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Tawang orphans find a place they can call home

Arunachal Pradesh is often referred to as India's potential powerhouse with a capability of generating 50,000 MW of hydroelectric power, writes Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2007 00:45 IST

An eight-room building in Tawang is giving 115 underprivileged youngsters a chance at a good life. Some of them suffer from disabilities; all of them are orphans. But now they call the Manjushree Vidyapith Orphanage their home and Lama Thupten Phuntsok, who runs the place, their family.

Arunachal Pradesh is often referred to as India's potential powerhouse with a capability of generating 50,000 MW of hydroelectric power. Ironically, power kills or maims in this frontier state. Mani Rapgyal had to put aside his dream of pursuing business after a brush with a naked electric cable left him an amputee. Thupten Tshering and Tenzing Dorjee also suffered similar heartache. But today, Mani is pursuing a degree in commerce at a college in New Delhi. Thupten may have no hands but that has not stopped him from aspiring to be a painter. He recently won first prize at a district-level contest. Tenzing, whose legs do what his arms were supposed to, is equally determined to shine in the world of art. Manjushree has given them that chance.

“In these hills, there are many parentless children usually numbering five to six to a family. This orphanage has limitations, and I have been able to admit at most two children from such families,” says Lama Phuntsok.

The son of a peasant from Dharma Gang village, Lama Phuntsok was appointed lecturer in Tibetan in Tawang Public School two years after obtaining a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy from Mysore in 1990. The job was comfortable enough but he could not get past the pain of seeing “orphaned children forced to beg for a living”. So in 1998, he purchased seven acres of land at Tashijong and opened Manjushree, the state's first orphanage.

Manjushree started off as an eight-room building with 17 orphans and three teachers. There are now 115 inmates and eight teachers. Space is a luxury, so two rooms make up the boys’ hostel with two occupants to a bed. The remaining rooms comprise the school with classes from kindergarten to Class V. “We have constructed a separate hostel for some 50 girls but it is still a bit crowded for 115 students,” says Lama Phuntsok.

Expansions plans have been temporarily held up by a lack of funds. “Though we receive donations, most of it goes into meeting daily expenses and the salaries of the teachers,” says Lama Phuntsok. Manjushree also bears the educational expenses of inmates who study in other schools from Class VI onwards.

rahconteur@rediffmail.com