It 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.
On the second Friday of each month, she shares life lessons with us, from her experiences running a non-profit. Today, she talks about the what running a non-profit has taught her about people.
When I decided to set up a not-for-profit in the memory of my parents and to pay a debt I felt I owed my country as I had lived an extremely privileged life, I had already worn several hats and interacted with people from diverse origins and status. Having been a professor, an interpreter, a social secretary amongst other things I had rubbed shoulders with a wide variety of souls and thought I was well versed in human nature! I could not have imagined how wrong I was and how taking one tiny step across an invisible line would change things forever.
Today, with two decades of Project Why under my skin, I feel I am competent to look back at the lessons that came my way after my fifth decade.
Damyanti suggested I write about the 5 things that Project Why taught me about people. This is something I had never thought of so it is a journey of self discovery I share with you.
The first ‘people’ that comes to mind when I think about Project Why is undoubtedly Manu. I have said it many times but repeat it again: if not for Manu there may have not been Project Why. The lesson he taught me was to never say die, but more than, that that no life, no matter how wretched it may seem, is without purpose. Every life has a meaning and needs to be respected and celebrated. Manu’s was to see I set up Project Why. To most Manu would simply be an annoying mentally and physically challenged beggar, but to me he was my inspiration, my mirror and the one who showed me the way. He taught me to respect every human being that came my way.
The next life lesson that Project Why taught me about people was that if you ever reach out to help someone in need, there is no going back. It is a one way street. No one taught me this lesson more than my darling Utpal. When I reached out to save him from his third degree burns and allowed him to walk into my heart, I never knew it was a till death do us part deal. I had thought that I could heal his wounds and help his family look after him, maybe pay his school fees and be present when needed. That was not to be. Utpal became my foster child and today as I build my new home there is a room for him. This is also a lesson I follow for Project Why. No matter how difficult things are, there is no going back. My inner most desire is to see Project Why live beyond me.
Another life lesson Project Why taught me about people is that if you truly believe in someone, they live up to your trust more that 100%! This was proved to me in ample measure by the wonderful team I picked up from the community. Everyone warned me that it would be an impossible task but I instinctively knew that I was making the right decision. And though none of them had the degrees and diplomas, the profile and experience each one has done me proud and never made me regret my decision. I simply had to make them believe that I trusted them and the rest was history.
Project Why taught me also taught me that there is more good than bad in this world, that values like compassion and generosity exist in ample measure in most people and simply need to be encouraged. The way to do it is to be brutally honest and candid. One of the most beautiful things Project Why created is a wonderful network of souls from the world over and of all ages who have reached out to help and support Project Why. All I had to do was to tell my story from the heart and me, the only child, the orphan, got the most incredibly beautiful and supportive family and was smothered in so much love that it will take me many lives to pay back.
And last but maybe not the least Project Why taught me things I never knew existed about another ‘people,’ and that is me. The reclusive, almost hermit-like person I had become after losing my parents, the person who ran away from numbers and could not even balance her home budget, the person who could never ask for the money that she was owed became almost an extrovert, even gregarious, and began asking for help unabashedly for the children she had decided to make hers.
I wonder what is it that made me change the way I looked at things and once again I find myself thinking of St Exupery and his Little Prince. Maybe my life too has been a voyage across planets each more bewildering than the other, and Project Why was the one where the maxim of the Fox was truly validated. It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. To truly see people, you need to see them through the eyes of your heart.
What life lessons has your work taught you about people? Do you think there are more good people than bad people on this earth? Has someone reached out to help you when you were in need? Have you helped someone in need? have people lived up to your trust?
Anouradha 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.
In the world of writers, I have found most are generous. They don’t see new writers as competitors. They see rookies as people that can nurture.
Yes, the best way to judge correctly is only “retrospection”. Thereafter one will never have complain against anyone. Thanks. Good article!!!
Hi Damyanti – what an amazing delight Anouradha is – she sets such simple standards and follows them through. This is a delight to read – and I’m so honoured that I’ve been able to find out more about her through you – I’m coming back to this … but loved the post – and its very wise words. Cheers to you both – Hilary
Love the journey you have shared here Anu di – you are truly inspirational and courageous in your beliefs. More power to you.
Thank you so much. Hope to see you at Project Why . Hugs
People do tend to live up to – or down to – your expectations of them.
You are so right Holly. Hugs
I have met so many amazing people through you and Damyanti. What an inspiration group of people. Thank you for sharing their stories.
Thank you so much Jacqui for your warm and loving words. They mean the world to me. Hope to see you one day at Project Why!
The Little Prince is and will always be one of my favourite books!
