By Merril Diniz:
“Today I want to talk about those kids, who you see everyday – on the pavements and at the red lights, knocking on our car windows,” says 15-year old Salmaan, addressing a full house, at a recent event. “For these children, I have written four lines,” he continues.
“Hum jaise bachhe sadko par (children like us, living on pavements)
Shehero mein, roaming par rehne wale (we are like wanderers in the city)
Hum badi badi imarathe dekhte hain (we see high rises everywhere around us)
Lekhin ye baath sach hai, ki imarathe hamare liye nahin ban gaye hai (but the truth is that these buildings are not built for us).”
“You may wonder, why I am talking about them – because I have also faced the same problem, before I managed to come out from that life,” shares Salmaan, outlining the stark realities of life, having himself survived the streets of North Delhi, as a child.
“Under the scorching sun, with our feet burning, out in the rain and in the cold, we face many problems, even violence. At an age when we are supposed to go to school and get to play with friends, we are forced to earn a living.We never find a place where we are welcome or feel safe from harm. Don’t we have the right to dream and aspire for a better life, just like other children?” he questions. What pricks him the most, however, is the constant denial of identity – “Chhotu (small child), kale (dark-skinned), gudiya (doll) – these are just some of the names we are called every day; but never by our real names.”
And there lies the problem – that society makes millions of such identities ‘invisible’ by putting them under one neat label of ‘street children’. Who are these children? What are their aspirations? That’s something we rarely engage with, even as we pass them by, on the streets every day.
Well, it’s time to change that. In the coming months, Youth Ki Awaaz joins hands with Save The Children to launch #TheInvisibles, an initiative, to help advocate for the rights of #EveryLastChild on the street. Together, we will explore how you and I can aid children like Salmaan, to claim their rights.
“We also want to make our nation proud,” says Salmaan, an aspiring actor and youth leader, who desires equal opportunity to reach for the stars. Well, no one and nothing should deny him his dream.
Images courtesy Save The Children