Mother Hope: Prakash Kaur and her Unique Home for Girls

The woman behind the home is Prakash Kaur, who was herself left on the streets as a baby 60 years ago. Since 1993, she has dedicated her life to the noble but onerous mission of rescuing unwanted and unclaimed newborn girls and giving them a secure home and future.

Today, Unique Home for Girls has 60-odd residents who call Prakash Kaur mother. “They are my own children,” the lady says. “They are never made to feel like abandoned children.”

As we walk around the home, it is easy to see that her claim is quite well-founded. Even as her ‘family’ expands and her responsibilities grow, Prakash Kaur’s fount of maternal compassion shows no signs of drying up.

She has touched the lives of many who’ve been cruelly shunned by their own. Siya was only a few hours old when she was found in a drain, wrapped in a black polythene bag. Reva was a newborn when her parents decided to dump her near the highway off Kapurthala. Razia and Rabiya were just a few days old when they were discovered in the fields outside Jalandhar.

These girls have all found shelter in Unique Home, where they now enjoy the real family experience that their pitiless parents chose to deprive them of simply because of their gender. The girls who live here range from the age of four days to 19 years.

Unique Home is run by a trust named after Bhai Ghanayya Ji, a disciple of Guru Gobind Singh. The trust aims to raise these children as healthy individuals and arm them with all the social skills and educational qualifications that they need to face life on their own terms. The girls could not have found a better person than Prakash Kaur for the job of providing them with support and succour.

Most of Unique Home’s inmates arrive here as hapless, barely alive foundlings. So they have no recollections of how they are brought here. But those that have grown up in the life-affirming warmth of this home are proud that they belong here.

Under Prakash Kaur’s care and tutelage, these girls are all well adjusted individuals willing and able to take their rightful place in a society that still seems to harbour a strong aversion to children of their gender.

Prakash Kaur is acutely aware of the challenges that lie before her, but she has faith. “Yeh uparwaale ka kaam hai. Jab ussney yeh zimmedaari di hai to himmat bhi wohi dega. Jab aaj tak mujhe koi mushkil nahin aayee to aagey bhi nahin aayegi. Neki key kaam mein kabhi koi rukawat nahin aati,” she says. She is obviously getting on in years but she still retains the strength to make chapatis for all the inmates of the home three times a day and seven days a week.

The first thing that strikes one in Unique Home is a small hatched box near the entrance. It is called the “cradle”. Flip open the hatch and you see a shelf built into the wall. When a rescued child is placed on the shelf, it sets off an alarm that tells the staff that they have a new girl to take care of. When it comes to christening the new arrivals, names are drawn from all the religions of India. So at Unique Home, girls have Hindu, Muslim and Christian and Sikh names and faith has no restrictions.

Although we visited Unique Home without any prior notice, Prakash Kaur ensured that we were made to feel at home. Not surprising at all coming from a lady who has dedicated her life to dispelling a bit of the darkness that engulfs Punjab, indeed all of India. The girls brought to Unique Home grow up with a sense of belonging. This is the only home they know.

For a home that houses 60-odd girls, the place looks a bit too small. The rather cramped space has limited amenities for the girls, including three small rooms that serve as bedroom, dining area and playroom, in addition to a small kitchen and an office for visitors.

The room that is meant for infants has three big cradles. Each has four to five babies sleeping in them. Unique Home has now acquired a new site and expansion plans are in place.

But living space is the least of the home’s problems for the hearts here are big. This is like a huge family where the older girls take care of the younger ones. We are told by the founder that the girls go to good English medium schools like Saint Mary’s in Mussoorie. A few have since been married into suitable homes. But Prakash Kaur’s responsibility does not end there.

She continues to keep a watch over the girls even after they are married. She fights for their rights if the in-laws prove to be difficult. Take the case of former Unique Home inmate Alka. When her husband died prematurely, her in-laws grabbed all her property and threw her out of the house. Prakash Kaur intervened and fought tooth and nail. She eventually managed to secure for Alka her rightful share in the family property.

So far Prakash Kaur has organised the marriages of 17 of the Unique Home inmates. While a few of these girls graduated from college before they got married, the remaining tied the knot after passing out of high school. However, several of the older girls here have decided not to marry and instead dedicate themselves, like Prakash Kaur, to the service of Unique Home.

April 24 is a very special day at Unique Home. It is the day when the children here collectively celebrate their birthday. A huge 100-kg cake is cut and the day is marked by much merriment. That apart, once every year, during the summer holidays, the inmates of Unique Home go on a trip to Darjeeling.

