“That space in the wall, that is the cradle, the first stop to the Unique Home,” says a playful four-year-old girl pointing to a shelf built into the boundary wall of the home. An alarm is set off when a newborn girl is placed there, marking the beginning of celebrations on the arrival of yet another addition to Parkash Kaur’s Unique Home at Jalandhar in Punjab.
Mother of 60 adopted girls, Parkash Kaur has dedicated her life to nurture the lives of unwanted and unclaimed newborn girls by giving them a secure home. “I am saddened by Punjab’s sex ratio and the manner in which medical technology has turned society mad. I was abandoned as a baby, but I survived. So I owe it to God to give the same chance to every baby I find,” says she.
Kaur, now 60, had set up the home in 1993 on a piece of land donated by the gurdwara where she was raised after being abandoned as a baby.
Most of the girls here are hapless, barely alive and have no recollections. “Some girls were dumped in fields just hours after their birth, some thrown near highways and some wrapped in black polythene bags and shoved down drains; many were left in the cradle like unwanted gifts. They have lived the darkest hour of their lives; but when you see my daughters don’t think how she was abandoned but how well she dances, studies and how affectionate she is,” says Kaur.
In a State with a sex ratio of 846 girls per 1,000 boys, the arrival of a female child is often not celebrated; but over at Unique Home the staff and the elder girls take care of every new baby, often as young as few hours old with great enthusiasm and joy. “There is no discrimination of caste, colour or region; to christen the child, we simply draw a chit from a pile of names of all religions,” she says.
Bhai Ghanayya Ji Trust that runs the home aims to raise these children as healthy individuals and arm them with social skills and educational qualifications that they need to face life on their own terms.
So far Kaur has organised marriages of 17 of the Unique Home inmates. While a few of these girls graduated from college before their marriage, the rest tied the knot after passing out of high school. Kaur’s responsibility does not end with their education or wedding; she has helped many girls get jobs. In a few cases, where the girls’ in-laws troubled them, she ensured that they were protected. However, several girls here have decided not to marry; instead dedicate themselves, like Ms. Kaur, to the service of Unique Home.
Dressed in very simple and plain clothes, she cooks, shops and monitors the daily activities of the entire house. She says there is no shame in asking for charity. “For my daughters and their cheerful smiles, I don’t mind dying; asking for financial help is nothing,” she admits.
Much to everyone’s pleasure, the Unique Home, presently running out of an old house that is short-spaced for its 70-odd inmates, will shift to a bigger and more spacious home so that the family has enough space for all. “The area is over three acres and we are collecting funds for construction. Hopefully in a year or so we will shift to the new place,” informs Alka, one of Kaur’s adopted daughters.
Despite many challenges, Kaur is optimistic about the future of her home. “God made me worthy of this service. He will ensure that I have the courage to see His work through. There have been hiccups but never an end, there are many kind-hearted people who have helped us in the past and continue to do so,” she says with confidence.