Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Picnic Rebellion

I was cooking dinner the night before the big Latika Vihar picnic when Vikram appeared at the kitchen window. Lakshi was in his arms, looking sleepy, but determined.

"Ma'am," he said, a bit embarrassed. "Lakshi wants to talk to you."

This seemed important. Vikram generally dismisses his children's concerns with the typical Indian father's dismissiveness. What could Lakshi want to talk to me about that she couldn't do on her own?

I opened the door and she trotted in and put her arms up for me to hold her. Those eyes. The very ones you see in the photo.

"Kya hua, Lakshi?"

"Why can't I go for the picnic?" Straight to the point. That's my Lakshi.

"The picnic is for the older kids," I said, already feeling inadequate. "You have to be six years old to go."

Lakshi's face shut down. "Humph," I could almost hear her saying. The only thing stopping her was not knowing the word.

"You used me for the Latika Vihar dance," she said accusingly.

This was true, though "used" isn't the word I would have chosen. Lakshi was an important member of the "All Is Well" dance troupe, as were many of the little ones at Latika, none of whom were allowed to come for the picnic.

It was a safety thing, as well as a realization that while many children under six can manage without their parents for the two hours that Latika is open, seven hours at a picnic, with all the rough and tumble of a long ride on a bus, water play and missed naps, is too much for most of them.

Except, perhaps, for Lakshi.

Grandchildren of staff (honorary or not) are allowed, I decided on the spot. Those eyes.

"You can come with me," I told her. "You and Vijay. Moy and I will take you in our car. We'll leave at nine."

She looked at me solemnly, as if to gauge my sincerity, then scrambled to the floor to walk back to her flat with her Dad.


The next morning, both children were at my door at nine sharp. I NEVER leave on time and this morning, with Padma out, Ravi traveling and Naina late, was no exception. But there they were. Waiting. Sighing. Waiting some more.

By 9:15, I was ready. Moy was ready. The bus leaving from Latika Vihar with 70 children and staff was not quite ready. No matter. We packed the car and set out for the picnic spot.

Lakshi couldn't quite believe her luck. We arrived at Dr Kalhan's farm and there wasn't another soul in sight. Just us. She and Vijay had the pool all to themselves.

That moment was enough to justify the whole day. The nap she needed to take on the lawn while all the other children carried on, the tummy upset from all the excitement and overeating, the tiniest bit of clinginess and anxiety - all worth it for this expression of joy and delight and amazement:

It's not often in this world that we get to see such abandon, such astonishment, such awareness of the marvel of being alive. I would take her anywhere.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Everlasting Arms

Nearly a decade ago, Somebody gave Somebody (both shall remain nameless) a particularly Lurid Souvenir, acquired on a trip to Brazil. Second Somebody didn't want the gift, but unable to bring herself to toss it, left it behind in my tender care. I transported it carefully over three separate house moves, each time thinking that Second Somebody would demand to know where it was when she returned.

A few days ago, five years after the last house move, I decided we had reached the end of the statute of limitations for statues. Feeling both brave and reckless, I put said Lurid Souvenir in the trash, firmly, finally and, like I said, bravely and recklessly.

Also stupidly. Did I not know? No one throws anything away in India. When we lived in Delhi, I once tossed a collection of unflattering photographs of me, Ravi, our children, my parents and a few friends. Some weeks later, visiting a family living in a slum outside our flat, I came fact-to-face with a picture of me, eyes closed, mouth open, looking drop-dead ugly, yet, for all that, still pinned up on their wall. Next to the picture of me was a photo of my parents, laughing with the Hornsbys - old friends who had never been to India and whom none of the slum family knew or would ever know. No worries! How can you throw away a photograph?

So I should have known that the statue of Jesus, Christ the Redeemer, a replica of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, after all, would not stay long in a dust bin. And indeed, it was Vijay, Vikram's son, who first spotted him and, disapproving and perhaps even horrified, rescued him from oblivion.

Look at that expression. What was I thinking? There was no way I was going to convince this child that I didn't need or want such a glistening white statue.

Lovingly, carefully, respectfully, Vijay placed this version of Christ the Redeemer up on our wall. Beside the gatepost lamp, next to the flowering vine. I took it down that evening and put it into the mailbox where it could only be seen from inside the house. The next morning, it was back up on the wall. "EVERYONE can see it if it's up here," he said solemnly.

