AN EVENING TO REMEMBER – MY TRIBUTE TO RIPPAN KAPUR (Founder, CRY -Child Rights and You)

Today evening about 5.pm I took my son to the nearest park for a evening play. The huge park is located amidst the under-construction site of huge Raheja towers. Besides the nearby residents like me few poor kids of the construction labourers also mingled along other children. As I sat relaxed in the park benches watching my son play, nearby

I noticed a young girl about 12 yrs of age dressed in torn clothes along with her two little sisters sitting on the sand play area and trying to build a sand castle without much success. Soon they abandoned their efforts and went to play at the swing that was over crowded with a bunch of rich kids who shooed them away. She came to me politely and asked if she can have a sip of water from the water bottle I had brought along from home for my son. Without a hesitation I gave it to her, she drank just a bit and returned the bottled soiled with her unwashed hands. I asked her name and where she lives by. She replied “I’m Heena and they are my sisters “ pointing to the two little kids standing next to her in queue for a sip of water from the same bottle. I realised soon that she is the construction labourer’s daughter whose parents are working at the under construction tower just opposite to the park’s gate.

It was getting dark and I soon began to leave the park and at a distance I could see them too returning to their dim lit tin roofed hut built behind the under-construction tower. I realised the world of difference that my kid and them had, they were unschooled and living in abject poverty with no source of entertainment unlike our kids who spend hours before TV watching Cartoons in the comforts of our homes. The thought saddened me. It not the first time that I pondered over this sad state of lives of the poor children who we often see in our daily lives but seldom had done anything for them except sparing them with few coins.

The sad face of the three sisters and their eyes filled with dreams stayed with me long after I reached my home after a evening stroll at the park.Memories of my failed high school days suddenly came before my eyes. So many years have passed yet I very clearly remembered reading about the sudden passing away of a guy named Rippan Kapur. The newspapers were full of his life stories about how he founded an organization named CRY (Child Relief and You) that worked for the under-privileged kids in Mumbai. The news had saddened me a lot. I seen the photograph of him as a frail guy with a thick moutache dressed in a khadi kurta surrounded with poor kids and he sported an unforgettable smile on his face.

I soon made up my mind that my mission in life is to serve the poor kids like Rippan and the coming week unannounced I went to the CRY Foundation office only to be sent back saying that right now there is no opening for volunteers. I was discouraged and decided to do something of my own. I stole some cash from my father’s purse and went to the nearest slum and gave cash of Rs.10/- to each kid. No sooner I handed them the cash they quickly went up to the Video centre bought a ticket and disappeared inside to watch the newly released movie. I was nonplused. In the coming weeks my mother’s heart condition worsened and the doctors advised for a heart surgery. The sudden financial burden and my mother’s health problem disturbed me beyond words. I soon abandoned my dream to follow in the footsteps of Rippan Kapur and got busy with my family crisis and my forthcoming exams preparations. I somehow kept a copy of the CRY Donation form in my diary saving it for that day when I will earn my first salary and will donate some money for this organization. As the years rolled on we shifted our home atleast three times in just five years, during the frequent shifting I lost the diary and so did I forgot the promised I made to myself.

But why suddenly I felt the need to write this piece because today 10th April happened to be Rippan Kapur’s 22nd death Anniversary. And I suddenly remember the date you can call it intuition or may be that brief incidence of the under privileged kids I met at the park brought back the memories of him.
In 1979, seven friends made a simple decision to change the lives of India’s underprivileged children. Led by a 25-year airline purser, Rippan Kapur, Rs. 50 and a dining table as their resources and a belief that each one can make a difference in a child’s life, they aimed to enable all children to realize their full potential. Rippan Kapur’s residence itself was the office, this was how CRY began.

The concern’ he had for those unfortunate children in the slums, just a call away from his posh residence in Worli, Bombay got translated into a ‘Rescue Mission’. CRY grew under Rippan’s co-ordination. So was the hope for the lives of those hapless children. Then onwards the biography of Rippan Kapur is the history of CRY. There are not many parallels to Rippan’s life.
‘Ever friendly’ Rippan over the years mobilised some friends and a strong band of dedicated colleagues. Major portion of the funds came from the sale of their greetings cards, diaries, calendars etc. These were often based on the works of eminent artists, painters and photographers. More than 40 percent of the total Rs. 3.3 crores which CRY mobilised in 1993 was from the sale of such cards, diaries etc. Starting with a humble beginning to what it is today CRY had made its presence in India, a country where millions of orphans still look for parents without resorting to unhealthy foreign donor dependence. Rippan Kapur’s life through CRY thus leaves an important message to all of us. With real/genuine concern, even most ordinary persons can make a positive difference in the lives of those who badly require it – it can even put the meaning of life into the lives of few, (if not many) destitutes!! In fact the world badly needs people like Rippan who find joy, meaning and satisfaction in putting others before themselves.

Rippan Kapur died on April 10th, 1994 as quietly as he lived. He was only forty. But for over 50 lakh children who he and the organization he founded, now it’s name changed to Child Rights and You (CRY), it is synonymous with life. May be for many more in the years to come. Thus he lives! .Today, after 35 years since its inception, CRY has added the meaning of life into the lives of over 10 lakh children and has found a permanent place in their hearts.

Dev S Prasad

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