It was a Sunday evening on St Marks Road and the road was bustling as usual, people stopping at food joints and liquor shops. Though one would notice these little children who beg, nobody would want to take the trouble of talking to them and getting them out of the atrocious habit they have got into.
I was in a car with a friend and he repeatedly knocked the window pane. After 30 minutes of watching him walking down the street, I decided to talk to him. Why? He was holding a piece of cloth, holding
it on his mouth and sniffing something. His eyes were red. I asked him to come near. He immediately spread his hands asking for money. I asked him if that cloth had whitener in it. He denied.
I asked him to give it to me. A half metre cloth dipped in whitener. The moment I sniffed it to check what it was, it nauseated me. I told him that I would not return it to him. He did not speak and just stared at me. When asked what his name was, he said, `Kushal’. How old are you? `I am 12 years old’. Where do you stay? `I do not have a house’. But, you should be staying somewhere. `I stay in a slum near Shivajinagar’. Don’t you have parents? `Amma (mother) is at home. Appa (father) is dead’. Do you have siblings? `No. I am the only son’. Why are you doing this? `No answer’. What will your mother do if you die? `She will look after herself’. Can’t you work, instead of getting into these habits? `No answer’. Do you want to work? `Yes. Will you get me a job?’
I was enthused by the response. I would have been more than happy to get this boy out of this habit. I gave him ten rupees and said that the next time I come here, you will wait for me and I am taking you to a person who will help you become someone great. He smiled. A smile which inspired me. I asked him if he was regularly at St Marks Road. He said yes and then ran away to tell a friend what just occurred.
I will go there again to just see Kushal. I have promised to change his life. Most of us talk about children being abused, but, none of us even bother approaching them. I would rather say that we are `ignorant fools’ who are stuck in our own world.
I would like to mention here about someone who has changed the lives of thousands of street children in Bangalore. John Devaraj, a civil engineer by profession. But, he has dedicated his entire life to the welfare of these children. He has picked children off the street, rehabilitated them and some of them are educated now, working at software firms. This is called `reformation’ and it is not impossible. All you need is `will power’ to create a change.
I recall working with John as a young journalist. The first time I met him, he started the conversation with me by saying:
Every child is Born Free.
Free from hunger.
Free from poverty.
Free of hatred.
Free from toil.
How many children in our country are living free?
After that, every time I tried writing on the good work he had initiated, I started the article with these lines. John started a school for these children, called `Bornfree Art School International’. Unlike all other NGOs which try rehabilitating children through counseling programs, he uses the most ancient form of `ART’ to rehabilitate them. He feels that it helps them express their feelings, which moulds their life. John’s school travels across the country and abroad. His vision and ideas have helped several people across other nations change their perspective about social welfare. He deters from being called a `NGO’ worker. He says that it is a `People’s movement’ for the liberation of toiling children. His theatre and art forms have transformed many a children across Karnataka.
You will find John standing somewhere on the streets of Bangalore chatting away with street children. He accepts them as his own friend and then embraces them. This is what we have to adopt. Live like they would so that they would not feel that they are a class apart and then transform them.
If you also want to contribute to the movement started by John, contact him at: