Wednesday, 15 December 2010


As most of you know, for the past ten years Trudie Styler has been the patron and support of the MUKTI Project. She has always responded generously when we’ve sent out a plea for funding or support and has done so without seeing the two orphanages that MUKTI sponsors ~ Karm Marg (home for street-children) and Naz (home for HIV Positive and AIDS children), taking the word of the yogins who run MUKTI that the orphanages are working well. But this November Trudie was going to be in India attending the wedding of a Maharaja and decided to make a trip across to Delhi to visit the homes.

The project committee quickly decided it would be great if one of us could make the annual visit to the homes to coincide with Trudie’s visit, and I was the one that got to go. Lucky me! (Actually I think I was chosen because I’m the one with the best camera!) I am always inspired by seeing the children ~ they never fail to remind me how we can all turn our lives around if we are just given the opportunity and means to do so.

So I flew out on Friday the 19th November and by Monday the 22nd a group of us, including Veena Lal (who is director of Karm Marg), Anjali Gopalan (Director of the Naz home), Brinda Singh (who sits on the board of both homes) and some of Trudie’s friends (Snowdon, Emma and Theresa) were all in two cars making slow progress through the traffic of Delhi (which always includes trucks, cars, people, bicycles, scooters, bullocks and even the odd camel), towards Karm Marg situated on the outskirts of Delhi in Faridhabad. In the back of the car we had huge bags of fruit and goodies that Trudie had stopped at a Delhi market to buy and other bags of goodies sent by Hema from England.

The children of Karm Marg are warm and welcoming, ready for hugs and kisses from visitors and I did wonder how Trudie, probably more used to keeping paparazzi at a distance, was going to cope with this. I had seen other visitors from the West becoming a bit overwhelmed and retreating into their own space. But Trudie let down all barriers and instantly engaged with them all ~ meeting each child from the youngest to the oldest where they were, hugging and kissing right back. She was interested in what they were doing, what their dreams and ambitions are for their lives, and spent the entire day listening and talking to all of them. She engaged with Puja and Ashu who have both decided to try film-making as their careers now that they have successfully completed their higher education, and played with young Abdul as if she had known him for years.

I have always said I absolutely understand why Trudie sometimes gets bad press: she married the most gorgeous man on the planet and, heaven knows, even I’m annoyed with her about that (and I’m a celibate monastic!). But if those reporters who are often prepared to present her to the world in unflattering ways could just have been present to witness her open and authentic encounter with our children, I’m sure they would have something different to say (unless, of course, they’re made of stone, which is another possibility!).

One of the ways the children of Karm Marg engage with other children still on the street and being exploited in so many ways, is through street theatre. So in the afternoon they put on one of their concerts for Trudie. She sat and enjoyed it all.

I knew by then she was under pressure from Delhi’s gliteratti to attend functions with the elite of Delhi society that evening, but she brushed them all aside and said she wanted to go to Naz. As it was getting dark I took on the task of extracting her from the children ~ that she was by now dancing with ~ and getting us all into a car so that we could be off the worst roads by dark. (Not easy, but as you all know, I slip into downright bossy quite easily, “No, not just five more minutes. No, not another dance.”)

We then went onto Naz. By this time, I have to confess, I was tired and I’m sure Trudie was too. But you would never have known it from her response ~ again that instant and intimate engagement, laughter and sharing. The children danced for her, did Yoga for her and of course, it all ended with them all dancing together led by the magnificent Snowdon.

Finally, long after dark and after the children’s usual bedtimes, we left Naz and parted, as Trudie would be leaving for the airport at about 3 a.m.

On a personal note I have to say that while I love both Karm Marg and Naz and am so proud of the work the Yoginis and Yogins of the TYA do to raise funds for these wonderful, spirited children, I don’t always enjoy the task of fundraising ~ especially when having to ask again the very generous people we’ve already asked because we need that bit extra. But this was a day that made all the other days worthwhile: a day filled with nothing but laughter and delight.

Then last week, just as I was getting sorted out after my return, Trudie emailed to say that she had had lunch with “the kindest man on the planet” and told him all about Karm Marg and Naz. A few days later Tony transferred £45,000 into our MUKTI account (Now that’s the kind of “kind” I love! But don’t relax Yogins, while that helps us take care of 2011 there’s still 2012, 2013, 2014… no slacking off on the fundraising just yet and please keep selling those bedcover lottery tickets!

Every year Trudie has made special funds available during the Christmas/New Year season so that the children could party and get presents like all other children. And every year they have sent her a ‘thank you’ card addressed to ‘Auntie Trudie’. Watching them finally meet Auntie Trudie was a joy and an inspiration ~ and a reminder to keep my own heart open and let gratitude flow.

Thank you my dear, beloved friends, Yoginis and Yogins of England and Spain, who just keep this miracle happening, and thanks too to our patron, Trudie.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful, creative 2011.

With joy and peace, Swami Ambikananda

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