I Am a Dreamer, But Not the Only One
Syed Ali Mujtaba
People say, I am a dreamer but not the only one, there are many like me, who may dream similarly but it’s hard to find them, and still harder to connect with each other. It’s an interesting happening that has happened on the internet, and needs to be chronicled, as many other similar dreamers may like to join me to make the dream come true.
It happened so; I wrote a piece for a web portal that highlighted the plight of commercial sex workers in Chennai. It was a journalist piece, based on real life interviews. Thousands hits were made to this story and response that came to suggested that it touched emotional chord and moved hearts.
One such response was different. It was from Ms Yvonne, a journalist based in Stockholm, Sweden, who wrote expressing her desire to help such needy and requested me to connect her to a real life person genuinely seeking help. I could feel her concern as she kept on pestering me to find a person that she could support.
Yvonne’s commitment made me think and this triggered a dream. I have a huge ancestral house at the Nalanda district in Bihar, a state of India. The house that’s now in a depleted condition has a pound inside and has sufficient space to run an orphanage cum school. It’s located in a village called ‘Dumranwan’, less than 20 miles from the ancient Nalanda University’s ruins. One can Google and locate the ruins, once a great seat of Buddhist learning. Maybe the map can also bring nearer to that secluded village, where this house stands frozen in time.
The reason why I am ready to make this house a seat of learning was because none of my family members like to go there, none is interested in renovating it. The house can not be sold as there are no buyers to buy such a property. So the only option left is to see it go down or donate to some charitable organization and forget about it or try run it with help of friends and some like minded persons.
So, I wrote to Yvonne, that I am ready to convert this house as model school cum orphanage, a centre of international standards. This centre will cater to students from extremely poor family, whose parents cannot afford their education. The students once enrolled will live there and get every thing free- food, lodging, books, dress and every thing that one may need. They will play and study together in totally new environment, away from their shanty homes.
In India, those at the bottom of the society see children as a helping hand. The girls help the mothers in the household work and boys go to work with their fathers in the farms. The challenge is to locate such students and get consent of their parents to join such an institution. This may be a difficult but definitely not impossible because there are always some help in such matters.
The students will go up to 12th grade, but to begin with the center will have kids from 0 to three grades. As they grow they may add on the classes. The institution will have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, living side by side learning the core values how to live together in perfect harmony.
The school may have sizable Muslim students as they badly need such institution to get training to face the competitive world. I am talking about that segment of Muslim society that sends their children to Madarsas. In such a centre the poor Muslim students may get the best of the religious and worldly training and subjects like science mathematics and computers.
When I wrote Yvonne about this idea, she jumped in excitement and wrote back, how to make such a place a unique place of learning and living, create a harmonious atmosphere where lots of experimentation on learning and education could be done and where students are molded to become a decent human being.
Yvonne, married to Nick, an Australian and has a child Samuel wrote back, “its really feels like a Gods thought with you willing to turn your house into an orphanage cum school and we do our part here to help those in need. One of my main interests is in children and for me it’s an absolute that there will be a NO corporal punishment what so ever and run this place as a sanctuary away from the harsh world; a place where the soul can grow into splendor and by using methods that supports that very growth. And with respect for all walks of spiritual and religious life!
I wrote to her that the project can be divided into different phase. The first will be to do the renovation work of the house. The house is standing though it has broken ceilings, plaster pealed off, and no paint for ages. There is need to repair them all that and construct boundary wall and have an entrance gate at the compound. May be one may give a deeper look to the house to ascertain the actual cost of its renovation. My wild guess is at least $10,000 USD would be needed to give it a facelift. It may be less or more, I am not a civil engineer.
The biggest problem there is of power. There is no electricity in that part of the world. So, to run the electrical appliances and connect it with rest of the world, .installation of a Genset is a must. The Genset can run with the help of solar batteries and one has to get it from somewhere. Luckily, the place is accessible through a motorable road, and so anything can be transported there.
Once a semblance of infrastructure put is created, and then some new construction has to be made to covert the house into a full-fledged centre of learning and training and much more. All this may require more funds.
Yvonne, wrote to me, Money may not be a constraint; I have celebrity friends which are good for raising money on a bigger scale. Of course one doesn’t have to be a celebrity to raise money; but every help, no matter from who, would be good for the bigger picture!”
I wrote her second phase will need dedicated and innovative teachers who can mold the children in becoming an educated and nice human being. Yvonne, has answers to this as well. She writes, “I also think it would be quite easy to get volunteers from Sweden that will work for somewhere to sleep and food. So many Swedes/Scandinavians goes backpacking for a year or two and want to do something meaningful. Then there are many (who may not be backpackers) who want to stay even longer and contribute for the chase of such a wonderful dream.”
I gave her assurance that many dedicated young Indians may too volunteer and get associated with this project; once they realize that the centre matches the international standards.
The big task will be to find sponsors for each child, and those adopting one have to behave as responsible parents. Its only then one can determine the strength of the students and many factors have to be taken into account for enrolling them. Yvonne is optimistic and is confident that all such hurdle, can be crossed and if God’s grace is there nothing can stop those serving the Lord.
The way forward may be to register a charitable trust and open a bank account and then take donations to start the project. The problem is one needs center government’s clearance to get foreign funds. With corruption and nepotism associated with bureaucracy, getting such permission may not be a easy job.
I remain skeptic about this project and in a lighter vein I wrote to Yvonne, if a fraction of money stacked by some Indians in cash heavens abroad can be diverted to this project then only this dream can only become a reality.
Yvonne thinks otherwise and remains convinced that this project will take off;”Well there are bottlenecks for anything one may like to do and this may not deter from chasing the goal. I have been thinking about how to get all the “left over” wealth from Sweden to India. You can easily get free, not the latest but very good, computers (by the numbers) for example for free by people just swapping to the latest model, or big companies just giving away due to updating. And almost brand new furniture and all kinds of things; cell phones etc. We have a shipping company just beside us and I will pay them a visit (and maybe bring some of my celebrity friends) and ask them to ship for free. And of course also completely new things that people are willing to give for a good cause. (Toys are so easy to get!) I mean it’s quite easy to get the things we would need material wise as long as someone are willing to ship it cheap or for free (the big cost is to ship from here – so expensive). But that is a later thing.”
Well that’s the story how two persons, quite unknown to each other, come together to chase a common dream. Both feel there are others who too may be dreaming on similarly and are welcome to come on board and contribute in their humble way for the realization of a noble dream.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org