So now I'm getting used to it. I try to be secular and tolerant, respectful of all religions and wary of pushing my own. But this little boy and his genuine tolerance have taught me a thing or two. In the circle of respect and true religion he has drawn for me, I find I can now look out the kitchen window at my friend Jesus and feel not only enveloped but restored.

"The eternal God shall be thy dwelling place," the Good Book says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." Vijay, in his simplicity, has led me by the hand back to my true home.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One of Ours

What a week I've had. A series of amazing meetings in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai - each one a little gem of perfection and good will, each one filling me with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. By the time I reached the airport in Mumbai on the final leg of the long journey - homeward bound at last! - I was sailing. Sitting in a coffee shop by the departure gate, I had to keep hugging myself or I would have been squealing with delight.

Across the concourse, I watched a boy walking toward me. He was about 13 and he was moving carefully, managing to roll his suitcase behind him while clutching a boarding pass in his other hand, keeping an eye on the people going past him, noting the three stairs he would soon have to go down, navigating around a pillar and keeping his parents well in view - all at the same time.

Even from a distance, I could see that he was one of ours. I watched him with respect and a strange sort of pride: I don't know him or his parents and unless the fates conspire, we will probably never meet; but I was proud of him nonetheless. I could see how the simple tasks we take for granted when traveling were a challenge for him and I could guess how hard he must have worked to master them.

And I was struck, as I so often am, by how lucky we are - those of us who are a part of the world of special needs. We can put our "accomplishments" in perspective because we work with people for whom every hour of the light and dark are miracles and we know that theirs are the true achievements, born of ceaseless endeavor. We can cope with the inevitable bad weeks that will follow the good like this one just past because we've seen in real life the meaning of determination, perseverance and triumph. And we can admit to weakness and not feel ashamed because we get our inspiration from people - their weaknesses on display for all to see - who go on astounding us with their power, grace and strength.

I watched that boy with pride and emotion, moved beyond words to be a part of his world, glad beyond telling to be able to share his story.

Photos by Erin Steigerwalt (C) Erin Steigerwalt

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Soap Nuts

I love doing laundry. I enjoy sorting the clothes by color and fabric, choosing the water temperature and pushing all the machine's buttons. (For many years, we washed clothes by hand. I did not enjoy that. Nothing like a washing machine for reducing drudge work. Every home should have one.)

I especially love hanging clothes to dry. What a satisfying feeling, to give each piece an expert f-l-i-p, and place it neatly on the rack to flutter in the warm breeze. We hang ours on the roof-terrace, where all the neighbors can see what I'm up to as they do theirs. I am not an early riser, as they all are, so my status was somewhat pathetic as our clothes never appeared on the racks until long after theirs were done and folded. Then I discovered a little trick. I do a few loads late at night (when my neighbors are all no doubt sleeping - SO LAZY!) and now emerge proud and industrious almost as early as they do.

We do a ton of laundry in our house. Moy Moy produces most of it, but a household of five, plus Vikram's family, plus frequent guests means we use a lot of water, a lot of electricity and a LOT of laundry detergent.

I love washing machines. Like Gandhiji and the Singer Sewing Machine, I believe the washing machine is one of the greatest inventions of our time. But laundry detergent? I cannot stand it. It's wildly expensive, for one thing and the strain on our budget given the amount of it we require, strikes me as criminal.

But even worse (she says nobly) is the damage it does to the environment. In what seems a counter-intuitive process, the very substance which produces clean clothes also causes lasting and extensive filth in our environment. The European Parliament's Environment Committee has just called for a complete ban on phosphates (the worst offenders in the chemical makeup of laundry powders) in detergents.

The reason is simple: "Phosphates released into water cause algae to grow at the expense of other aquatic life. This phenomenon, known as "eutrophication", can cause "red tides" or "green tides". The leading sources of phosphate discharge into surface waters are agriculture and sewage. Detergents come third."

The European Parliament wants this ban to come into effect from 2013.

But here in India, we don't need to wait so long.

Who remembers REETHA? Also known as soap-nuts. Soap-nuts! Such a charming name for what is actually an almost miraculous little product. I was first introduced to them by Priyanka, a friend who is trying to market healthy, environmentally safe products. Soap Nuts is her first venture, and she's already got me sold.

