100 Days of Kaan Pete Roi

(I’m going slightly out of chronological order as I write the last few posts, mainly because this sequence makes a little more sense in terms of wrapping up the blog.)

We had an Event. It had a name – “Kaan Pete Roi er eksho din” (100 days of Kaan Pete Roi), but we just kept calling it the Event as we went about the planning. We ultimately decided against a press conference, because apparently press conferences are boring and media just shows up, grabs a press release, and runs away. So we decided to do an explosively fun Event, to celebrate KPR’s being open for 100 days, and invite famous people to speak, and lots and lots of media, and have musical performances, and we talk a little about the journey, and give the volunteers a chance to go onstage (faces cleverly concealed, of course, “No Volunteer Faces, but they’re still speaking on a stage and it’s still awesome”). And thank yous, lots of thank yous, yes.

Here’s what the invitation card looked like (but envision it in blue, we changed it to blue before printing.)

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 12.59.12 AM

August 17th, 2013.

Oh, the morning was exhausting. Rozy and Lata and Hammad and Samir and Ammu and of course, Farid Uncle (without whom nothing would have happened, at all) went to our venue in the morning to work on setting up. Public Library at Shahbag is one of the most widely used spaces in all of Dhaka. They have an event there every single day, and the employees of course don’t care about your event nearly as much as you do, so you end up sort of freaking out in general while they shuffle around. I was exhausted, hot, and stressed out the entire time, because nothing was happening, and then when it was it happened agonizingly slowly. But my volunteers started to show up, no names but if you’re reading this you know who you are. And they took care of everything, I’d say “batteries” or “balloons” and it’d just happen. My god, how much WORK it all was. Nothing, nothing happens easily. The desks and chairs you see on a stage at an event. The flowers on the table. The table cloth. The harmonium and tabla. All of it, someone had to do it, and when it’s your event, you’re very very aware of that, aware of the labor, of the sweating, of the dust, of the not enough time.

We RUSHED home for lunch and to dress. (My volunteers who were there in the morning, I might add, did not enjoy this luxury of going home. Despite my urging to take it easy, they stayed and worked the entire day.)

When we got back, about an hour before the event was scheduled to begin – no longer tired because of the adrenaline and the coffee that I practically force-fed everyone – media, media was what surprised me! Farid Uncle had told me to get media, and we planned it to get media, but still! They were there! And they wanted to talk to me, too, not only to the famous people! As the protishthata (Founder. “Protishthata” is what everyone calls me, and laughs that I can’t quite say the word.) and for the first time in my life, I’m surrounded, literally surrounded by cameras and microphones, and I’m talking, and I see some of my volunteers giggling in the distance.

And then we were rolling! It was: National Anthem → speeches → Sera singing → speeches → Samir singing → Hammad and I speaking → Sera and Samir’s duet → Volunteers speaking, elegantly from behind a screen so that only their silhouette was visible → Q&A. Rozy and Lata anchoring.

Oh, of all the things I will ever do, this event will surely be the most glorious, the most triumphant, the most full of love. I could go on and and on, but It’s moments, of course. Moments, that are glowing for me. Ammu had the opening speech. Abbu’s speech, “I sometimes go visit their office, and I will occasionally hear them shouting out in joy from the phoneroom. This is when they have hung up the phone, and they are celebrating because they helped someone.” Dr. Shaheen Islam, Lata’s mentor, head of Education and Counseling Psychology at DU, touching my cheek, “You have done wonderful work.” Her speech! “So many people have come to me and said they’ll start a helpline, these people are the only ones who have actually done it.” Looking across the auditorium, seeing one of my volunteers cheerfully leading in a blind individual (from Bangladesh Visually Impaired People’s Society) and showing him his seat. Another volunteer’s little sister smiling at me shyly. Sera, a member of our team, singing Ami Kaan Pete Roi. High fiving Hammad on stage when we were done with our speeches. Peeking into the audience from backstage and seeing every seat filled. Samir winking at me from stage while he’s singing. My aunt, standing up from the audience to request a Lalon geeti from Samir, him laughing and immediately breaking one out. The volunteers, each speaking about what they love the most about KPR, me watching them from backstage across the stage, eyes all teary-blurry. My grandmother asking to meet my volunteers, her thanking them for helping me make my dream come true. Meeting the volunteers’ parents! How many times did I shake a father’s hands and lean in to kiss a mother’s cheek, thanking them over and over for giving us their kids. An event volunteer asking if he can take a picture of himself holding my hand to show off to his friends. A random girl shyly saying, “Apu…you are REALLY awesome” and running off.

Could anything have been more beautiful? More of a triumph? To have this glorious celebration of all our work? To have so many wonderful people celebrating KPR with us?

…Actually, yes. For me personally, at least. Stay tuned for my last few posts, and for a few photos from the event that I’ll put up.

(Phone calls to Kaan Pete Roi shot through the roof after the publicity we received from the event, in case you’re wondering! Many people just inquiring/thanking, but we also just had a massive reach because of this.)

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