Memory is a fluid, mysterious thing and often what we think we remember may be incomplete, in error or totally backwards. Sometimes a piece of important information can be left out of the story and when – by luck or design or happy discovery – it surfaces, it can be an occasion of wonder and amazement.

While I was with Dad last month, Lucy found a box of letters she and I had written to Mom and Dad over the last 35 years. I haven’t even begun to get through them all, but one I picked up by chance astonished me. It was written in 1994, the year we started Latika Vihar, but before Karuna Vihar opened.

In it, I talked about Moy Moy, then five years old. I said:

I think I have found a good school for Moy Moy. Ravi is going to check it out with me tomorrow and if he likes it too, we should start her from Monday. Though it’s not ideal, it’s quite good. The student-teacher ratio is excellent (6 to 1) – the problem is that the space they have is too limited for the number of children they have.

Another possible problem is the number of different handicaps they deal with. There are deaf kids, children with Downs, CP and autism and many seem more handicapped than Moy. I am not sure the experience will be the best in terms of what she picks up from the other children. I would rather there were a better mix of normal and handicapped kids so she could imitate a higher level of behaviour. It is also difficult for me to send her to such an obviously “special school” I keep wanting to say “But she’s not really like those others!” It’s so hard to know what’s true and what is my own inability to admit the truth.

Some of this I remembered, and it has always been part of my story about how we started Karuna Vihar. In my version, though, I didn’t like the school at all and certainly never considered sending Moy Moy there. In my version, I recognized right away that it wasn’t the place for her and that’s what set me on the road to starting KV.

But as I read the letter I sent my parents fourteen years ago, I realized that wasn’t quite the way things unfolded.

I continued:

We had some unexpected guests last week from Hawaii – the woman works with Jan Hanley and Jan told her she had to meet us if they came to India, so they did. They were lovely people – both are physical therapists who have gone into Public Health and want to volunteer in India for the next year or so.

I had totally forgotten about them. They had stayed in our house. I couldn’t remember a thing about them. Anand, though, recalled that the woman had helped him with his algebra homework, teaching him an amazing method that got him all the right answers but which baffled his teachers. Cathleen remembered they taught her how to hula-hoop.

Slowly, it all began to come back to me. Ravi did go with me to visit the school but we still weren’t entirely sure. When these two showed up, I now recall, I asked them if they would mind accompanying me as I made one last attempt to decide whether or not to send Moy Moy there.

They willingly agreed and I watched as they asked questions and observed the children, the teachers and the activities of the school. I didn’t realize it then, but what I was seeing was professional rehabilitation evaluation for the first time in my life.

As soon as we were on our way home, and without having conferred with each other, they both said “Jo, it’s not the right place for Moy Moy.”

And then, a few minutes later: “Jo, why don’t you open a school yourself?”

Duke and Carin Duchscherer. No photograph. No address. I’m looking for you. I want you to come back here and see what you started.

  • Sree

    Wow!!….amazing!..They should visit us!!

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