“Morning shows the day”, said John Milton and ever since (post my birth, obviously), I have vehemently opposed, at least, some of it. Today, there was one more example – my afternoon mini sprint on Andheri foot over bridge, connecting the Metro and the Suburban Railways
On Sunday morning, I woke up to an early morning alarm, noting down that one major task I was to attend: Youth Ki Awaaz’s meet up in Khar. I backtracked from the meet up time and decided to leave two hours early. By the time I reached Andheri metro station, I knew I would be late. I was running on the foot over bridge, with the crowd gushing in the opposite direction. I collided with a guy, said sorry and navigated through the people sprawling the stretch. I suddenly heard someone say, “Ma’am”. That’s the most amazing thing I love about Mumbai: most of the people address strangers as ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Sir’.
I turned around, it was a boy, about 10-12 years old. With dusty clothes, and that longing face, his eyes followed the lady he had called out to. With his back to me, and the constant honks of local trains, I could just eavesdrop “Ma’am aap 5 rupees de sakti hain? (Ma’am, can you please lend me 5 rupees?)” There was a new gush of crowd, hopping out of the local that had just arrived. I got pushed away and the lady gave the boy a snarl.
He faced me now and was ashamed. His hands lowered, still folded in the pouch like shape, into which you usually drop a few coins which would have assured him that he will get something to eat or take home.
He was now looking shameful. A tear rolled down his cheek. In the meantime, I was yelling at top of my voice: “Hey, hey, hey!” He noticed me, turned around and ran away. I ran as well, and clashed with a few gentlemen. Then I stopped. I had lost him. He must have been frightened. I felt helpless, I felt frustrated with the lady, thinking about what she said to the boy. There are so many little kids who should dread their homework, instead of standing on the bridges.
I attended the YKA meet up, and the entire time someone was speaking about ‘impact’ and it was hitting me in the head. I kept thinking about that face, those tears.
There is a helpline number recently launched to help children: 1098
I know that it’s a regular site to see children or even infants, begging or wandering about on the street, and you have to reach your office on time, catch the fast local, or just have to do something then. When you see a drunk man or woman, you can still think that the person might be responsible for that situation. But, what about little kids?
Why can’t we all just pause, buy them something to eat, ask them whether they want to learn a few alphabets, and pass on a smile.
I actually taught an eight year old a few words in English on my longest local train journey. He was delighted, and so was I. It kept me smiling for the whole day and my heart joyous, for a long time.
Many of these children are bound to earn, but ready to learn. That number is a staggering 1.1 million, in India alone. So, why can’t we all work together to work with these children for some time over the weekend, maybe share a meal, some knowledge and a few smiles.
That’s what that afternoon showed me that day. It showed me a new way to be happy, to make a promise to teach and learn together with kids on the streets. Let’s do this, as small as it may sound, but education liberates like no other.
Do not miss their eyes, when they say “thank you” in their own way after they learn something. You won’t forget that.