Project Why has given me a new reason to walk the short distance from my home to the Kalkaji Mandir; in July of this year we opened a new center for the children living in the slum behind the temple. Anou Bakshi, Project Why founder, asked me to visit the center and take some photos. The formal announcement of the new center was planned for January 1st, 2017. I was excited but also felt some trepidation because I didn't want my previous experiences at the Kalkaji Mandir to be overshadowed. I took along Meghann and we hunted down the “blue tin building just past the metro station.”
We were met with the traditional “Good Afternoon, Ma’am” in the sing-songy rhythm I have come to know so well and within moments the teachers had the students attempting to dance with me and Meghann. I will spare you those photos. Their energy and laughter were infectious and I was immediately absorbed into their world. I learned their names and favorite colors and foods, I held their small hands, felt their tiny bodies against mine, and welcomed the rush of love and determination that is unique to being at Project Why. I looked up at Meghann and saw the same look on her face and I knew that Project Why had not only succeeded in opening a new center but in capturing the heart of another person.
The Kalkaji Mandir represents sacred territory in New Delhi for me but has always been a place I would venture to alone. I love encapsulating myself within the chanting crowd and feeling grounded in the physicality of the experience. As I had worried, the Kalkaji center did alter my affection for the shabby temple but rather than decreasing the restorative and magical aura the temple holds for me the center has given new life and an intense joyfulness that can not be matched.