Every day, when I come to office, I notice a number of children on the roads. A few of them go to school, some of them demand chocolates from parents, some of them play with other kids.
At the same time, I see a number of children sitting on footpaths – some of them begging for money while others cry for a single piece of bread. There are also some who work in small shops, trying to make their masters happy. Some of them barely look at me.
Unfortunately, what I do next is also something that our society is notorious for. In other words, I simply walk away from them.
In a colossal country like India, there are millions of children who are living on the roads. Every child has their own tale – and in this context, the stirring story of Payel Singh is worth reading. Not only is it a narrative of a homeless girl, it’s also the story of a young girl who, despite being deprived, is trying to live her dreams without a roof over her head.
Payel’s story has inspired me a lot. She studies in class 10 in Deshabandhu Balika Vidyalaya and lives in a small area on a footpath in Lake Market in Kolkata. Her mother, who is a manual worker, works in the houses of many people (returning at 8 PM) to provide for Payel’s upbringing. “My father left us when I was born and I am not familiar with anything about him. I don’t have any father,” says Payel.
After school hours, Payel goes for her coaching classes, which cost ₹600 per month. In the future, she wants to pursue her education in Calcutta University or Basanti Devi College. For this, she says that her mother is working very hard just to make her educated. “I love music. I want to be a singer in future, but I don’t receive any professional classes as I don’t have the money,” Payel says. She also likes watching films in her spare time. “’Spider Man’ and ‘The Mummy Returns’ are my favourite movies,” she adds smiling.
She says tearfully, “For men it’s very easy to breathe in the social order. For them, it’s easy to run off from someone. My mother is living a life full of struggles – only for me. She could have asked me to go away and earn money on her own – but she didn’t. She is my hero. Today, I am going to school only for my mother.” She further added, “I want to build a small house for my mother so that we can live a regular life. That’s my aim.”
If girls like Payel are to fulfil their dreams, education is necessary. In particular, ensuring the education of girls should be very much obligatory for a society. Although our government has started the scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan a few years back, there are still numerous others who are still waiting for an opportunity to study.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, expresses the significant need of providing free and compulsory education to children between six and 14 years, as mentioned in Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. There are different educational schemes of Indian government – but these schemes are not reaching to the needy people. What’s even more depressing is that these schemes are not helping our society to actually develop. People hardly know about the number of educational schemes in India – and those who do know generally do not try to spread awareness among disadvantaged groups.
Whenever a girl is born to a family, most people assume that a burden has been placed on them. Most people try to keep the child within the confines of the house – and if she comes from a deprived family, sending her out to school is even rarer.
However, Payel’s and her mother’s story is setting a goal for the society and for the people who believe that a girl brings burden. Life is indeed hard-hitting and is full of struggles. Everyone is struggling for their goals – but only a few of us can handle all the struggles. And despite all the struggles, Payel is still struggling to realise her dreams!