By Sumit Kumar/Kaku:
My name is Sumit, and you can also call me by my rapper name Kaku. I’m 15 years old and live in a small community in Delhi. The people who live here mostly have homes back in their villages, but I grew up here, and this is my home.
We’ve always faced a problem of lack of hygiene and sanitation in my community, especially with new families joining. People would defecate in the open, behind bushes, and it was the cause of a lot of diseases.
I started writing and performing rap about these issues. People found it entertaining, so I made more songs and got together with my friends from the camp too. My icon is rapper Ikka; I like his style of rap, though not what he raps about. Most rappers who are famous don’t talk about social issues, which is not something I can relate to.
Already struggling with so many issues around cleanliness and hygiene in my village. Adding to that, several other concerns have come around due to the coronavirus outbreak.
I first found out about the spread of the virus through the news as well as the talk around it at my boards centre, where I go to study. I quickly understood the gravity and seriousness of the situation. I made sure my family stayed indoors together while practicing social distancing as well as multiple routines of hand-washing throughout the day.
There are so many struggles faced by my fellow slum members and neighbours due to the nationwide lockdown. I am concerned about the people who have stopped working. The daily wagers have no source of income now.
The people in the community aren’t able to always practice social distancing and all because we only have a shared bathroom; a lot of us don’t have a toilet in our homes. This makes practicing social distancing difficult. I also really miss my “me time” personal things that I would normally be able to do have been put on hold, such as going to see my grandparents or recording a song with friends.
But on other counts, the government has been helpful. If hygiene is our biggest problem as a community, money is a close second. The government has introduced schemes where if a family is not able to afford basic necessities such as food, they either provide those things or transfer money into those families’ accounts to make sure they can buy the things needed. We have also taken up one such scheme.
Despite the issues that my community and I are facing, though I know better days will be here, I don’t want to lose hope. I try to appreciate all that I have managed in life and to see the positive side of things. For example, last year, I travelled to Mumbai to perform in front of Amitabh Bachchan and it was aired on national television as well. There I also met a rapper who I really look upto: Naezy.
My song called ‘Yeh Hai Corona’, which is about how we need social distance, was played on national television; it was a big milestone for me at this time. I also find comfort in the environment getting better by the day and knowing that now that people have experienced what it’s like to be locked away—as they do with animals, they will learn to appreciate their freedom in the future, more so than ever!
If you have a message of solidarity and support for Sumit and other children like him, or have solutions to ensure children from vulnerable communities are able to achieve their dreams and aspirations in the post-COVID world, publish your story today with #EveryOneCounts.
#EveryOneCounts is a joint initiative between United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Save the Children and Youth Ki Awaaz to create conversations around how in the fight against the coronavirus, everyone counts, and every voice, every action can make a difference. Check out other stories from the campaign here.