When she first told me about them - a totally natural soap which grows on trees - I couldn't believe it. Turns out everyone's grandmother knows about them, and has used them for generations. You can buy them in an old-fashioned grocery if you have to, but if you are lucky enough to live in Dehradun, you can just walk down to the tea gardens and pick them up off the ground.

I was even luckier. Priyanka gave me a box of my own. Each box comes with a sweet little white cloth pouch with a drawstring closure. You put four or five nuts in the pouch, tie it shut, and toss it into the machine. No need for detergent. Even better? You can use them again. And again. Priyanka's experiments indicate that one pouch full will last three or four loads if you use cold water. (In hot water, you can only use it once.)

Priyanka was a font of information. She told me that Soap Nuts are actually not nuts at all, but berries and that they come in two varieties: sapindus trifoliatus (Small Soap Nut) and sapindus mukorossi (Large Soap Nut). The Large Soap Nut is the most commonly used in cleaning (probably due to its size & ease of harvesting), but both varieties are effective.

Soap Nuts contain large quantities of saponin in their shells, which acts as a natural, gentle detergent when it comes into contact with water. Without added chemicals, fragrances or dyes, Soap Nuts are safe and gentle for handwashing delicates, yet tough enough for regular laundry. They will leave your laundry soft, clean and fragrance free, without the use of fabric softeners. They are also good for people with soap allergies as they contain no artificial dyes or fragrances - the usual source of allergies for people with sensitive skin.

All excited, I showed the nuts to Padma, who helps in the house and who often does the laundry. "Can you believe this?" I asked her. "They're free! We don't have to buy Surf anymore."

"Oh, reetha," she said, dismissively. "We get them from the tea gardens all the time."

I could see she wasn't impressed. "Let's try it," I insisted. And for a few days, she dutifully filled the little white bag and tossed them in.

Finally one morning she said - a bit urgently - that we really HAD to go back to Surf. "Moy's clothes aren't coming out clean," she said accusingly.

This was very amusing because just a few months earlier, I had said the same thing to her. Moy drools a lot and saliva, surprisingly, leaves stains which are quite difficult to remove. When I had pointed it out to Padma, she had explained that even with hand-scrubbing (with Surf), she wasn't able to get them clean. That, somehow, was acceptable. Not getting them clean with reetha was not.

So the lesson? If you pay for something and it doesn't work, at least you've tried your best. If you get it for free and it doesn't work, well, what else can you expect?

I am a convert. I'm all for reetha. But I've still got to work on Padma. She's a tough little soap nut to crack.

Friday, June 17, 2011

No Helmet, No Key

Ok, maybe I get a little carried away. Frequent angry outbursts while driving, teaching people "lessons" on the road, turning errant children over to their parents and, occasionally, a citizen's arrest. Idiots behind the wheel make my blood boil and I can't seem to escape the missionary's zeal to instruct the ignorant.

But for all my ranting and scolding, I don't make much headway. People look at me with mild curiosity when I stay in the left lane to make a right turn and there have been times I've created havoc on the road by stopping to allow an elderly person to cross. Nobody ever changes their ways.

Today, I think I made a difference.

Naina, beautiful Naina, comes every day to look after Moy Moy while I am at work. After scrimping for over a year, she recently saved enough to buy a scooter and she now sails in through the gate with pride every afternoon. At my insistence, she also bought herself a helmet.

One evening, she stayed late so I could attend a dinner program. As she was leaving, I noticed that she hadn't put her helmet on. I asked her about it and she said "Didi, it's dark now - who'll see whether I've got it on or not?"

Big lecture on the purpose of wearing a helmet. Embarrassed agreement. A promise extracted never to ride without a helmet and then the satisfaction of seeing her drive off suitably protected.

A few weeks later, she arrived bareheaded. "Naina?" I said, in that warning tone I do so well.

"Sorry, didi," she said laughing. "I forgot. I promise I'll remember tomorrow."

I stood looking at her for a moment. Naina's mother died recently and her father is long gone. If she were my daughter, I would simply lay down the law. And I would do it with very good reason. We have two staff members in the Foundation and one in my husband's organization who have suffered head injuries in road accidents. They will never be quite the same. Their example is a living and constant reminder of the dangers of reckless driving, yet Naina and countless other young people like her continue to believe their youth and vitality will protect them and that nothing could ever possibly happen to them.

