When I look back, I know that Sunaayy always existed within me. Perhaps, it had to.I was brought up in an environment of empathy and it must have planted the seed of Sunaayy within me even without me realising it. I don’t remember a time when my house was not full of people or when the kitchen in my home was not feeding people, nourishing them, looking after them in the best way that we could.
Yet, it is not like I set out in my life with Sunaayy as an aim that I had to fulfil. I did all the usual things that a child in a typical Indian household does like – my higher education followed by a well-paying corporate job and I did quite well in it. Yet, I never felt like I had reached where I was meant to be. An idea, a feeling, forever stayed in my head, my heart driving me all the time. However, this thought never manifested itself in any obvious way.
I cannot pinpoint any event or happening or even the exact moment in time when I felt that Sunaayy was ready to be born. It was just an organic extension, of the thought in my head, to the work on the ground, of me and who I am. And it continues to be just as much a part of me today, 10 years later, as it was then. There are no fixed rules that govern my action, there is no book I go back to, to check whether I am moving on the right track or not. The only true barometer I think I use is how I feel about something.
When Sunaayy birthed itself, I wasn’t sure how it would grow, what it would do. All I knew was that I somehow had to give back to life, I somehow had to share my privileges with those who did not have those. The vulnerability of women and children to the vagaries of reality, have always been at the centre of my thoughts. And it was therefore, from here, that I planned to start my journey.
Today, 10 years from that time, working with children and women of migrant labourer communities across cities, I feel like I am on the right track. When I see even a handful of first generation learners get into mainstream schooling, or I hear about some children who were with us, becoming financially independent and assisting their parents, I feel that I have played some role in returning to them, their sense of self and their aspirations. I don’t delude myself into believing that Sunaayy has been able to take away all their disadvantages. For that we as a society need to sit back and think how we can make the world a more accessible place for others. However, I do feel that the relationship that those women and children establish with us, helps empower them, give them dignity and hope – all very powerful tools when you are the only one you have fighting the odds with you.
Self-doubt, reality and its problems have hounded me and snapped at my heels more than often. I have many times not been sure if my next idea for the children and women of these communities, would find people who saw my vision and would provide funds for the same.I have faced hostility both from the world as well as from those, who I seek to work for. However, this has firmed my resolve even further, knowing that I can look at myself in the mirror. And of course, life has been kind. I have found many along the way, who have joined this drive purely out of conviction.
And today, I can say for sure especially when I look back in time, that Sunaayy has definitely grown beyond me. The many who associate themselves with Sunaayy, do so in their individual level and capacity but somewhere they feel it in their own way and not the way I had started it and carried it along. I am happy that Sunaayy gives these individuals their space needed to be the makers of change.
The years spent in raising Sunaayy have brought home many stories, of small joys and new discoveries; of compassion and aspirations, of the exploration of the self and the call of the conscience. And I can only express my gratitude to one and all that have stood by Sunaayy all this while and also to those who did not stay. Without either one of them, we would not have realized our strength and achieved our values.
And my heart gladdens as I look into the distant horizon and only see new possibilities and steadfast convictions.