Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Panchgani - Episode II - In GOD's valley (2007-08)

One evening, we also visited Godavali Orphanage, known as GOD’s valley. This orphanage was founded by the angelic couple, Mr & Mrs Shroff. At its peak, this modest facility housed 100 children at any given time. Either orphaned children used to be brought here by well-wishers, doctors or hospitals, NGOs, or the Shroffs used to fetch them from hospitals or places where abandoned children were found. The Shroffs have taken real good care of all the children, much like their own children. The kids are housed in the sprawling campus but with very modest facilities, used to be educated in a local English-medium school and taught the ways of life. Orphaned kids who were brought here when they were barely days old have now grown up, married and leading good lives in society; they are forever grateful to the Shroffs - they call them mummy and daddy - for giving them a new lease of life. The Shroffs have treated all the kids with utmost love and tender care.

In what could be called as one of the best examples of religious harmony in recent memory, although the Shroffs get children across religions, they never try and impose their preaching on the kids. This, despite the Shroffs belonging to a particular religion and going to their temples, themselves, regularly. While the Shroffs are devout Parsis, they made a common prayer for the kids, to be prayed to who was told to them, lives up there – GOD. No name, no religion was attributed here, only pray to GOD. That’s it. In their haydays when I had gone there, they had shown me that prayer, one that prays to GOD and not to any religion.

Mr Shroff is no more. Mrs Shroff is partially paralysed, said to be more than 100 years old, and now looked after by the children who she and her late husband had brought up here, and their children too. I met Mrs Shroff this time around, and I could not recognize her as she looked very different than what she looked like, say, 15 years ago when I had last met them. Though, she was still looking fresh and quite angelic, sitting in a corner room watching TV. She not only looks like an angel, she is one herself and so was her husband.

Week # 1 is almost over. The kids leave on Sunday and today we have Mamu and Moti mummy with us. Just like last year, but minus Shirin. She’s slogging in London this month.

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