funded girls school at Phanderi Sadaat in UP, India was officially inaugurated.
A year plus in the making, it is a beautiful modern building that will
insha’Allah be an harbinger of a brighter future for the poor girls that will
benefit from a quality education.
finally made it to India for the formality. I insist all that accompany me
write about their experiences; here is Abbas’s. View photos of school opening
After a long flight from NY, I finally arrive at
Delhi airport, my first time in India. I am much impressed with the new airport
as I work my way towards immigration. I stand in line but begin to wonder about
the awkward imbalance; the line for Indian citizens is manned at fifteen
counters but only five for us foreigners. There had to be about ten Indian
nationals per counter, zipping through, while we were about fifty. My line had
a mix of all nationalities patiently waiting, watching bored immigration
officers for Indian nationals looking at us, occasionally yawning. After thirty
minutes of waiting, I decide to switch lines and fortunately get a line that’s
moving faster; I zip through and out. I now understand what Yusufali means regarding
certain frustrating norms about India that I take for granted in the United States.
and Aliakberbhai Ratansi of Al Imaan Foundation who have flown in earlier from
Mumbai greet me outside. We settle ourselves in our vehicle and prepare for a six-hour
drive to Sirsi. As we get out of the airport, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic;
it’s Delhi rush hour. Yikes! As soon as we get to the outskirts of the
city, the traffic lightens up and we speed up. There are two immediate
abnormities with drivers; they spit pan juice and honk liberally. Interestingly,
there are signs behind most trucks that commands Please Horn; this has to be cultural?
After several hours of driving, we make our way
to a rest stop, our driver taking a shortcut, driving against traffic for a
about half a mile, giving me the creeps. We pray and have a snack. I
immediately notice this is a Hindu owned joint but have accommodations for
Muslims, I feel there is no difference, they are all Indians. We have masala
chai and piping hot pakoras. It’s true; India is an explosion of senses –
taste, colors and smells.
We continue driving for few more hours and
arrive at CAI supported Bahman English School in Sirsi; CAI has now given this once
run down school a new lease on life, completely renovating it to the best, most
modern school in all of Muraghabad, winning accolades and awards from the State
government. Enrollment has increased from 280 to 1,500 students and is positive
cash flow. One third of very poor students study almost free, one third are on
scholarships and the rest pay premium fees. We drive up next door to AL Zahra
Boys home, a beautiful orphanage constructed by CAI, to a warm welcome from the
orphans. I am much impressed; start clicking away immediately.
I retire in a modern room inside the orphanage,
made just for guests like me. After salaat next morning, I listen to the boys
recite morning duas as they return from salaat at a nearby masjid. After a
hearty, healthy, power breakfast, we drive two hours to Phandheri Girls School;
crowds wait to garland and welcome us. A rifle is fired in the air in welcome,
scaring the pants out of me; an experience I will never forget. We make our way
to a welcome stage; several speeches from Yusufali and Akberbhai on importance of
girls education follow. We cut ribbons and the school is officially open.
We work our way to a partly CAI sponsored mosque
opening in distant Azadnagar after Magreeb where we are guests of honor; more
garlands but no gunshots. Whew! We are shown to the stage; after several
speeches, some amazing naats and a calorie busting dinner, we make our way back.
It’s almost midnight when we return at the complex. Aliakberbhai and Yusufali
are still full of energy, making next day’s arrangements and catching up with
local staff on activities and administrative issues; I hit the sack.
Next morning, I am invited to address Bahman
school assembly next door. Yikes! I have nothing prepared; I wing it, telling
1,500 odd eager students the importance of education, importance of self
confidence and be able to be whatever with the education opportunities gifted
by kind hearted donors worldwide. I talk about the importance of respecting one
another, especially elders, importance of good akhlaq. I later tour the
school with Yusufali and am much impressed, mashaa’Allah. We inspect the
construction of additional seven in addition to fourteen prior classrooms
sponsored by CAI. Yusufali is less than happy with few maintenance issues and
makes his displeasure forcefully known… uncomfortable, but necessary.
Next stop is the Sakeena Girls Home, an
orphanage, again sponsored by CAI donors, about two miles away. As we arrive at
the door of the orphanage, fourteen smiling faces anticipate, anxiously waiting
to meet us; I start recording right away to catch the moments. I am so
impressed at how well the interior is kept up. It is a very emotional moment; I
remember my own Zahra; how we want everything for them as parents. I feel
really good, knowing CAI and her donors are doing an amazing job in maintaining
the faculty and wellbeing of the orphans.
As we leave, Aliakberbhai gets a call about a
Sadaat family in the area that has urgent needs. We inspect the need and CAI
approves the repair of a home immediately; another hovel is approved instantly.
It’s impressive to see them in action in real time as they try to help and
support these destitute families.
Back at the complex, I try and relax and
contemplate about my two days here while Yusufali and Aliakberbhai plan funding
arrangements for the school and other many projects; it’s like a marathon! I
start preparing for my long journey home and start packing. I can’t help thinking
how fortunate I am to have experienced what I did these past few days.
I am quite reflective on my long return flight
home to New York; think about my experiences, wonder about lives that CAI
donors have touched, changed. I think my overwhelming emotions, to be able to
serve fellow human beings and the exhilaration I got; I can’t wait to go another
Abbas Jaffer – NY