I am writing about yesterday, as promised yesterday but I am cheating a little bit by adding the descriptions as a little part of the main, Day 12 post. The reason for this is one, I was not present and two, well I am desperate to describe what I believe is an important step that we took today.
So to talk of yesterday, the kids were fed and settled for a bare mini-second before they started running around wildly, as is their habit but were brought back to task through a couple of games of the trusted-since-ages Snakes and Ladders! Naina won two games in a row and it added to her high-opinion of self, when I had thought she had reached saturation!
There was painting and other art as usual!
PS- The lady with the sweater around her waist is Yvonne, Shaila’s friend who came over to find out about Street Smart!
In all, it was a day well spent with the kids. However, it is becoming increasingly clear to us that our well-intended and fun methods will not have a lasting effect on the lives of these children. Shaila and Gudakesh have been working on providing secure though temporary shelter to the Parade Ground children and their respective families for the winters. Shaila has roped in a charitable organization to provide sturdy, water-proof tents that can house up to 8 people and she is getting the Governor here involved in deploying police personnel for ensuring that these people are sheltered in the harsh cold.
To get a clearer idea of how these people (who are migrants) live in Parade Ground, we went there before Street Smart and what we saw was appalling. This, when we were prepared to see pretty bad living situation. With Republic Day arriving, these migrant encroachers are literally kicked out and abused by the police so that the Ground is clean for speeches, parades and other programs on Republic Day. Some irony there, eh? But these families are then on roads- literally in the middle of the streets and we are going to the area at night to see this for ourselves.
Now when a child lives in this situation, our two-hour classes will be about as valuable for them as shit. But the problem is enormously complex and mind-boggling. For one, these people are migrants. They do not have BPL cards, they do not constitute vote banks and they are seemingly the soreness in everybody’s eye. So if we approach the authorities for space to pitch our tents for these people, where can we get it? It has to be right at the heart of the city because otherwise these people lose access to markets where they beg and sell things at. Those who in administrative, sarkari positions say that the migrants are all registered at their native places but without any paperwork, we can get nothing for them.
Second, the fathers leave to find food for the day and the mothers have to tend to the babies. And my God! There are, on an average 4 children in every family and they go up to as many as ten children. Now imagine what a woman who has ten children- three of who will be of the age to be breast-fed- can do for herself or her children besides just making sure they stay put. These women are also vulnerable to health issues.
Third, they will stay poor and deprived but among a lot of them, the traditions and systems are cemented in a way that is sometimes really feels you are banging your head against a wall (at least the head aches just as acutely after many conversations). They want to continue to beg and not find work, they want everything in God’s or our hands and they will not look beyond the next meal. I do not blame them but I will not try to white-wash the truth that this attitude makes our work bloody friggin difficult.
It is raining outside at 12:09 a.m. and my mind is in Parade Ground where scores of families and hundreds of children will be huddled, God knows where, God knows how and I am fervently hoping that morning comes with the sun’s warmth sooner that usual.
Disillusioning is this society where it is so easy to just look at all of this but not really see it.But I now understand that this many-faceted monster needs to attacked from all ends. So we will have a few of us working on teaching the kids, others on developing their curriculum, yet a few others collecting funds for operations and the remaining working with the families/adults.As Shaila said to the kids’ families today, the task is enormous and so full of hurdles that at this point it is honestly impossible to see the way through but it will be done. For the simple reason that it has to be done.