Name: Anouradha Bakshi
Project: Project Why – Women's Center
Position: Project Leader; Why India
Location: New Delhi, India
Short summary of your background:
The descendent of an indentured labour and a freedom fighter's daughter, Anouradha Goburdhun Bakshi was born in Prague in 1952 and raised in the numerous cities where her diplomat father was posted. (Prague, Beijing, Paris, Rabat, Saigon, Ankara..). At 16 she returned to India, where she completed her studies and obtained a masters In French. She qualified for the IAS examination but preferred to follow a different path. Fluent in French, she was Assistant professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University for a few years. After marriage in 1974 to a young executive, she pursued a career as an interpreter and conference manager working for Indira Gandhi, Jacques Chirac, and many others. The loss of her parents and the last words of her father "Don't lose faith in India' made her question the validity of an almost perfect life in an India were things were wrong. After a period of retrospection and the realization that many “whys” needed to be answered she decided to find some of the answers by setting up project WHY in 1998.
What inspired you to take this initiative?
With parents suddenly removed, Anuradha discovered that life was a serious matter. Her grief and reflections of her parents' values brought on physical stress and depression. Lost for answers, she became nearly a physical wreck and her physician pronounced her ailment 'spondylitis' and fitted her with a collar. One day in 2001, an acquaintance steered her to a healer in the Giri Nagar slums. The lady, a poor Nepalese, was direct. "Your collar is a decoy and leads you away from what you should be doing. Get rid of it and start examining yourself through involved work for the needy." And that wisdom from a simple, unlettered, poor woman instantly turned Anuradha's life around. The collar came off after 9 years, without further ado. The bemusedly named Project Why happened the moment she met Manu, the young man who would provide a meaning to her life. She met him as she sat waiting for Mataji. "Though physically and mentally challenged, Manu had spent a happy early childhood, tended and cared for by his mother," she says. "Mother passed away when he was a young lad. His sisters in their own way cared for him too but they were married off at an early age by their alcoholic father. Manu lived on the street, dirty, soiled, and neglected. The neighbors fed him, but like one would feed an animal. Children threw stones at him. He was abused in all conceivable ways. Manu was made to beg but the money was snatched away from him. No one touched him, no one hugged him. He learned to bear it all. When things became too much, he let out the most heart rending cry that no one heard." Manu precipitated the most deafeningly loud "why?". This was the beginning of the WHY project as Anuradha took care of Manu. Who being washed, cared for and loved became a curious novelty which attracted more parents and children to follow…
What is your (future) dream regarding this project?
My dream is to see Project WHY live beyond me. To date it has been my single-handed efforts that have kept Project WHY afloat. My dream is to build a centre that would have a space for some of the disabled children that have come our way where they can live and die with dignity and a guest house whose running would give us the funds to carry on the work we are engaged in. We have bought the land and the whole concept is spelled out here: planetwhy.blogspot.com
What would you like to say to future participants in your project?
Please believe in our dream to see planet WHY become a reality. We have been in the field for 10 years now but need to make our work sustainable. Sometimes dreams look too big to others, but they hold the tomorrows of many who have nowhere else to go.