The mother of hope for abandoned girls

The mother of hope for abandoned girls

Bitter memories still haunt Parkash Kaur

The mother of hope for abandoned girls

Many abandoned orphan girls from Unique Home attend best  English-medium institutions.

At home, all call her Ma. It’s the one word that gives her enormous solace, makes her cry for she had none to call Ma all her life. A feeling of deep pride takes over as she acknowledges she’s the mother of 60 abandoned girls who live with her. Today she’s ageing, but 62-year-old Parkash Kaur finds it hard to erase memories of her unforgiving past-- a solitary life at Nari Niketan that she led without words of love in health or sickness, the painful irony of being abandoned by her parents on a road when she was just two years old.

But 60-odd girls, including over two dozen abandoned children below the age of five years, that she takes care of more than a mother have given her a reason to live. At dusk, she settles hurriedly each day looking into matters of feeding bottles, diapers, immunisation, food and above all the quintessential care. Kaur wonders if there were more hours in a day. It’s just not an orphanage, but a home which has lived up to its name, Unique Home. It's a place in Punjab’s Jalandhar which accommodates only deprived girls who were either abandoned somewhere or left to die in a stinking garbage bin on a roadside in chilly winter months by illegitimate and unscrupulous parents. Then, there are other girls who have grown up here as orphans, some of them left by their old and ailing grandparents who perhaps could not even fend for themselves.

Many who serve the cause of humanity here are volunteers. The girls who grew up at the home for years as abandoned children double up as caretakers after they are back from school. They are Kaur’s pillars of strength. At teenage, they know what it takes to be a mother -- handling crying babies, washing diapers and making sure the baby is just in the right position after milk for a burp.

Convent schools

Unique Home is different. It’s a place where abandoned orphan girls go to some of the best English medium institutions, even convent schools in the region. Some of the more studious girls are boarders in prestigious schools in Mussoorie. Visiting malls in the city and shopping from pocket money, movies in multiplexes, have given these girls the confidence that was at one time crushed as destiny played the unforgiving tormentor.

Satnam Singh is one of the volunteers who doub­les up as a trustee of Unique Home. Talking to Deccan Herald, Singh said it’s the homely atmosphere that makes this place blissful. Every summer, all the inmates travel for a vacation up the hill. This time it was Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. “They all had a lot of fun. It's refreshing to see all these abandoned girls smile once again,” he said.

In a state with an appalling skewed sex ratio, Parkash Kaur’s indomitable resolve towards the cause to offer these abandoned girls a dignified respectable life has inspired many. It's this selfless service that brought, Nita Ambani, the wife of Reliance’s Mukesh Ambani, to visit the home last year. The inseparable story of Kaur and Unique Home also featured on the small screen in Satyamev Jayate, a show anchored by Amir Khan that brought to the fore the best of human initiatives towards society.

The home today has abandoned girls from 11 months to 21 years. It has come a long way from just eight inmates in 1993 when it started. Kaur said: “I am the mother of all these 60 girls and I want to raise more children as God has given me so much strength for this cause.” Kaur said, “I see these children as mine. They are never made to feel that they were abandoned”.

April 24 is a special day at Unique Home. It is the day when all the girls collectively celebrate their birthday. A huge 100-kg cake is cut and the moment is marked by celebrations, well, just the beginning of it.

At the entrance of the home--run by a trust named after Bhai Ghanayya Ji-- a small hatched box is the gateway to a new life. It is a cradle of sorts. Whenever a child is left there, it sets off an alarm that tells the staff there’s a new arrival. What follows is celebration at the home.

Kaur shares with agony when she talks about Siya, who was only a few hours old when she was found in a drain, draped in a black polythene bag.

Sheeba, who studied in a convent school in Mussoorie, today says she wants be a neurosurgeon. Kaur has married a dozen girls off, all of whom grew from deprived abandoned infants into educated marriageable girls. Voluntary donations and funding by good Samaritan NRIs have helped run the home.

The inspiration, many say, also comes from the name of the devout Sikh after whom the trust that runs the home is named--Bhai Ghanayya Ji. Long before the Red Cross was established, Bhai Ghanayya Ji, a devout Sikh of Guru Gobind Singh, set an example of selfless service. He did not let any idea of discrimination cross his mind while on the battlefield after a war, whether the soldier belonged to  Sikh or Mughal armies. He dressed their wounds and gave them water. The spirit goes on.

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