Two days back, I was walking back from Street Smart to where my scooter was parked and I see two of our kids, Rajkumar and Sunita- who also happen to be siblings and are the only homeless ones among the bunch- walking around and sniffing diluter. I give several disapproving looks to the duo, who in turn decide to act like complete asses and declare that they will not attend Street Smart. “Showing me attitude, are we?”, I think to myself and acting a bigger ass, I tell them they should not step even close to Street Smart for as long as they are high on solution, even as a brand new bottle of diluter falls from the boy’s pocket. With that, I stomp away and forget about the episode before I reach home.Next day, I arrive at Astley Hall first among our bunch of members and volunteers, and find my first bunch of three kids sitting outside Mc Donald’s. I walk to them with a happy “Hello!” and in turn am given scathing looks. This shift from the usual greetings, hugs and high-five’s confuses me and I ask them to come with me for lunch, as is our routine. “We don’t want your food”, says Naina with her usual theatrics and turns her head away in the most filmy-style! “What did I do?” I ask, quite bewildered but she refuses to comment.So I turn around and walk ahead to be met with the same hostile glares and the same stubborn shake of heads though no words. “BUT WHAT DID I DO?”, I wail to no response. Thankfully, Penny arrived at the scene just then and was able to escort a few of the kids to lunch while Naina took me to a side and demanded if I had asked Sunita and Rajkumar to NEVER step into Street Smart.Turns out, the siblings chose to take offense at what I had said to them and declared civil disobedience movement of sorts against me! So they wont tell me what I did, wont hear what I have to say and go out of their way to declare love for Penny, Shaila and Sangamitra! Rajkumar presented this very nice mask to Penny, and later drew her a replica of it too!
Rajkumar had reportedly issued standard “your brother/mother/father will die if you attend Street Smart” warnings and so none of the kids want to eat with us and sit with us. The messenger of this fatwa-of-sorts was Naina, who could not fight our irresistible school and so came to paint with us. Now watching her paint and what lunch too, the rest of the brigade followed suit and so the Street was a bustling and happy place soon enough!
Two things came out of this silly episode: One, though we are all very strongly bonded, the kids still have the extremely strong group dynamics working and we are still the outsiders for them, as of now. But that is OK as long as they look out for us everyday, which they do.
Second, brilliant as all our kids are in most ways, they are incredibly daft on some fronts, as was evident by the episode. When a few of them persistently refused to join the group for painting, Shaila asked them what the matter was and they wailed “Rajkumar made us swear on our little brother that we would not paint and now if we paint with you our little brother will die”!! It was Shaila’s turn to glare at Rajkumar, who was discreetly painting off on one side!
Besides this and similar madness, a development is as follows: Students of Scholars’ Home, a school situated at Astley Hall have begun to join Street Smart after school and during the last fifteen odd minutes of our painting sessions. It is great fun and a few are becoming regulars while they wait for their respective auto-walas to arrive.
It is great fun and may even lead to more interaction among our kids and the Scholars’ Home kids, though we are not pushing it right now! I noticed today that there is an invisible wall- nah, actually it is quite tangible- among the kids’ groups. For example, when one of the Scholars’ Home girls came to join us, Bhola (one of our kids) looked at her, looked at me, smiled in an embarrassed sort of way and moved to the other table with his bunch! It may just as well be the fact that she was SHE but it was also definitely that fact that she was not one of them.
There are lots of these little things that happen through the Street Smart classes and they tell us so much about the kids and their way of thinking, though we still have a long way to go in understanding their complex little brilliant minds! 🙂