On our visit to the home, we ate lunch with the children. The food was simple but delicious: rice, chapatis and aloo gobhi. Prakash Kaur made fresh chapatis for all the 60 children.

“We don’t want to give our kids up for adoption. People come to us but we refuse,” says Prakash Kaur. Although she did not give us any specific details, she told us that she knows of many cases in which adopted girls have been ill treated.

Prakash Kaur herself has no idea who her parents were. She was found abandoned and grew up in a Nari Niketan. She describes the work she does today as “the lord’s work”.

Asked if she ever faced any mistreatment in the Nari Niketan where she grew up, she smiles and says: “I will never allow my daughters to work as maids anywhere.”

The most essential part of this home is that the children are aware of the fact that their real parents have abandoned them because they are obsessed with boys. But this poisonous truth has only strengthened their resolve to prove themselves. Sheeba, who studies in a convent school in Mussoorie, wants to be a successful neurosurgeon.

“I want my real mother to know that the daughter she threw out of her life is well established. I want to be very famous. I want to prove to her that girls are not a burden,” she says. Sheeba has always stood first in her class with A-plus grades. She is determined to make it to a good medical college.

Lucy is 19 years old. She wants to be a professor of English. “I believe that education is the only way forward in this society which discriminates against girl children,” she says.

Punjab has one of India’s most skewed sex ratios. The percentage of women in the state’s population keeps dipping every year. A growing shortage of marriageable girls has forced men here to find partners in different cultures and states.

“When French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni came to India, they prayed for a boy. I was shocked. I used to think that Westerners treat both genders equally. He could have asked for a girl. It would have sent out a message to the people of India. It’s rather sad,” says Prakash Kaur. The French first couple prayed for a son at the Fatehpur Sikri dargah of Sufi saint Salim Chishti.

Female foeticide is on the rise, especially among the educated class and in higher strata of society. It has assumed alarming proportions. According to NGOs working with issues related to women, every year, 10 lakh cases of female foeticide take place in the country with the help of gender determination tests. The death of young girls in India exceed those of young boys by over 300,000 each year and every 6th infant death is specifically due to gender discrimination.

According to Anjalee Shenoy of Sama Resource Centre for Women and Health, new techniques like PGD (pre-implant genetic diagnosis), a method that involves producing embryos through IVF, cannot just help you decide the gender of the child but the colour of skin and hair. And there is no effective law in place right now to stop this practice. “This falls under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, but it is going undetected,” says Shenoy.

But there is hope yet. If only Prakash Kaur’s selfless spirit would rub off on society at large.

To know more, please visit the website http://uniquehomeforgirls.co.uk/
This article by Priyanka Rai originally appeared in The Sunday Indian magazine and has been reproduced here as part of an arrangement between The Better India and The Sunday Indian.
Priyanka Rai is currently working as the Chief of Bureau for The Sunday Indian magazine, has done her masters in journalism and has actively been involved in women and child related stories. The entire focus of her stories is towards finding a solution for the existing problems in the society because she believes that every problem has a solution and by sharing good positive stories one can give hope and encourage common people to awaken to their own potential.
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  • callezee

    girls childrens are more co ordinate with mother only…….

  • Kritina_s

    Thanks Priyanka for this article. Really wonderful story. Godbless Prakash Kaur and you for talking about her to us.

  • r.a .mahant

    It was really eye opener , unique home is indeed a ideal home ,all thanks to Ms.prakash kaur.God bless her and best wishes to each girl child .

  • Wake Up!

    Where in the history of mankind did humanity FORGET the Laws of Karma or cause and effect? Do people think if they abandon a girl they will not be subject to the same Divine Laws of the Universe at some point in their Infinite Journey?

    We have all lived past lives. All of us will live future ones. What we do in this life will influence our lives to come as we evolve toward immortality.
    Many Masters, ONE Soul, Brain Weiss – Clinical Psychologist and Author

    Born because of the karma of their past mistakes, they make more mistakes, and fall into mistakes. Guru Granth Sahib – 149

  • Chandip

    we can all do our bit, forward this article to all your contacts to raise awareness.

    http://www.uniquehomeforgirls.co.uk/

  • Ruby Gill

    Wow, it’s so heartbreaking to know that people out there actually do this to little girls. Parkash Kaur, Godbless you for helping these angels you will be blessed by the Lord almighty. My prayers are with you and the girls always.

