This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Joyeeta Talukdar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How A Special Friendship With A 9-Year-Old Broke My Notions About Street Children

More from Joyeeta Talukdar

STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

Whenever we see street children picking up plastic bottles or stuff from the roadside, the first notion that comes to our mind is that they are drug addicts and thieves. The following incident changed my views.

During my post-graduation days, I was undergoing an internship at Bose Institute, Kolkata. Since my university was quite far from the institute, I shifted to my paternal uncle’s home so I could complete my training properly. To reach the centre on time I had to start early from uncle’s home and catch the 7:30 am train from Konnagar to Howrah, and so had to leave home in a rush by 7:00 to reach the station on time.

As the long shifts of training left me exhausted, I always got up late, around 6:30 am, and had to rush to complete my daily chores. Early in the morning, the Konnagar station would remain quite empty, and only the garbage pickers could be seen, picking up plastic bottles and various other stuff from the railway line.

That day, I somehow reached the station 15 minutes before the arrival time of the train. I saw a small boy picking up bottles from the station. He was around nine to ten years old. I don’t know what I found so interesting in him. He was holding a kitten in his hand and talking to it. It was as shabby as him. He dropped his bag full of bottles in a corner and started looking here and there. Then, suddenly, he started approaching me. He said to me, “Ai didibhai dos taka de na oi billir baccha take dudh khawabo (Hey sister, lend me ten rupees, I will feed this kitten milk).”

I was taken aback by his cuteness and his simplicity. The notion that despite possibly being hungry himself, he was more concerned about the kitten, touched my heart. I took out fifty rupees from my purse and said, “Ota ke dudh kawabi r nijeo kichu kheye nibi (Buy milk for the kitten and have something to eat for yourself).”

At first, he hesitated and said, “Nah, ammi boka debe (No, mom will scold me).

At that moment I saw the train entering the station and quickly grabbed his small hands and tucked the money in them, saying, “ Ammi boka debe na bolbi ami diyechi (She won’t. Tell her I gave it to you)?

He looked at me with astonishment but didn’t speak a word.

Two days passed, and I was once again standing at the Konnagar station to catch the train. I saw the boy approaching me. He came near me and handed me a bunch of flowers. Some of them already dead.

I was astonished. I knelt to reach his height and said, “Ai chele aiguli kothai peli r amai kano dicchish (Hey kid, where did you get these and why are you giving them to me)?”

He said, “Ami tule enechi, oi khane akkhan biye hoychilo oikhan thekae. Tumi oi din amare ponchash takka amni dichila je ammi bolche tomare kicchu akkhan dite tai dilam (I picked them up from a wedding nearby. You gave me 50 bucks that day, mom asked me to give you something in return).”

I couldn’t stop laughing, because his simplicity touched me. But then it seemed that it had hurt him. He asked angrily, “hassla je (why are you laughing)?”

I understood that my laughter had annoyed him. So I said, “Nah re amni, keo amake kono dino amon sundor kore ful dai ni toh tai, kano re raag korli naki (Just like that. No one has ever gifted me flowers before in such a sweet manner – that’s why. Why, did I annoy you)?”.

His small eyes sparkled with satisfaction and he slowly lowered his head in embarrassment. I handed him 20 rupees this time and asked him to buy breakfast for himself.

At first, he hesitated, but then he took it and ran away.

This, then, became almost a daily routine. I got to know his name.  He was Irfan, who stayed with his mom and three siblings at the nearby slum. Being the eldest, he used to work along with his mother. His other siblings went to the madrassa to study. He could only go on Saturdays and Sundays, because the rest of the week he was busy picking up plastic bottles and selling them to vendors. Or working as a daily wage-earner in some shop or hotel. Sometimes I used to give him money, and sometimes I would buy small story books, colour pencils, copies, pens, etc from Howrah, and give them to him the very next morning. This continued for almost two-and-a-half months.

Then came the last days of my training. On a Friday, as usual, I was waiting for the 7:30 am train in the morning. Irfan had come with some marbles for me. I took them and handed him a packet with a T-shirt I had brought for him.

He hesitated and said, “Ammi boka dibo didi, aita lomu na (Mom will scold me, I can’t take this).

I knelt in front of him, and controlling my emotions, I said, “ne re Irfan amar kaaj prai sesh tai porer soptah theke ami r asbo na. Robbar din chole jacchi (Take it, Irfan. My work is almost over, so I won’t be coming from next week. I leave on Sunday).”

I wanted to give him the gift then, because at evening when I returned to Konnagar, I never met Irfan. Since the next two days were holidays and I was to leave for my hostel on Sunday evening, I thought I would never meet him again.

His eyes were almost tearing up as he said, “Kaan aiba na aar (Why won’t you come again)?”

I said, “Amar kaaj akhane sesh tai (Because my work here is done).”

At that moment, I saw the train coming. I quickly took my purse out and tucked five hundred rupees into his hands. He stood still. I boarded the train but then as the train started suddenly my purse fell down on the station and there was no way of picking it up.

At Howrah I called one of my friends and borrowed some money – enough to go back to Konnagar. I even blocked my cards. Then, I went to the institute to fetch my certificates. I was unhappy that day, both because I had dropped my purse, and because I might never meet Irfan again. He had unknowingly taken a special place in my life.

It was almost nine in the evening. As I got down from the train at Konnagar, I had a painful feeling which reminded me of Irfan. I stood at the station for a few minutes, my eyes unconsciously searching for him. I got out of the station to hire an auto when someone came and grabbed my hands. I shivered. As I turned back to see who it was, I realised it was Irfan. I almost shouted in excitement, “Irfan!

He looked towards me and said, “ho (yes), Irfan.”

I was astonished to see him, because as I said before, I had never met him during my return in these three months of training. He grabbed my hand hard and said, “Aikhanei darao ami aitachi (Keep standing here, I will be back).” Saying that, he left. Almost half an hour passed by but Irfan didn’t come back. It was almost ten in the night, and I was receiving constant calls from my uncle’s home. So I thought of leaving and started looking for an auto again.

Suddenly, I saw Irfan running towards me. Almost out of breath and panting hard, he handed me a plastic bag and gestured at me to open it.

I took the plastic bag and opened it. Under the halogen street lights, I saw that it was my purse. I stared at Irfan and there were tears rolling down my cheek. I wanted to meet Irfan, but never expected that he would keep my purse intact and wait for me.

Catching his breath, Irfan said, “Oi folaalla bolchilo tumi ai somoy rooz din assho tai atokhon tharai chilam. Bag ta amar kacche thakle harai jaoibo tai ammi re rakhte dichilam. Nao dekha nao poisa gulan thik aasse ki nai (That fruit seller told me that you come here every day around this time, so I was waiting. I would have lost the bag, so I gave it to mom for safe keeping. See if your money is intact).”

I couldn’t believe that he had been waiting at the station since morning to return the purse to me. I didn’t know what to say to him. He made me learn such a great lesson that day that my notions about street children changed completely. He made me understand that honesty can exist anywhere. This incident made me realise that our backgrounds don’t matter, the values we practice do.

You must be to comment.
  1. Joyanta Talukdar

    Awesome stody

  2. vishal bheeroo

    It’s such a touching lesson Joyee. Life teaches us a lot. I know we come with our prejudices when it comes to lesser humans and blame it on mass media or society. But, young Irfan taught you and me also what friendship and honesty mean, a bond that you will cherish forever. I have a similar story but not like yours.

More from Joyeeta Talukdar

Similar Posts

By Ankita Marwaha

By Merril Diniz

By STC INDIA

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below