadblock, or feel lost.

Today I stand proud as she gets ready to publish her first novel. I have been part of her journey and held her hands in a reversal of roles. I feel as excited as her at this moment and hope and pray ‘our’ book does well. She has promised half of her proceeds to Project Why.

I sometimes wonder what I did right in my life to deserve people like Xavier, Harriet, Damyanti and all the other souls who have reached out to me and been part of my journey. I feel grateful, humbled and blessed.

Who are the friends that have held your hand? How do you know who your real friends are? If you had one thing to say about friendship, what would it be? Would you like to be friends with Project WHY? Do you have questions for Anouradha Bakshi?

festival of words project WHYAnouradha 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.

I help co-host the We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday oWe Are the World Blogfest Writing by handf each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.

Here’s a sampler of this blogfest. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of August 30, 2019!

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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 next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was 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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  • msw blog says:

    Enjoyed learning how these friendship came to be developed.

  • smilecalm says:

    your inspiration
    makes me smile 🙂

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti and Anouradha … what a fascinating read … and to think that possibly without the internet – these connections wouldn’t have happened, yes, others would in the old-fashioned ways … but they wouldn’t have reached ‘this world’ of bloggers.

    I would love to do a lot more … and will do what I can to help the school keep going. Thank you Damyanti – loved reading this … and you’ve opened all these doors to us in places around the world.

    Take care and all the very best – cheers Hilary

  • I am awed by you, Anouradha, and Damyanti. What a wonderful group of committed people and worthy causes. A life well-spent for all of you.

  • DutchIl says:

    Who are my friends?.. anyone who will great me with a hug and a smile from the heart… 🙂

    “Portrait of a Friend”

    I can’t give solutions to all of life’s problems, doubts,
    or fears. But I can listen to you, and together we will
    search for answers.

    I can’t change your past with all it’s heartache and pain,
    nor the future with its untold stories.
    But I can be there now when you need me to care.

    I can’t keep your feet from stumbling.
    I can only offer my hand that you may grasp it and not fall.
    Your joys, triumphs, successes, and happiness are not mine;
    Yet I can share in your laughter.

    Your decisions in life are not mine to make, nor to judge;
    I can only support you, encourage you,
    and help you when you ask.

    I can’t prevent you from falling away from friendship,
    from your values, from me.
    I can only think of you, talk to you and wait for you.

    I can’t give you boundaries which I have determined for you,
    But I can give you the room to change, room to grow,
    room to be yourself.

    I can’t keep your heart from breaking and hurting,
    But I can cry with you and help you pick up the pieces
    and put them back in place.

    I can’t tell you who you are or who you will be
    I can only love you and be your friend
    (Adam Clarke)

  • writershilpa says:

    Your friends are truly angels in your life, Anou di!
    I too have been blessed with some such friends, who stood by me, cheered me up when I was low, gave me an earful when I erred and in general accept me with all of my idiosyncrasies. Wonder what I would do without them!

  • All three are amazing people. (We already knew that about Damy!) Two people who do campaigns for fund for you, all from a visit to Project Why – that is a true miracle.

    • anouradha says:

      True Alex.. it is really a miracle and I feel so blessed. There have been so many people who have helped me and reached out to me, some who have never met me or seen project why but just followed the journey online! I am filled with gratitude.

  • Silk Cords says:

    To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson… A friend is somebody I can be sincere with.

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