  • Project Vision

    Do you require funding assistance for the growth and development of your Institution?
    Greetings from PROJECTVISION. Our Book GRANTLINE written by Dr.Gopinath Panangad MSW, Ph.D (Ex.Director, Kerala State Literacy Mission) carries brief description and contact addresses of 1001 International Funding Agencies which provide financial assistance, Technical assistance, Scholarships, International Conference Participation Grants etc to Organisations / Individuals. The Book also gives useful tips on how to design Project Proposals for submission to Funding agencies. For details please write to Director, Projectvision, MRA-118, Near Bharatha Rani Church, Panangad, Cochin-682506, Kerala. E-mail: projectvisiion@hotmail.com

  • Vasant2 Khanna

    Where can we have the address of Ms. Prakash Kaur?

  • Palvi

    ms .prakash kaur is doing a great job..god bless her.i wish i could contribute something for this noble cause

  • Robynklock

    how exactly can i donate

  • Smjackson1989

    What exactly do we have to do to donate?The way people are being raised is outrageous..Every human being deserves to live and make there own choices.God Bless Them All!!!!

  • Rmn_1

    yes I also would like to know as im considering a trip to India and would love to stop by and donate

  • Danbax

    http://www.uniquehomeforgirls.co.uk/donations.php
     
    Go to this site and you will find instructions.  However, they do not seem to have a pay-pal or credit card system set up.  So it looks like some kind of direct deposit which in the season of giving seems a little time consuming for most of us and I would like to see some other way to donate myself.   

  • Danbax

    If it were Karma of cause and effect then you should be able to see how heartless religous people can do such a vile thing.  After all, Karma being what it is, these believers in such things as rebirth and past lives can find no guilt in what they do as the poor children of such abuse deserve it — according to Karma — they must have lived very evil lives in the past, hence, the murdering parents have a pass.  Many masters, One soul?  That all ends in only one thing and that is the ONE and every one else is as nothing.  Wake up, the people of India have been under the pressure of a religion and religions of suppression far too long and the fruit of it is eveident.  The work being done by the Unique House of Girls is fantastic and is a very selfless and giving work to save the innocent, not the guilty.  Paise YaH (HalleluYaH) for not all men and women are evil, but most religions are.

  • Ange7986

    This site does not seem ligitimate to me.  Notice the guy in the hoodie.  I would never give money to someone like that.  Why are they all black?  I think they could be skimming off the donations.  There is a way to find the Unique Home through google searches etc.  Think about it before you pour money into someone’s hands.  There is a way to get it to the woman running the home. 

  • Ange7983

    People, find a way to give directly and not through a third party like this UK  group.  It all looks shady to me.  Search via Google for the town her orphanage is and go from there.  You know her name.  And 20/20 did the feature story recently.  It’s work.  I will start because I want to see she gets my money and not someone else.  

  • Ange7983

    If  you have the address now, please post it ane you will be doing a great service for these children. 

  • Priya

    all those ‘Black’ people are well known people in England who performed in a concert in which all proceeds went to the Unique Home organization.  Majority of the people who are in charge of the money that you are sending the money to are not black, rather they are Punjabi.  Go to the Facebook page to learn more.  Quit being racist, all money sent to the website end up in good hands.

  • Aman Garg

    Dear Shri Danbax

    We all must understand what is Karma. Karma has nothing to do with belief. It is about UNDERSTANDING(which is a higher state of mind when compared to belief).
    Anything that has a CONSEQUENCE is Karma. So, our THOUGHTS, our ACTION and our INACTION constitute our Karma. So when some one says WE are responsible for our state based on OUR KARMA, it obviously makes much more sense than to say there is a third party called ‘God’ who sits somewhere in the heaven who has created all of us the way we are(orphans, malnourished children with diseases, people with criminal mentality etc). The ‘God’ who is considered ‘perfect’ and is supposed to ‘love’ all his creations would never put his creations through so much hardships to ‘test’ their love for him. It is totally unfair of God to put different tests to different people if he loves all of them equally. That kind of ‘God’ can never be called merciful or kind. That concept of God can never be correct.
    Based on unbiased observation, Karma seems to be the only truth. I agree to your point that concept of Karma is abused. Those who abuse the concept of Karma should realize that those who suffer is because of their bad Karma and THOSE WHO DON’T HELP SUFFERING PEOPLE would become their BAD KARMA… as I stated earlier, INACTION also has a consequence.

  • R K
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