The Little Prince has been my go to book in all difficult moments. I always find my answers in it.. hugs and love
Thank you for allowing your experiences with Project Why to inspire us and ask ourselves important questions, Anoudi.
I do believe that good always triumphs over evil and even if we don’t see the fruits of our honest labour in our lifetime, someone will enjoy them and perhaps bless us for it. Many blessings to you and your work.
Thank you Corinne for being such a great support and friend. Good does triumph even if we do not see it. A big hug to you
This is an inspiring post, Damyanti. Anouradha is an amazing soul. It takes so much patience and perseverance to do all the things she did for Project Why. Truly appreciate her! Thank you for sharing these lessons you learned in your journey with Project Why, Anouradha. ❤️
Thank you for your kind and warm words Vinitha. I do hope to see you ate Project Why some day. Hugs
Inspirational post. I have read another post somewhere on this project. Sometimes it is hard to see the positive when life is difficult. But this post brings hope for a better day. Very nice
Thank you Suzy for your kind words of support. They mean a lot to me. Hope you come some day to Delhi and see us at Project Why
A very inspiring post. I need to trust that there is more good people than bad. But living in my country with the high crime rate, and voilence, I tend to think that humans are all bad. But I also know that it isn’t true. This post proved it. There are good people too.
Thank you for your kind words. I know it is difficult to believe in good when we see so little of it around us, but we must not give up hope. I have found that when you truly look then good people appear. I would not have been able to run Project Why for 20 years!
“Every life has a meaning and needs to be respected and celebrated.”
This is my favorite sentence from this post. If only every person in this world felt the same way…
I’ve learned many lessons about people from work, a former marriage and simply living life. Yes, I believe there are more good people than bad because I have hope and faith in those good people, that they will turn this era of what seems to be hate and violence into a more loving and peaceful time.
I can never forget those that helped me during a week when I separated from the ex, sent one of my kitties to the rainbow bridge, and moved my parents into assisted living. I found out that I had a support network of friends and co-workers who were not afraid to step in and hold me up. I will remember this the rest of my life and it is the reason why I want to help others in any way I can, when I am able. I’m looking forward to retirement so that I can continue to help others with more of my time.
Thanks for sharing this Damyanti and for your wonderful words of wisdom, Anouradha. It is a wonderful thing you have done with Project WHY.
Thank you for taking time to read my post and share your experience. Project Why truly taught me to celebrate every life.
I share your belief in hoping that good will prevail and things will change.There are good people all around us and they reach out to us when we need them. That has been my experience.
Hope you come one day and see us at project Why
If I lived in the neighbourhood I would likely be irresistibly attracted to “Project Why” … but my life requires a different way of helping out as I live on the other side of the world… Now to your questions:
“What life lessons has your work taught you about people?” — as individuals, people are usually good, unless driven by some addiction or other. Within their collectives they can be very dangerous. I spent 42 years working with the public so I get a pretty good picture. Now I work on my own, with individuals, and the picture is quite different.
“Do you think there are more good people than bad people on this earth?” — Individually, I think there ‘may be’ more good than evil people in the world. Again, within collectives, they present great danger to others and often to each other, as collectives are easily manipulated and driven by archaic, dysfunctional belief systems. Wherever there are ‘leaders’ there is danger of mass manipulation of minds.
“Has someone reached out to help you when you were in need?” — I’ve never had it come to that.
“Have you helped someone in need?” — that is my life, and a daily occurrence. One cannot talk compassion and not live compassion…
“have people lived up to your trust?” — my “Teaching” was adamant on this point: trust no one. The problem with ‘trust’ is that it is loaded with expectations. Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “I trusted you!” Well, the trusting one is at fault here, not the trusted one. If we practice/live compassion we have no need of trust because we are givers, not exchangers. When I help someone financially, I never give loans, only gifts. One way, never any expectations of any “returns.” What I give away I resupply by my own means.
I thought your questions needed to be answered, so I did, hah! 🙂
Thank you for your kind words for Project Why. I do hope you come our way some day
Thank you for taking time to answer each questions in a very insightful manner. I do understand your views about collective and individuals. I have experienced the same.
As for trust you are right it is loaded with expectations and compassion is a one way street. I guess I have been lucky that people have stood by me and walked that extra mile even when I did not expect it.
With Project Why I feel truly blessed.
Thank you for sharing!.. I believe that life ever changing on a daily basis and each and every creature is different in their own way.. with every day being a new lesson in life I am still learning… 🙂
“ I am currently attending the School of Life, learning more about the universe and me… and Graduation Day will be the day of my funeral and it is then I will know if I failed or I succeeded and graduated”… (Larry “Dutch” Woller)
You are so right. We learn till our last breath. Only then we know if we failed or succeeded.