i was playing at the wie complex in pune.i told one of my friends’ i think i just saw jesus christ‘,she retaliated saying ‘oh ya he is coming with ganapati‘.this jesus christ i am talking about,later i found out was austin uncle,and the ganapati was a random fat australian who had come with him to play.this was my first view of the man.after that we didnt speak too much for a pretty long time.i called him christ for a very long time.hes long,very thin but fit,fair,in his 60s with a white beard.i dont know somehow he looked like him.he would forever have remained christ if around 2months back he would have not come upto me and said’ i read about you in the papers,congrats.’after that slowly we started talking.i love talking to old people.they have so many things to say and nobody to listen to them.once they know ya she will listen they can keep going on and on for a very long time.ok i agree some of them do get boring but austin uncle is definitely not one of them.
austin uncle was a former captain on the ship.he has seen many wars,has seen a missile coming and blasting a huge ship just standing some miles away from him.u name it and hes been there,done that.you can imagine the kind of experiences he must have had.when he speaks about his times during the war my eyes are so much bigger with loads of respect and complete wonder towards him.his stories are out of this world.he has a beautiful wife.when i look at them i believe in the concept made in heaven.they are just perfect together.they have been trekking kashmir to kanyakumari.they love travelling only by trains even if it is a 3 day journey .its not money or fear of flying,they say ‘who will let go of travelling in a train in india,its the most fun thing,the memories we have from our travels are so precious.we want more and more of them.’basically these guys live life to the fullest,they dont believe in the concept of money.they believe in doing the small things well.
so now coming back to sadak.austin uncle believes in helping under privileged children.he and his wife have picked up loads of children from the streets and platforms all over in pune.they get them home and then find them places where they can get shelter,food and education.they told me about this girl they found on the railway tracks.she was around 6months,bitten everywhere,her chin was broken.they got her home she was with them for around 2 years after that they send her in one of the ngos for girls.now shes doing very well for herself.i asked them how does it feel to give so many children a second chance,they just say ‘u have to do,what u have to do,its our job’.is it really that easy????
with this philosophy they started this organisation sadak around 10 years back.earlier this place was only a small hut.slowly with persistent efforts it has now 2 floors and around 5 rooms for the kids.its in daund very near to the station.they have been doing up and down from pune for the last 15yrs now,and there enthusiasm still remains the same.i feel i am just plain lucky to have met this jodi.
in one of my conversations i told uncle i am pretty keen about working with these kids.he said good come along with me on sunday.he told me to get to the station at 7.55am and he will find me which he did.we got into a passenger train.he had got his wife,daughter and grand daughter along.i have no clue how the 1 hr 45 mins ourney went by,i was too engrossed in all his stories.with us he had also got aatish,he had picked him up from nana peth.aatish didnt speak a word throughout the journey.we reached daund.daund doesnt have a pucca road.it has huge buffaloes all around which are a little scary,one of them was going to bang me,which would have been pretty hilarious but painful,very painful.we took an auto but due to the great roads we just decided to walk it.we reached sadak in 10mins.when we entered some 15 kids ran towards us,everybody greeted everyone(strictly in english uncle is very keen on all of them speaking good english and he has made it a rule).they all were a little shy with me around but slowly to get them talking and relax them i took of my camera and started clicking there pictures.this worked like magic they were all over me after that.some of them wanted to be clicked while some of them wanted to click.one of them had worked as cameraman in some shaddis so i just gave off the camera to him and he did his job very well.he told me about the latest camera and this lens and that lens,ofcourse all of his talk went right over my head.(and i thought i was educated).after that we played carrom,mahadev was my partner throughout.we belted all the rest of them and were declared champions.this session was so much fun.everyone was screaming shouting cheering and what not.to add to the party i played some music and we all danced while playing carrom also.then it was biryani time.the biryani was classic but sadly i couldnt eat much.when i saw those kids eating i felt my stomach full.they had huge mountains of rice on their plates .as if they were not sure if they would get to ever eat again.i almost felt guilty dont know why.i didnt eat much thought if i eat less one of them would get more to eat.i literally saw and experienced what does the word hunger really mean after looking at them.after lunch we flew kites.i have never done that all my life so it was ultimate fun.sometimes i feel i should have had a village life i would have enjoyed so much more.after kite flying it was time for us to leave.this part was the hardest to do.these kids kept asking me not to go,or when will i visit again and that i should get them badminton rackets the next time i come.when i waved them goodbye i had one very tiny tear in my eye.their eyes said it all they wanted was for all of us to be there and just not go.it was one of those rare moments of my life.it was all very overwhelming.austin uncle kept a hand on my shoulder and said that the first time is always difficult,you will get used to it.i nodded and we got back.
most of the kids have no families.some of them dont even know their names.some of the kids run away once they stay for 2 years.sometimes even less.uncle told me,that holding them down to one place is the most difficult part.there is too much freedom on the roads and the platforms.they can be in chennai one day ,the other day in delhi(as they travel in trains and try and earn money by cleaning,sweeping or selling stuff).to get them to understand our life takes a lot of time,and time is exactly most of these kids dont have. out of the 100kids they must have found , only 40 kids live there till they finish eductaion and stand on their feets.most of them run away or get into drugs or die.this is the harsh truth which uncle faces everyday.there is no guarantee that all his work will help them ,it may not.
what i learnt in those few hours i spent there was that these kids dont need our money they want to be loved to be recognised as individuals.they need to be taught not abcd alone but also that life is not about running from one place to another and about surviving for a day.it is so much more than that.they want security and a hand to walk them through,they need our time.
i want to urge everyone of you to take out some time for any ngo or anybody who needs your help from your lives.i guarantee you by helping these people you will only and only help yourself.it doesnt have to be too much even if you give an hour from the whole week even that is good enough.believe me it will change your way of looking at life in general and definitely for the better.as austin uncle says ” you have to do what you have to do”!!!