Laws exist not only to protect society from criminals but to protect us from ourselves. Helmet laws are a good example, yet they are routinely and openly defied here in India and nothing ever happens. Our roads are a sea of chaos and catastrophe as a result.

Well, Naina, and everyone else in the Foundation, here's a message:

"The law is the embodiment
of everything that's excellent.
It has no sort of fault or flaw
And I, my dears, embody the law."

"Naina", I said sternly, "If I ever see you without a helmet again, I will take your key away from you for 24 hours. If it happens again, I'll take it for a week."

This morning she arrived in a hurry, helmet carefully stowed on the hook at her feet, head unprotected.

"Naina, the key," I said, hand outstretched.

She laughed, apologized.

I didn't even smile. Hardened my heart, kept my hand out, stared her down.

Chastened, not quite believing, she gave me the key and I hid it in Ravi's desk. All day, she kept laughing and trying to get me to change my mind, as if the whole thing was a joke which would soon be over.

As luck would have it, I was to take the train to Delhi this evening. My rickshaw came to take me to the station and still not quite able to accept that I meant it, she pleaded with me for one more chance. Even Masiji put in a word for her. "Forgive her," she whispered. "She's learned her lesson."

I was about her age when I got my first speeding ticket. I had been driving nearly 80 miles an hour. Just like the state trooper who pulled me over and wrote out the ticket calmly and impassively, impervious to my pleas, my tears and my promises, I refused to entertain her. I simply picked up my suitcase and said I believed her when she said she would never forget again. I was going to make sure of it. Then I headed out the door.

Five minutes ago (I'm writing this on the train) she called from my house to beg me to tell Ravi to give it to her. "My brothers are here, too," she said. "What will I tell them?"

"Naina, I said. "You tell them your mother is watching what I am doing from her spot in heaven and she is cheering. She can't believe her luck. She cannot believe that someone is watching out for her little girl just as she would have."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Only Takes Twice As Long

Children - OH MY GOSH - really want to be useful. Vijay and Lakshi plague me for things to do, ways they can help (they are particularly fond of tasks which involve spray bottles of cleaning fluids, washing dishes or mixing cake batter). I try to come up with tasks.

A few days ago, I gave them a laundry assignment. Big hit.

Never establish a precedent with children. Don't even give them a chance to have expectations. I made the mistake of telling them there was another important job for them which they could do the next day. With difficulty, their Mom managed to restrain them from coming down until 2:30 (I was at work until two). She told me later that they said I was WAITING for them because I needed their help on an important job.

When they finally escaped, they scampered in to the house, full of energy and purpose. "MOM!" Lakshi shouted. "Where's our job?"

Thinking fast (I had totally forgotten yesterday's offhand remark which they had grabbed on to as a Divine Order), I asked them to carry the huge collection of Moy's empty Ensure tins from the kitchen to the car - a distance of about 25 steps, and a stack of newspapers from the hall closet to the recycle pile outside.

It would have taken me around five minutes to do it all myself. Lakshi and Vijay?

Hard to say, actually. There were so many diversions.

The boy needed a rest almost immediately.

while the girl, typically, continued to toil . . .

till she decided she needed a rest as well:

after which she discovered the drumming potential of all those plastic lids:

The newspapers had to be scanned for cartoons and recognizable words before they could be carried out:

Two hours later, my important job was finally done.

They were ready for the next assignment. I was ready for bed.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Good Shepherd, Part 2

Ram Chandra is a shepherd. It's not often we run into shepherds these days, so this feels like an occasion. I've seen him on our streets for years, but it wasn't till recently that I actually stopped to converse with him. I wrote about our first encounter here and when I did, it turned out that eveyone in our neighborhood knew him too.

Though nobody, including me, knew his name.

Now we do. I met one of his relatives a few evenings after writing my post and once he'd determined that I meant no harm (they are accustomed to the ridicule of the streets, the taunts of small children and the accusations of "upstanding citizens"), he told me that Ram Chandra had a speech defect, but that he was a good man and a hard worker.

THAT I knew.

Now I see him everywhere.

