During my last visit to Mumbai, India (October 2010), I was trying to find an organization that would be willing to accept cloth diapers generated through Lil Helper and the Baby Do Good project. I asked around and someone suggested I go to Asha Daan, an orphanage run by nuns from the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa. Asha means hope in Hindi and Daan means charity.
I have lived the first 19 years of my life in Mumbai and had faint memories of Asha Daan from my childhood. My dad would occasionally drop off wheat and rice there. I had never ventured past the gates.
My young self had naively imagined that Asha Daan would be abound with street urchins. This was the image of orphanages I had painted in my mind. Oliver Twist and Bollywood flicks mainly fueled this illusion.
Innocent? Ignorant? Maybe both.
My youngest brother, Mustanshir, and my cousin, Fatema, accompanied me to Asha Daan. As soon as we entered through the gates of the orphanage, a kid, 9 or 10 years of age, approached us with a toothy smile and cheerfulness that could perhaps only be achieved if you’d give up reading the newspaper. He readily introduced himself as Ravi.