My MAD life kick-started as an intern under Mathew in YMCA a little more than 2 years ago. A month after joining, I got a call from the Prez telling me that I had to shift to Pallu. If my memory serves me right, his actual words were, “Ramu, I need someone as big as you there”; To which I jokingly replied, “Why? Do you want me to rough up the kids or something?” This conversation wouldn’t come as a surprise to any of the MAD oldies because Pallu, back then, had the not so enviable distinction of being the roughest, toughest & most unruly orphanage in the network. And the Prez had most conveniently chosen me to handle Class 5 which, even by Pallu standards, was every volunteer’s nightmare. So off I went for my first Pallu class with the Prez wishing me ‘Happy Hunting’ and me praying to all the Gods ‘to prevent the hunter from becoming the hunted’!
The first day of class told me 2 things: a) these kids are extremely street-smart & hence have an acute sense of practicality when it comes to approaching a problem b) none of the established MAD teaching techniques are going to work for them. Thus began a string of experiments in new teaching methods code-named ‘The Pallu-Factor’, most of which would never work in any other orphanage (Cathy & Meera would definitely remember the dramas the boys played before them as part of the class). In more instances than one, the MAD syllabus was kicked out of the window in the process of experimentation as it was seen to be too ‘baby-like’ for my boys. Special mention here for the ‘Jon-man’ (real name withheld for security reasons as Jr. seriously suspects this person’s involvement as the ‘other party’ in the now infamous ‘Tuffy-ca Lewinsky’ scandal) who joined me this year and pledged his unceasing support for my crazy ideas, thus helping to perfect ‘The Pallu-Factor’.
I still remember the day when I had to take a break from teaching due to my own exams. Nikki was to substitute for me (although it took a lot of cajoling & copious amounts of cheese cake from Pandhal to get her to agree, as she firmly believed that I was setting her up to be murdered considering the rep that my boys had). My happiness knew no bounds when she called me that evening to say that she had one of the best classes ever and the boys were very well behaved. She wanted to know how I had done it. I was proud of my boys because I knew that it had nothing to do with what I had done, it was their true potential showing.
To cut a long story short, my boys have been with me through 5th, 6th & 7th. As is the custom in Pallu, the boys have to shift to another orphanage after 7th. Today, I went to see them before their exams and to give them each a copy of the pic I have uploaded here. I don’t want to think of it as a parting gift; it is more a gift to remind them that irrespective of wherever I am, my heart will always be with them. Unlike the popular perception that parting is such sweet sorrow, there was not a single drop of tear shed. We looked at eachother as brothers; as friends; as men – the older man with the satisfaction that he has done all that he could & the younger ones with confidence and promise in their eyes reassuring the former. Although when we came together for a final group hug, I couldn’t help but notice a few moistened eyes (afterall, boys cannot turn into men overnight, can they?)
I guess my MAD life would also end with their leaving, though I can’t take a call on that now as am unsure of where life is taking me at present. But then, life is quite unpredictable as we all know. As I told my boys – “I know life is a struggle… But don’t think that it is impossible… Each of you have the potential to be better than the best… I believe in you… All you have to do is believe in yourself… And this world is yours for the taking!!!”