There is so much going on at Street Smart that I have been drawing a blank since the past few days, each time I sit down to update our Diaries here. We have been moving forward in our work in terms of meeting with different sets of people to discuss possible physical premises where Street Smart may run, exploring the different avenues for setting up our children after putting them through a de-addiction program in collaboration with one of the NGOs here, discussing potential tie-ups with businesses that are willing to work with slum communities so that we can offer our kids and their families with alternatives to begging when the time comes and of course, running the mad house that is Street Smart School every day!
I will share two highlights of the past few days here. Nijaat is an NGO here that runs a residential de-addiction facility for men over the age of 18 years and they have very sportingly said that they will spare one of their rooms for minors for a few months until we have a more permanent solution for minors who are severely addicted to substances. So we have decided to paint the room with bright colours, have nice posters and pictures and curtains put up, have a whole collection of Disney movies sent for the children and basically make it nice and happy and warm for the kids who go in to stay there. The first kids to go to Nijaat for treatment are Rajkumar (15) and Sunita (8). They are siblings and sleep in the lane behind Orient Cinema since they have no family to go to. The duo is severely addicted to solution and Shaila got their blood tests done and I am happy to share that we have the go-ahead to send them to rehab. We do not expect the kids to spend time calmly up at the rehab, return all cleaned up and also stay clean thereafter. Hell, we don’t expect them to agree to go to Nijaat tomorrow, as per the decided schedule! But we do know that this is the start towards creating a de-addiction residential facility for children. Nijaat has no experience of working with minors and we have all the experience of working with minors but no experience of working towards de-addiction. So it is a bit of slippery land that both the organizations are venturing into but we hope to learn as we go. As Shaila said today, one wonders sometimes if in such situations a bad decision is better than no decision and the answer is: yes it is.
The other important highlight that I wanted to share is the inclusion of Suraj in our group. Suraj is one of ‘them’- he is about 21 years old I would say and is Naina’s older brother (remember, Naina is our 11 year old brat who is also the ring leader among this bunch). Suraj is a huge asset because of many reasons. One, the rest of the kids are shit scared of him and it helps to have somebody around who can boss them around, literally pick them up from the street and drop them unceremoniously in the middle of our painting lesson! With him, we don’t have to worry about the kids taking offense because as I said, he is one of them. Suraj is also the guy who manages parking outside Orient cinema hall and as such, he is always around to watch our girls’ back all day long. However, Suraj is prone to bully tactics and I have to run after him throughout the Street Smart lesson to make sure he takes care of the kids and does not tie the hands of one of them, or dangle another by the legs! I almost started to despair today when he tied Sunita’s hands during lunch and insisted she eat her rajma chawal with both hands tied while he guffawed at the sight that was unfathomably hilarious to him! But these bouts of bullying aside, Suraj is a good kid and is definitely an asset to Street Smart!