Posted by: dalefaio | December 30, 2011

An Amazing Day

Full disclaimer first:  Some of those who know me well, know my genuine dislike for the word “amazing.”  Actually, it’s not the word but the over usage that drives me a bit nuts.  To me, “Amazing” should be saved for things that truly boggle the mind, and not to describe life’s daily minutiae.  “Grace” is amazing.  A man on the moon, the lethal force of a tsunami, 50 year wedding anniversaries, the birth of a child, the big bang, a near death experience, and the eradication of small pox are amazing things.

I had (so far, the day’s only half way through here in Chennai) an amazing day today.  Not a day that will alter mankind but a day that I will always remember because of the very human experience that I was able to be a part of and the touching effect that it had on myself personally as well as my family and friends here in India, and in the US who have supported our cause.

Bose and I were able to schedule our visit for this morning with Udavum Karangal which is the orphanage on the outskirts of Chennai that we have taken on as one of our charitable causes.  Thanks to our generous family and friends to date we have been able to raise over $5,500 for the orphanage which we are donating to them through the purchase of an autorickshaw plus a contribution to their general fund.  Team Tuk and Roll went on a school supply buying mission in Chennai last night so that we could also arrive for our visit bearing gifts for our young friends.  For 4000 RS (rupees) or about $41, we were able to compile the contents of a pencil box: pencil, pen, eraser, and sharpener for the 350 kids that live and attend school at Udavum Karangal.  On our drive out today, we stopped at a roadside store and spent another 600 rupees on toffees a-plenty for the kids.

We were greeted warmly within the walled and gated community that is Udavum Karangal and sat down for a cup of coffee and a nice chat with Mr. Vidyaakar who is the founder and director of Udavum Karangal.  He gave us a fairly brief but concise outline of his organization’s scope and mission.  Udavum Karangal takes in children off the streets from within the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  These are children who have lost both parents and have no known family or relatives (Observing the streets of Chennai as an outsider, I’m kind of overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the streets, of all ages, and know that there are many other lone souls out there.  The streets of Chennai look as rough or rougher than any I have ever seen so to think that any of the kids that we saw today spent even one night on the streets is heart wrenching).  The children live their lives within the protective walls of Udavum Karangal, are clothed, fed, schooled, and given a sense of family that their life’s circumstances would not have allowed for if Udavum Karangal did not exist.

Within Udavum Karangal’s confines, there is also a living space for:  abused and mentally challenged women, children with birth defects, and mentally challenged children.  Their lives are hard.  We knew this by casting one gaze upon any of these residents in the separate areas that housed their people with special needs.  I also know that these people may have never heard the phrases but fully bought into the old clichés such as: “play the hand you’re dealt,” or “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  How do I know this?  Because people dealt the horrible circumstances that won’t accommodate what most of us would call a “normal” life, don’t have any business smiling as brightly and widely as the people that I saw today.  They didn’t smile and wave because they’re ignorant and unaware that you don’t laugh during sad songs.  They smiled because they’re glad to be alive, and the song isn’t over yet.  Children with defects, limbs pointing askew, and pained expressions, don’t need sympathetic “there-there” looks from me.  I think that a reassuring smile works better.

A group of about 30 girls, somewhere in the range of 8-13, came in and greeted us and thanked us for visiting them.  We handed out toffees and school supplies and then went for a tour of the rest of the campus.

Our first stop was to talk to a group of kids ranging from about 4 to 6.  Colorfully dressed in sweaters, funky little ski hats (or maybe storm caps), skirts, stripes, board shorts, pastels, and bindis this bright, shiny, brown, little crew could have as easily been kids dropped at daycare as kids living their lives at an orphanage.   Like the challenged residents, there they were again, all of those ridiculously genuine and infectious smiles.  It’s Trudy’s birthday so I asked Bose to ask Mr. Vidyaakar if the kids could sing to her.  Amazing!  Vidyaakar had barely even stopped speaking and the kids started up, in unison, bilingual, and smiling enormously.  Priceless does not describe it.  It was a very touching/teary moment for Trudy and Team Tuk and Roll.

Udavum Karangal Orphanage

We moved through down the breezeway and next went in a day room for toddlers and infants.  Yup, you guessed it, about 20 more of the cutest smiles from the kids of Udavum Karanagal where they apparently get a happy pill with their dosa each morning.  I don’t bring up smiling kids and challenged individuals repeatedly as sort of a post card moment, or to convince people to contribute more time and money to bettering a human being who you will most likely never meet.  I bring it up to illustrate the beauty of the “second chance.”  The people living in Udavum Karangal are getting to experience some of the common human needs, that people like myself take for granted, and are making the most of them.

The Toddlers

On our way back towards our car, we walked barefoot, as we had long ago ditched shoes, and rolled up pants having given in to the pouring rain.  The palms were blowing in 35-40 MPH gusts, it was dumping rain like we literally never get in Seattle, and was about 80 F.  Trudy and I paused for a second looked at each other and smiled (we tried our best but it was a few hundred watts shy of any kid we had seen today).  We had just witnessed humanity at its finest in a country and place half way around the globe from the place that we live, and did all with a cyclone reaching full pitch all around us.

Simply, amazing!

Happy Birthday to Trudy!

Team Tuk and Roll




  1. You made me cry when I read this post. I am so happy that you are able to do this trip.

  2. Thanks, Dave, for sharing such thoughtful details about the important part of your adventure, before you get on with the crazy and fun part (that we can’t wait for!)

  3. Well there isn’t a dry eye in this house after reading this. Thanks for sharing in such detail. Wish we could have been there too.

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