When I got the email from Operation Shanti letting me know I was being put forward as an Ambassador for them I was completely bowled over. I’ve not achieved too much in my crazy life but this went straight to the top of the list.
I’d met Tracy, the lady responsible for setting up OpSha, in Mysore around 2003. I’d bumped into her a couple of times at Swami Jamanagiri’s Shiva Cave Temple on Chamundi Hill. We’d sit silently and watch Swamiji do his daily puja routine, then after all three of us would have chai and chat.
Tracy likes to keep out of the limelight but she is an incredible person – to of set up Operation Shanti pretty much single-handed in a male dominated country like India is nothing short of a miracle. She is now Godmother to my daughter Agnes Boo.
So fast forward a couple of years to 2006, I was helping OpSha out on a regular basis. I guess my main job was playing with the children, which being a big kid myself was as you could imagine simply brilliant. I’d show them a bit of Yoga then they would ‘wupp my ass’ at cricket – before I would run rings round them with my silky footballing skills (I like all males my age still think I could play professionally).
A few years later the ‘big move’ happened which involved the kids being taken off the street and into the Karunya Mane home on the other side of the city. Not only did the kids get a new home they also got to go to school for the first time in their lives. Being able to witness this incredible transformation of the children was awe inspiring. There was a little down side to the move for me: my mates were at school and I only got to see them on Sundays – I was billy no mates during the week!
In 2011, the OpSha kids were ‘guests of honour’ at my ‘Hindu Style’ wedding at the Shiva Cave Temple. What an amazing day to have all my best mates attend my wedding – the video is priceless.
Each time I go back to Karunya Mane, I see their faces light up when I walk through the door and this is worth going to Mysore for. To be able to watch them grow up over the years has been both an honour and a privilege.
For more information on Operation Shanti, its history , mission and how to donate please go to the website www.operation-shanti.org