There are a lot of homeless kids that you will find in and around the Jama Masjid area. This area houses a considerable chunk of the homeless population of Delhi mostly because of the easy availability of free alms and food that are distributed by the visitors to Jama Masjid. Most of the kids that are living in this areas are run-away’s from their homes or kids who have been abandoned by their parents and some of them are kids of the homeless people itself. I still vividly remember my first visit to the shelter, being operated by Aman Biradari at Jama Masjid. As the evening set in there, i could see kids returning from their daily chores which vary from rag-picking, begging to stealing. Soon after returning, i could see most of them with a napkin stuffed up their mouth or sitting quietly in a corner smoking. I soon found out that they smelled and drank an adhesive solution, which they put in the piece of cloth. If you would have smelled diluter of the whitener solution, you would know what solution these young boys smell, the only difference being that in their case it is the much cheaper version of the glue/solution used by the cycle-puncture maker that they use to get high. Toluene is present in high quantity in the solution and it gets them high really soon, however, toluene also damages and kills their immune system much quicker than other such substances,esp. because of the adulterated version that they use.
Today, i will be sharing the story of one such kid, the one that has impacted me the most. He is a 10 year old boy with no name, i say that because i am yet to know his real name. Whenever i ask him his name, he shows me karan written in hindi across his hand, however, his friends and other people in the shelter call him Mahesh. He has become a symbol for me as a young kid who exists in our society with no identity. He lives alone, in-fact is fiercely independent, and the only knowledge that people in the shelter have of his family is that they are somewhere in a village in UP. None of them know the name of the village for the child has not shared that information with everyone. I meet him everyday, upon spotting me he quickly runs up to me and hugs me(this expression of love is so rare for him for he is so used to being bullied or thrown around by the elders of the area). I myself had some initial inhibitions about hugging him because of his dirty, dust-filled clothes and appearance and it took a lot of self-reflection for me to get over it. This also made me realize how much our inherent prejudices come in the way of self-less service and how tough and necessary it is to overcome them. Now, hugging is the closest that i have been able to get with him. He talks to me but he refuses to share any information about himself. Mostly, he is too stoned to answer anything and he just sits there with me nodding his head at anything and everything i say.
I have rarely seen him without a piece of cloth stuffed up in his mouth and his friends tell me that as and when he can afford it, he smokes Smack as well. He begs and steals so as to arrange money for the very purpose. Imagine what high amounts of damage such heavy drugs would be doing on the body of an under-nourished 10 year old child. A normal child aged 10 would be in class 4th in school, having a set of loving and dotting parents to cater to its needs. One of his friends tells me that Karan was a very cheerful child when he was first came here after running away from home(Around 2-3 years back) but he was badly sexually abused by some of the elder children here after which he became very quiet(this was before there was any shelter put up there where the children can now sleep peacefully, before they just used to sleep in parks or out on the street side’s). When i look back and think of my childhood, i can not remember even one night wherein i was scared of going off to sleep for fear of being woken up and raped. The mental trauma that the child must have gone through, no wonder he has given up on the goodness present in the world.
When i sit and talk with the stoned Karan, i realize all my shortcomings. I have tried all i could to get him to talk to me, to trust me so as to form a bond with me and then to use that bonding to get him to a shelter for kids through CWC, wherein at-least he would be safe. I have been a total failure, Karan has shown me the mirror like no other kid and has shown how much more i need to grow and rise in levels of integrity. Karan is truly the Last Child, the most destitute and unsafe of all. For kids like him, literacy is a long distant dream. He first needs to be given loads of love and care so as to bring him back from the state of loneliness he has put himself in, then a proper drug de-addiction program has to be initiated, during which period he has to be kept in a caring envirnoment. Then, comes the part of teaching him the basics of life following which we can even think of education. Who will do so much for an abandoned child and now think of the fact that there are 50,000 such kids on the street of Delhi. We need so many more young and dedicated people to take up their cause.
Every time i talk with Karan, i end up being filled with a tremendous of anger and pain within. Anger at everybody and everything. Pain because of own shortcomings in being unable to do something for the kid. I hope i can utilize this anger and pain to propel me or it will just end up destroying me.