While at the shelter, we were also able to get Naina, Sunita and Gautam to brush their teeth and they spent the rest of the day baring their tobacco-stained dentures!
I tried to bring in the group of kids from the happy little tents but here is the deal: half of them will come with me wherever I take them and the other half start screaming bloody murder as soon as they lay eyes on me! So while the medical check was happening at the shelter, I was outside RPMV, Dehra (the wonderful school where we have pitched our tents and where the migrant families are living) frantically trying to pacify a bunch of screaming, punching, wailing children while at the same time resisting the other half who were dragging my hand towards the main road! Oh, and did I mention I had walked all the way from Clock Tower to Yak Petrol Pump (it is not all that far but it was a gigantic effort for my lazy bones) and also had a very bad-tempered auto-wala hollering at me to either get in the vehicle with the kids this very instance or to f*** off. Testing 30 minutes, I will tell you!
But it was all OK after I ushered the kids back into the safety of the school and drew their sketches:
They were quite unimpressed, I may add but they were quiet so I am not complaining! Next, these kids with their parents are going to be leaving for Delhi very soon for about a month. The parents sell beads, necklaces or anything else they feel may sell (for example flags around this time) and they get their supplies from Delhi, where they also have extended families.
Shaila and I went down at the school and along with the principal there, talked to them about the possibility of leaving their children at the school while they continue with their nomadic existence. We explained everything- from the troubles on the street to how education will help. Mr. Uniyal went on to share the lengths to which he had gone to ensure a solid education for not just his own children but the 90-odd children of migrants who are currently living with him.
They won’t leave their children here yet. When they leave after January 26, we are sure as hell they will pack up the little ones and take off. But we also know that we have told them about this possibility and they know us a little now. So hopefully we will be able to eventually make the dent and get them to consider moving their kids into a stable, boarding school life.
Shaila and I later stopped at a few places to look for Rajkumar, and at Clock Tower we encountered a bunch of kids from Araghar who were flying high on whitener/solution/diluter. Now this group of toughies is something else. Our brief encounter with them made me realize that the work we are doing at Street Smart has been made infinitely easier by the fact that we have Gudakesh on our side. That boy took all the hard work off of us because he had gained the trust of these kids in the two odd years that he worked with them, before we arrived. This I realized while talking to the Araghar toughies. Gaining the trust of street children is probably one of the hardest things to do and our bunch cares about us now.
Happy realization! 🙂