…Ajeet is powered by a 500 megawatt nuclear reactor. He approaches every task with 110% commitment and stupendous enthusiasm. He loves his shorts high and his belt tight. His hair is always perfect. He is the ideal match for his new sponsor and my esteemed mentor, friend, and fellow ThurtenE Honorary alumnus from St. Louis, Missouri, Brian Fiedler (nickname Chops). Thanks to Brian’s generosity, Ajeet is now directing his indefatigable brain toward the Carmel Convent School for the next semester.

–Ajeet getting ready for his first day of school–

I cannot write this post without smiling and laughing just thinking about Ajeet’s excitement for everything. When I ask him a question, I can practically see his brain processing as his huge brown eyes seem to rapidly search the room for an answer. When he answers correctly, he jumps up and down in anticipation of the next question.

–Ajeet studying hard for his first day of school–

–Ajeet testing the laws of physics and the limits of the Carmel Convent School swing set–

Ajeet never says no and performs every task to the max. Although he is excellent at every subject, his favorite is undeniably recess. If he’s on a swing, he looks like he’s trying to go inverted. When he’s spinning the merry-go-round, I secretly hope that the bearings don’t fail.

–On our way to buy shoes in the tuk-tuk two weeks ago–

–Ajeet playing his first game of basketball, barefoot–

–Ajeet with his mother, Ranju–

Ajeet is 7 years old. His older brother, Sandeep, is 10 years old and had to have a massive abdominal surgery as a toddler. Their entire family was devastated by the expense of Sandeep’s healthcare (which to us seems amazingly inexpensive). Ashok, Ajeet’s father, works on a daily basis as a mason.

–Ajeet in his new classroom–

–Future world leader–

–Ajeet with Golu and Prianka before they had their own Carmel Convent School uniforms–

–After school, Ajeet runs home to clean his socks and uniform for the next day!–

Chops, this opportunity means everything to Ajeet. He was custom-made to wear this custom-tailored uniform. The shoes you bought him might as well have wings. There is no doubt in my mind that Ajeet could one day become a formidable athlete, world leader, and the sole source of electricity for an entire city. On behalf of Ajeet, his mother Ranju, his father Ashok, and his brother Sandeep, thank you for providing focus for this bright beam of light and energy.

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Family Reactions…

…This morning, I went into the slum to check on Manish. The massive growth on his nose does not appear to be responding to medication. I am in the process of arranging a consultation with a plastic surgeon at one of the best private hospitals in town. If he or she determines that Manish needs surgery, I hope to have Manish in the OT by next week.

–Manish with his mother, Dolly–

Manish lives in the room above Prianka and her family, who subsequently invited me in for chai. Manish and his mother joined us. Luckily, it was also the first chance I have had to meet Vishundev, Prianka’s father.

–Prianka with her father, Vishundev, in their tiny, dark home–

Vishundev is a cargo truck driver. His truck full of motorcycles was parked near the slum school. Shortly after my visit, he embarked on his 2052 km (1275 mi) trip south to Bangalore, Karnataka. It will take him five days to get there!

This was the first time Vishundev has been home since I started my search for students nearly a month ago. He only spends two or three days per month at home! He seemed eager to shake my hand and thank me for what we are doing for his daughter.

After school today, some of the parents came to me to show me their appreciation and give us some new documents. Rani came with some new passport-style photos of Anita and seemed more excited than ever about Anita’s education.

–Some people who were still playing Holi–

As I was headed home from the slum, Rustam (Verhsa and Kashak’s father) insisted that I come to his home by literally pulling me toward it. Usually, the hospitality here is persistent, but not to this extent. I couldn’t refuse. We wove through the tiny alleys and up the ladder into his rooftop room. It was beautifully kept and organized for my visit. A fan was turned on and directed toward me. They offered me a cold Limca soda (one of my favorites) which probably cost Rustam an hour of work just to purchase. Rustam’s father, who also lives here, was also still stained with Holi color. To be invited into slum homes like this and be treated like a king is a truly special occasion. I never imagined that I would feel like such an important part of their families. Their gracious appreciation is heartwarming.

–Versha opening up one of the shirts to give to us–

Last weekend, Rustam and Versha came to our house with Jaya Devi, one of our slum school teachers. It was Rustam’s third attempt to find us that day so that he could give us special gifts to show his gratitude. Each of us four volunteers received a different color shirt made in the factory where he works.

–Versha and Rustam with Jaya Devi leaving after bringing us our gifts–

This evening, after showing me wonderful hospitality at his home, Rustam walked me home as the sun set on the polluted horizon.

The families receiving our support are, in my opinion, some of the most deserving people on our planet. They work so hard for so little. They live within their means. They accept the hands they were dealt and do what they have to do in order to survive. To these families, the care and generosity we are bringing is completely alien. However, they are slowly starting to understand our mission and are enthusiastic to show their appreciation. What a feeling!

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