Four years ago, we got a big grant to set up a Resource Centre for People with Special Needs. Part of the funding included rent for a new building and we lost no time in finding a fancy, spacious one - right next door to my house, as it happened.
It was a theatrical house with an ornate, spiral staircase, a balcony on the inside and immense glass windows everywhere. Everything was marble and carved wood, there were enormous amounts of storage space and each room had its own bathroom. There were even two kitchens.
Our funding also allowed for furniture and curtains and we had a ball setting ourselves up in royal splendor.
But as pleasant as it was to work in such exalted surroundings, I don't think we were any more productive or creative, nor did our efficiency improve. Indeed, there was a little sense of embarrassment and furtiveness about having such a luxurious office and I, at least, often found myself explaining to guests that "actually, the rent is quite reasonable given the size of the place."
But in fact, it was the size of the place that was the problem. It was so large it was difficult to fill, especially on the days when the awareness team was out in the field (which was most of the time). Giving it to one of our space-starved children's centres wasn't an option because a) it wasn't kid friendly having no garden to speak of and very steep stairs right in its centre and b) our landlords didn't want kids in their house because they thought it would disturb the neighbors (since I was the next-door neighbor, this logic was lost on me, but they were firm about it).
So last month, faced with a budget crisis, we decided to give it up and move to a smaller, less expensive place. That place is a building which - one way and another - has been part of my life almost since the day we moved to Dehradun 22 years ago.
369/1. The Old House. The Guest House. Latika Vihar. The Foundation's First Office. The Training Centre. We have called it many names, but its nature - steady, solid, good to the core - has never changed.
They never raise the rent, for one thing. We have to do it on their behalf periodically, which is saying a lot, given our active fundraising genes and our preference for saving money wherever we possibly can. But even we know there are limits to taking advantage of people. Especially these people. Something of their good-heartedness must have gone into the bricks and the plaster because so many good things have happened to us here.
So we hung on to 369/1 over the years and used it to house many different activities including, at one time, the Foundation office itself - it was a homecoming of sorts when we returned to it on Monday, but one which involved squeezing our somewhat bloated selves into a much smaller place.
So before we moved, we went through a purge at the big office:
Finally, we wedged our furniture and the winnowed down contents of our desks into our new digs:
He has no idea.