On last saturday, myself along with Anwar, and Anwar's friends went to an orphanage in Dapodi, Pune. It is located in a slum-like area and run by Mrs Tulve who started it in 2000. On reaching there we had a discussion with Tulve Kaku (or simply Kaku now onwards).
The story goes like this in her words-
"I was in affection with orphan kids from times even before starting the orphanage. Once I saw a small orphan girl raped by somebody and the girl was left on road with her pains. I rushed that girl to hospital but she died in a few days. I was shocked to see this. Then I came across 3 orphan kids and asked an existing orphanage if they could admit the kids. The orphanage refused to admit the girls because girls are needed to be provided with extra social security. I found this weird because that is what purpose of an orphanage is.
So I decided to start an orphanage myself with these 3 kids in the year 2000. I registered it with few other ladies from my colony. Later on, looking at the responsibilities, the rest of the ladies left the work, but I couldn't and didn't want to. I had few conflicts with my family initially but later on my family not only accepted it but encouraged me and started contributing to my work.
There are always days of problems. We had few funds and ourselves not being from elite class, we had to manage our expenses and expenses of the orphanage from my husband's salary at times. In October, I got one more shock. My husband (aged around 45-50) expired in October 2008. It is hard to see him not here with us, but I have to go ahead with my kids."
One might feel that only money is the major problem for running an orphanage. But there is a huge list of problems. There are kids of all age, even some of the kids are brought into the orphanage the very day they were born. To grow up these kids, to look after their education, their eating habits, nourish them emotionally is not an easy task. Also, the distant relatives of the kids rise all of a sudden and take them away without thinking about the kid's education. In that case, she has to convince the kid's relatives, even file a police case at times. The elderly girls have to be given more protection. The problem listed here can be an indication to the actual list.
On asking her where did she apply for any grant from the government, Kaku exclaims "Yes, we did. Firstly they said, I need a bigger place to get a grant for orphanage. If I could get it, why would I ask for a grant? Secondly, they asked for a bribe of Rs 25000. My kids will have their food for 2 months in this sum. Why should I pay the officials so much money just on the belief that they will give grant to my orphanage on some day?"
The place where the kids stay are two small rooms of approx. 10 by 12 feet each. Out of which, one has tin on the top (so one can imagine the summer joy). The number of kids staying there is 34. All of them have to use public toilets and bathrooms of the colony. So one can imagine the "luxury" the kids are having. Kaku stays just next to it in a same sized house.
After visiting the orphanage, many questions arose to my mind. Looking after the orphanage, I was convinced that she is doing it genuinely. She is not running an business NGO as many people do just to earn funding and then abuse that funding. Kaku herself is not "formally" educated. So how did she have the courage to go against family and register the orphanage, handle its administrative and legal formalities? She is also not from elite class. So didn't she feel little worried about the future of her family and orphanage? I stay here in my comfort zones and hardly bother to care about somebody under-privileged, talk about taking "calculated risks" and here a lady who is "illiterate" is taking so much "pain" and responsibility when she is not "needed" to have it? How and why could she do this?
I found that she had an extreme urge to do something for the orphan kids without need of heavy words or heavy philosophy. She had found joy and satisfaction in running an orphanage, that is why after so much apparent pain, she is happy with whatever she is able to do it.
Now, what is that we can do?
1. Monetary help. The orphanage still doesn't have grant. So the expenses of the kids food, education, health are entirely based on donation.
2. Find out what all is required in registering and getting a grant for the orphanage. File RTI, visit officers.
3. Work with Kaku, understand the problems they have in getting grant and work with them to apply and followup the grant approval. But this will need frequent visits, concern for them and committment.
Meantime while we were discussing about the grant issue, Kaku said - "The officials say that we don't have separate toilets and bathrooms for the girls and boys. We cannot do better. The girls and boys have to share the same toilet and bathroom of the colony. Now you guys tell me, do we have 3 bathrooms in our home where 5 people are staying?" I didn't have daring to say her that yes we have and we consider it a necessity :(