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.)

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Posted on August 7, 2007, in Bits of my life, General. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. hey sej,

    Firstly appreciate the fact that you helped the kid.

    but did you bother to see where the kid resided as you do not know what he wud be doin with the veggies and the stuff that you gave him……well u had enough time rt!!!!

    seriously i do not trust and entertain them at all eventhough they are kids….though he asked the money for the right thing….to study!!!!

    Well the solution for this may be is that some NGO’s are opened to take care of such things and avoid children begging on the roads & cleaning cars.

    Though what u did was a good thing……appreciate for the concern and the care you had for the kid…… keep it up…. 🙂

  2. yea satish, you are right there, I should’ve seen the residential area, and had it not been 9pm, I would’ve gone to his slums with him! He resided near kalewadi, that’s what he told me. I know it’s hard to trust these kids, and that’s why instead of giving money I thought of buying things for him. But whatever talk I had with him, he seemed genuine. (at least that’s my gut feeling)

    Btw, do lemme know if you are aware of any such NGOs, as I’ve been searching for the same!

  3. Hi Sej – There is a child helpline in all major cities – even some small ones have them. It is 1098. U can tell them where the child was found etc. and they’ll take care of the rest!! – with different solutions for different problems. Pls report domestic child labour. It is illegal under the law with fine and imprisonment for the employer. These kids are street smart (u really get to understand the term ‘street smart when u talk to such kids!) and will talk very glibly. the only prob is with migrant child labour brought by parents who work on construction sites. Evenfor these there are NGOs providing creches, basic literacy etc. do get in touch with 1098. CHEERS!

  4. Hi Sejal,
    Came across this link through discussions on ngopost.org – nice post! I am inclined to believe this was a genuine case – hope so!! Also appreciate that you made the effort to find out ground-reality & give food in-kind rather than handing over the money. Most people take the easy way out and either shoo the kids (don’t encourage begging) or just give the money and get rid of the situation fast!

  5. I would suggest you post this separately on NGOpost, this is a great article. Reminds me of one of the conversation that we had, with one girl selling flowers on MG road.

    Great post and keep writing.

    Cheers.

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