He is always with his animals and it seems he is connected with them in ways unfathomable to - well, to non-shepherds. He seems to consult them, to defer to them, to seek their opinions and to give them serious consideration:

They trade stories and share jokes:

And like the Original Good Shepherd, he knows them, and loves them for who they are:

But I was surprised to discover today that that love is returned; that the animals he shepherds so patiently through heat and rain and the dark of night revere and regard him right back and that their connection is deep and wordless and beyond anything like a speech defect or shabby clothes.

Ram Chandra is revered. Maybe not by you or by me, but definitely by this simple beast, this animal who is not fooled by outward appearance but for whom the only truth is what is inside.

I was gone by this time. They didn't know about my zoom lens; they were not posing for the camera. This was love, pure and simple. This was the Good Shepherd, who would lay down his life for his flock.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Moy Moy's Story: It Never Gets Old

Moy Moy is so much a part of our lives we sometimes forget that's not true for everyone else. So here's her story once again: the story of Moy Moy, the reason for and the inspiration of much of the work of the Latika Roy Foundation.

Moy Moy is from a remote village in the Himalayas. Her mother had been sterilized after her 12th baby – but Moy Moy was conceived anyway. Determined to get an abortion, she came down to Dehradun – and chose the one obstetrician in the city who doesn’t do them. The doctor persuaded Moy’s mother to give birth and leave the baby for her to find it a home – a few months later, coming for a routine prenatal appointment, she went into labor on the bus. The bus pulled over and Moy Moy was born on the side of the road – 12 weeks premature, weighing in at 2 pounds.

Her mother wrapped her up in a shawl and brought her in to the hospital. There was no incubator so Moy Moy was parked in a small metal crib in the nurses’ station.

Two weeks later, the story gets more personal. An American couple, both doctors, was volunteering at the hospital. When they heard about the baby, the woman said her sister would adopt her. The sister was me. And the baby, miraculously, against all odds, came into our lives and changed everything.

She wasn’t meant to be conceived, but she was. She wasn’t meant to be born, but she was. She wasn’t meant to survive, but she did. She wasn’t meant to be our daughter, but she most certainly is.

And when it turned out she needed a special school and there was none to be found in our city, it never occurred to any of us that starting one would be a problem. Now, 17 years later, Moy Moy's school serves hundreds of children from all over the state and the country. Because of her, nearly 100 people have jobs and a purpose in life that has transformed them into extraordinary bearers of good news in a world desperately in need of it.

Indeed, whenever something needs to be done and the way looks dark and the task seems impossible, we think of the child whose whole existence has been a series of impossibilities and we realize, once again, that all things are possible with faith, love and the ability to leap into the unknown.

Just leap. The net will appear.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Water Works

One very hot summer afternoon, my mother stood at our kitchen window looking out at the house next door. Our neighbours were Portuguese immigrants - from the "old country". Their house was kept dark all the time and the children were seldom allowed to play outside. This particular day, we could see them lying listlessly on the screened in back porch. Every now and then, one of them would whine or cry, the mother would lose her temper and scold, more crying would ensue and the cycle never seemed to end.

My mother didn't know I was standing there watching her as she watched the scene from our kitchen window. She would never have said what she did if she had known I was there because Mom never criticized anyone out loud. But what she was watching seemed to her like child abuse.

"Oh WHY don't they put those children in water?"

Mom was a great believer in water. We spent our entire summers in it - the beach was the ultimate treat, but a wading pool in the back yard or a sprinkler on the lawn was always possible and water play of all sorts was a standard summer day prescription. She couldn't understand why a parent would prefer to listen to endless whinging when the solution was right there in plain sight.

I remembered this today when Vijay and Lakshi scampered into the kitchen - it was the hottest part of the afternoon. Moy Moy, Mummy and Masiji were all asleep and so was Vijay and Lakshi's mother. The perfect time to fight with each other, make a mess in our living room or . . . find something even more exciting to do.

When it got quiet suddenly, I went to investigate and found Vijay carefully cutting Lakshi's hair.

Put those children in water! I could hear Mom's voice roll down across the years.

In India, however, you can't just fill a pool with water or leave a hose pipe running. That's like a federal crime. So I did the next best thing.

I collected all our old rags - the ones I use for dusting and shove under the laundry basket to eventually wash in a separate load - filled a basin full of soapy water, gave each child a scrubbing brush and asked them to wash the rags for me. "I don't have time to do it myself," I explained. "I really need your help."

