A thought-provoking encounter with a street kid
While walking alongside the market of Aundh, I heard a small voice asking for money. Unlike the usual roadside kids, who stick around you until they get some money out of your pockets, this boy decently asked me, “didi, muje padhai karne ke liye paise chahiye”. It must be some new strategy for getting money, I reckoned. But on careful observation, I saw he was dressed in school uniform. The kid interested me. I had all time in the world as I was done with my browsing (can’t call that shopping!) and was waiting for a friend to come. So, I set myself on a roadside parked bike, and started some interrogatory talk.
He was in 6th class, studying in a government school. I pointed out that government schools don’t charge fees and textbooks too are normally given for free. I was given the clarification that the money was required to buy stationeries for him and his younger sister(who’s studying in 1st class) and also to feed the family. Probing further, I demanded info about his family and their whereabouts. He resided in one of the nearby slums, with his mother who’s working as a maid. His father had gone missing 3 years back and the family hadn’t heard anything about him since then. His mother makes 5000/- per month. Now 5000 per a month is, though not too much, but nearly sufficient to buy some nominal stationeries and feed the family. So the kid shouldn’t go begging on the road. He reflected saying his mother hasn’t been working for more than a month due to bad health. When I advised him to work instead of begging, he said he doesn’t usually go for begging, instead earns some money by washing cars. But that day he was too tired due to starvation, so chose the easy way out.
As if it wasn’t enough, I asked him what subjects he is studying in school and to counter check, I also made him write a few things in hindi and English! Having been satisfied about the genuineness of all his explanations, I hired an auto and took him to Aundh sabzi mandi, got some veggies. Also we went to a grossary store to get him some groceries (aata, daal, rice, salt, etc). I somehow couldn’t find the stationary shop around, so unwillingly I had to handover some money to him, trusting that he will buy required stuff with that.
The reason given by this boy for his begging, has evoked this tiny thought. Often you will find people with motto ‘give nothing for free’. We would pass notes saying beggars should stop begging and start working. But who’ll have enough energy and motivation to work with empty stomach? They may just go for easy ways like this boy! The immediate suitable solution I see as of now is, to give enough food to such beggars rather than money and then give them some motivation to work. (Although some of you will say child labor shouldn’t be encouraged, but then is it right to encourage the kids to start begging on the road? I still wonder as to what should be the right option for such cases.)