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India: Saheli Fire - An update & appeal to help us rebuild our office

by Saheli, 20 May 2011

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From: Saheli Women

Date: Friday, 20 May, 2011, 10:53

Dear friends,

On 13th May 2011, a nasty fire in the Defence Colony Flyover Market in Delhi gutted about 58 shops and along with that, our Saheli office with 30 years of our belongings, files, records, documents, publications, etc. The devastation has been incredible, but if anything could give us the strength to move on, it has been your overwhelming support, your presence, offers of help and solidarity - we are extremely touched and humbled by it. We hope you understand that we’ve been unable to write back to all of you individually, but here is the brief collective update:

burnt out papers at Saheli
May 2011

Along with some of us, many of you from Delhi simply dropped in to the Saheli office (or what remains of it!) to help clear the rubble and salvage whatever could be saved. A lot of partially burnt material has been collected – maybe about 15%, but it will take us some time to figure out what is there and what is completely lost. For now, we have kept what remains in an office, basement and garage offered by friends. We are also chasing formalities and procedures that need to be completed before restoration/reconstruction can begin. In all these years, the running joke under the flyover had been that ‘one day it will all fall on our heads’, but little did we know…! But it like the structure is not seriously damaged and we will indeed be able to return at some point. But it’s hard to estimate how long this will take as the false ceiling, doors, windows all have to be replaced, and electricity, water, phone and other connections and meters redone before we can re-start our office.

For those of you who haven’t seen the damage the fire did, enclosed is a picture that we feel says it all, of a rack that stored our souvenir from 2006, titled ’25 years of continuity… and change”.

But we are swinging into ‘rebuilding’ mode and there are many ways in which you can support us:

1) Those of you who are in Delhi and can spare time and energy, your help in sorting materials will be priceless over the next few weeks. Sorting happens daily for 3-4 hours [or until the soot gets us!]. Please contact Satnam at 9899212066 or Deepti at 9899019750 who are co-ordinating this.

2) Our preliminary estimate is that it will take around Rs. 5 lakhs for restoration work and minimal reprinting of important documents that we manage to salvage copies of. If you can make a donation, however small or big, it will be most welcome [as long as they are personal cheques]. Cheques need to be made in the name of ‘Saheli Women’s Resource Centre’ and sent with a covering letter stating they are meant for “rebuilding Saheli” along with your name, address and phone number/email contact. Cash donations, you can give to any Saheli you know or meet. For our overseas friends and well-wishers, personal cheques in foreign currency are also fine.

Since the familiar flyover market address cannot be used :-( please send the cheques to this address:

Saheli Women’s Resource Centre


Ms Satnam Kaur

P-9/B, Ground Floor

Jangpura Extension

Near Eros Cinema

New Delhi 110014

Ph: 9899212066

All donations to Saheli are exempt under 80G.

3) We are deeply touched by many generous offers to collect Saheli publications and send them to us. But do hold on that offer till we sort out our papers and check our personal stocks to know what we have and what we don’t. We will send out specific requests for materials by the by.

4) But do tell us if you have the facility (and energy) to scan and upload some material for our website. This would reduce the need for storing half charred documents.

5) Many of you have offered items for office use – tables, chairs, computers and refrigerators etc. It will be great if you can just hold on to too them till we are closer to redoing the office, then we will coordinate with you all and maybe even put out a wish list… so that the office can once again come together as it always has – with things and energy and resources from all of you!

Thanking you once again for your continued support, love and solidarity and with hopes of getting back in action under the flyover in a few months.

ps: Meanwhile, we are planning to gather and reclaim the space under the flyover in whatever shape it’s in on Saturday, the 28th of May at 3.30 pm! So do come if you can – we’d love to be together to feel our collective energy, ideas, songs and determination!

All of us in Saheli