The children set to it with a will. For well over half an hour they scrubbed and rinsed and wrung out the cloths:

Their favorite part, though, seemed to be hanging them to dry on the little line I put up at their level:

When I wasn't out there taking photos, guess what I was doing? Making cookies for them in the kitchen! Just call me Grandma.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lord of the Dance

We talk about inclusion all the time. It's a concept, it's an issue, it's a right, it's an imperative.

At Latika Vihar, it's just the way it is. That means it may be funny and endearing (that's what we hope) or disturbing and worrying (and that we just accept and try to sort out). Today I saw both. One little girl who hurts herself repeatedly and brutally. Today she came in with her eye swollen shut and bruises all over her face. It's upsetting for everyone - the woman who looks after her followed her around helplessly, trying to distract her with the things she liked to hold yesterday, which, if she has in her hands, prevent her from punching herself. Today, those things weren't working. The other children were distressed; the whole staff was worried. We will speak with her parents, with our doctor, with a teacher who has a special bond with this child. We will figure it out. Or we won't. One of the things we keep learning is that not all problems can be solved. Some things must be endured. But we do it with love and with kindness and we try to make up for the unfairness in as many ways as we can.

Sometimes, thank God, inclusion is easy.

Here's our boy Saurabh, joining in the dance session:

He's confident enough to try out his own moves:

And he is clearly pleased with his results:

But learning to dance well is demanding. It requires discipline.

and concentration

before you can strike out on your own . . .

But once you've got it:

Oh, man, you've got it . . .

Saurabh's teacher - did you notice? - is a child not much older than he is. She's been coming to Latika Vihar since she was very small and she has taken in the idea of inclusion so naturally she couldn't begin to explain it to you. It would be like explaining how she breathes.

She listens when he speaks to her. It's really that simple.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Arun's Toy Story: The Sequel

Last week I shopped for toys. Maybe you remember how successful my little spree was:

I returned home from Delhi on Friday afternoon. That night, I assembled. (Don't miss the empty wine glass, without which . . . ):

While assembling, I had plenty of time to think. I had even more time as I placed all the furniture and little dolls in the house I had put together . . .

I thought about the children at the Doon EIC who would fall in love with these toys and about the likelihood that for many of them it would be the first time in their lives they would ever have seen so many toys in one place. I thought about the fun they would have with them and then . . . well, then I let myself start thinking about all the children who wouldn't get to play with them. It's always dangerous to let a train of thought like this start. We know exactly how it will end.

It ends with a fund-raising appeal, so I'm warning you right now. Proceed at your own risk.

The next morning was Saturday. The Doon EIC would only open on Monday so I figured it would be ok to allow Lakshi and Vijay, our honorary grandchildren, to play with the toys for the weekend.

This may have been a mistake. Or maybe not.

Lakshi and Vijay were in our living room pretty much for 48 hours straight. I could see their little minds at work. Geometry puzzles deciphered

Architectural decisions made

Kids at play are the best possible argument for play itself, - and while toys aren't strictly necessary (pots and pans, sticks and stones, a bit of sand, a cup of water all work just as well), they sure do add to the fun.

I spent around Rs 46,000 on the toys and books for the Doon EIC because we were starting totally from scratch. For our other centres (Latika Vihar, Karuna Vihar, Mama EIC and Khushi), which already have the basics, I need only Rs 25,000 each. That's only $550 for each centre! A piece of cake.

But here's the story. Today is my dear brother-in-law Arun Gupta's birthday. Arun died after a biking accident in 2004, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of more people than it is possible to count. I remember Arun for so many reasons, but one of the most important is his incredible delight in life. He was born to bring joy to others, born to have fun, born to help other people (especially children!) have fun too. Every time I went home to the US for a visit, he would take my children out to buy toys and me out to buy books. Every time. "We don't need any more toys or books," I would protest. "Yes you do," he would insist.

Today, to celebrate his birth and his life, I am launching the Arun's Toy Story Campaign. In his memory and in his name, I know we will raise the $2200 we need to give our children the fun he would want them to be having.

You can send your checks made out to Latika Roy Foundation directly to us here (369/1 Vasant Vihar Enclave, Dehradun, UK, 248006, INDIA) or you can donate online here: (Just be aware you have to register at GiveIndia! Takes five minutes. In the scheme of things, not much time.)