Street Kids

The world is going nuts over conspiracy theories over Osama’s death and debating if he is really dead or not. Here, a little more locally, in India, we are debating about oil prices and gold prices and celebrating the ‘most auspicious day’ to buy gold. Discussions over coffee also involve various theories about what an idiot Pakistan is and conversations on the lines of ‘I told you so’.

Strangely enough, most of this leaves me untouched. The world goes on, regardless of Osama’s death. Someone else will take over his position and terror attacks will continue, in the name of peace, war or defending ones country or religion. The only time I could revive myself long enough was when a huge news channel broadcast the headline stating OBama was dead. Seriously reporters?!

What did catch my attention was a little scene at one of the popular roads in the city yesterday. It was past 11… when traffic was winding down and all the drinkers were headed home. There would be no more traffic lights and cops were yet to set up their traps on the road. There were a bunch of kiddie beggars sitting on the roadside. Strategy meeting for tomorrow, I figured, quite impressed by the corporate-ship. Turns out that I wasn’t so wrong.

They weren’t doing the strategizing (is that an actual word?) though. A van pulled up and all the kids happily boarded the van. I watched, surprised, as the van pulled away… leaving behind one guy, who was perhaps the supervisor. He lit up a cigarette and slowly walked away.

Apparently, I am the only one to be surprised at this… and even I’m wondering why I am surprised. We watched those movies that talked about the organized begging mafia. Movies that made jokes out of it. And then, yes, the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, which everyone said was insulting to India.

Yet, I remain surprised. These were the very kids who put on a miserable face and fell at our feet merely hours before. And here they were laughing like any other child on their age should… they had the abandonment that comes only when you are a kid, and the laughter over silly things. It the end of a work day for them… a long one at that.

Years ago, when I was still a student, when one of these kids would approach me, stating they needed money for food, I would offer to buy them food rather than give them money. They invariably ran away. And my friends would knowledgeably say ‘dude this money doesn’t even go to those kids.’

I even asked a kid once why he wasn’t in school… he said he did not have time to during day… So I offered to let him know about an evening school. A friend of mine knew of such places… I went back once, but the kid was not there. Perhaps it was end of shift for him. And I never went back… in moment’s like these, he creeps back into my mind… and I wonder if I had made a little more effort, been a little less blase, it would have made a difference in his life?

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