Thursday, September 28, 2006

You're lost, little boy!

Do you know what's scarier than traveling alone by train at 1:30 am? Finding a 7 yr old kid traveling alone at the same time. Not that I haven't seen kids loitering alone in the streets of Bombay, or I haven't heard of kids moving out all alone in the dead of the night, but interacting with one of them moves you, it shakes you right out of your being.

I went to Powai for a meeting a few days back. The meeting got over at 12. 30 am and I took a 1.23 am train from Andheri. The train was empty, except for 2 women other than me. I had regular thoughts of hoping to not get mugged and that the other women don't get down before me. Safety in numbers. Right enough, one of them got down a station before me. But I soon had a new co-traveler. Only it wasn't a lady in the ladies' compartment. It was a little boy, who saw me and gave a very sweet smile. He came and sat on the opposite seat.

I couldn't help asking what he was doing alone so late in the night. He didn't reply but continued to smile.

Me: Kahan rehte ho?
Him: Delhi, Solapur, pune... train mein kahin bhi.

Me: Naam kya hai aapka
Him: Kanya * think it's Kanhaiya

Me: Aur ma baap?
Kanya : Koi nahin hai (he was still smiling as if it wasn't surprising)

Me: Kiske saath rehte ho?
Kanya : Kisike saath nahin.

Me: Dar nahin lagta?
Kanya : Nahin.

Me: Koi pakadta nahin?
Kanya : (shaking his head) Kal pakda tha

Me: Kisne? Police ne?
Kanya: Nahin. Wo log hain na... (did an action of smoking pot)

Me: Phir?
Kanya: (Smiled and didn't say anything).

Me: Ab kahan jaa rahe ho?
Kanya: Mumbai

Me: Yeh Mumbai hai
Kanya: Looked puzzled but smiled

Me: Pata hai kaunsa station aa raha hai?
Kanya: Bhopal

Me: Kal bhi hoge is train mein?
Kanya: *His eyes seemed to say, 'Who knows?*

'The train stopped and he got off with his dinner, five biscuits and a few pieces of cashewnuts. Before I could do anything or say anything, he ran to look at the injured man (maybe he was even dead) lying with bandaged head on a stretcher. He stood there looking at the hurt guy without moving. And before I could reach there, he had scurried away.

I didn't know what to do at 1.45 am, and being alone. I thought of taking him to the police station, but I don't trust cops much. I wasn't sure if I should get him home with me.

Anyway, I got in touch with an organization to help destitute and needy kids like Kanya. This is what the good lady had to say...

I know about a couple of street children’s homes; you may contact either of the 2 for guidance and further information.

From my little experience I can tell you that many of these kids are not orphans – they have at least 1 parent and/or grand parent with whom they live. And the ones that are orphaned are mostly runaway kids.

Even if the shelter is contacted, it’s not so easy for them to just pick-up the child and it's even more difficult to keep the child at the shelter… many children run away from shelters.

Now all I can do is contact these organizations for guidance and help.

Friends, it doesn't take too much to just dial a number and inform them about any destitute kid or adult. They make it a point to get the person picked up. If one is really passionate about it, one can keep track of what's happening with the person or kid. Or the least we can do is at least not leave them battling alone.

Reaching them to a shelter home will be half the battle won, and it's not necessary that everyone will run away from there.

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