Gauhati University

Celebrated Diwali with Street Children : A Life Time Experience

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My friend Nilesh called me before Diwali and shared a plan to celebrate this Diwali differently. We pledged not to crack the fire crackers. As per the plan we reached Lakhtakia area of the city at 6pm on the day of Diwali. We, a group of the 10 youths from Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Gauhati University and Mr. Indrajit Sinha, a post graduate from Rajiv Gandhi Nation Institute of Youth Development assembled beneath the fly over. Mr. Sinha is the Director of “We Are Young” foundation. The young director briefed us about the programme, dos and don’ts etc.

As per the programme we started moving towards Fancy Baazar area to meet the street children and wish them “Happy Diwali” as well as to share sweets, chocolates as a part of our Diwali celebration. We got scattered and approached the children individually. One the major objective of the programme was to sensitise ourselves about the issues related to the street children. We loved the idea!

Diwali 3

I moved towards Sani Mandir area, one of the busiest streets of Fancy Bazaar. I first encounter with Mamata Kumari, a 7-8 years old girl child. I approached her, offered her a laddoo and tried to chat with her. But she was not interested to talk to me and even I felt she was not happy to get the sweet. I tried to know about her family. Her mother is physically challenged, can’t walk. Her father works in a hotel in railway platform. Her elder sister collects scrap. And she begs!

–          How much you earn per day? I asked.

–          She replied “one hundred to two hundred per day!”

I was shocked! I couldn’t believe. I offered her 10 rupees note to know her arithmetic.

I asked:

–          Now what is your today’s income?

–          Two hundred and ten. She replied and asked for another ten rupees.

We talk many things. When and why they have come to Guwahati? Who are left in their family at Siliguri? Does she remember them etc etc.

She is smart, talented and cute. Moreover, she is an earning member of her family! I realise, why a small laddo couldn’t bring smile to her face? In fact, she is carrying the responsibility of an adult!

My next guest was a Guljar Hussain, he may be 4 to 5 years of age. He doesn’t know his father’s name, native address or even his mother’s name.

I asked:

Abba ki kore? (What your father does)”

–          Abba? Abba masjid banay. (Abba makes mosque). (I guess as mason)

I kept asking:

What you are doing here?

–          I, I stay in a fruit shop”.

What you do in the fruit shop?

–          Nothing

Then why do you stay in the fruit shop?

–          The shop keeper gives me food

I couldn’t ask any more questions. I couldn’t control my emotion. He opened a match box from his pocket and long (rope like) cracker. He puts the fire on and started walking towards the fruit shop. The light of the cracker made his face more pale and thirsty. I stood like a statue for a while!

I moved towards Sani Mandir. I saw a group of such children were surrounding Indrajit Sinha, our moderator, as he was distributing some chocolates among them. He finished his chocolates within seconds. I lost him somewhere.

I gathered some strength to talk to the children. This was a group. I targeted one, so that I can talk to him openly. He is Alam. I asked his full name “Alam only”. His native house is in Kalgachia in Barpeta district. I couldn’t continue the talk as others came. Everybody started talking to me. Manjul, Bishnu, Sunita, Munni, Ainuddin; everyone has a story to share. Manjul, he has five brothers in his house somewhere in Kalaitoli char. He is alone in Guwahati. He stays with Bishnu along with few others in Railway gate No. 3. They have their tarpaulin house.

Another cute girl, she was smiling while I was talking to Manjul.

I asked her:

What is your name?

–          I have no name (laughing out loud)

Who are there in your family?

–          Maa, Abba, three sisters and me

She is from Besimari. Two of her sisters and she use to beg here and elder sister work as domestic helper. Suddenly everybody ran away from me, even I couldn’t ask about her parents! I saw a person was distributing samosa after his prayer at the Mandir. Everybody surrounded him as like as our moderator Indrajit was!

I was returning to the place where we assembled first. A thought came to my mind spontaneously, when the communalism is a decisive factor in our national politics; Manjul, Bishnu, Alam and Sunita are living under the same tarpaulin, eating the same samosa and fortunately they all are thousands miles away from the vague called superpower INDIA!