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The Story Of Chandni

In Dehradun, the areas of Gandhi Park, Clock Tower, Panchayati Mandir at Darshan Lal Chowk and Parade Ground are ones where street children are found in the largest numbers. Street Smart is now a settled program, a well-oiled machine if you will. Well, as much well-oiled as a school can be but the point is, lately we wanted to reach out to more children.

Child Helpline, the folks of the magic numbers 1098 joined hands with Street Smart and from September 01, 2011 everyday, our super-coordinator Vandita went with the Child Helpline team back to where we started from- Gandhi Park. Armed with colours, papers and pencils, the little group sat down to see if more children who do not know about Street Smart can be brought into the program.The best part of this initiative was that our Naina led the group and sat down to paint with the kids and help the others in managing the classes! OUR NAINA!! Remember the little scrawny brat who, eight months earlier would look for reasons for throw tantrums and walk away from the group? I could burst with pride right now.

At Gandhi Park, 3-4 of the older lot who eventually dropped out of Street Smart sat with the group and painted for a few days. However, the team later shifted to outside the Panchayati Mandir at the Darshan Lal Crossing. This area of Dehradun probably has the largest group of children begging but more importantly, sniffing glue. In fact, the need for expanding the program was felt when Shaila saw a few boys sniffing correction fluid literally right under the noses of a few policemen.

At Darshan Lal Crossing, sitting everyday with a group of children, Vandita notices a little child who sat a little way from them and begged from passers-by. The child was about seven years old and has only one hand and one leg. The other hand and other leg have been amputed but we still do not know why, when or how.

Vandita initiated conversation with this child who had short cropped hair and a radiant, ready smile. Everybody assumed the child was a boy and he too said his name was Sajan. Sajan was invited to join the group to draw but though he smiled beautifully all the time, he did not join them.

Then one day, Sajan’s mother came to talk to him and Vandita took the opportunity to ask her if the child could join with the other children and study/draw with them for an hour everyday. The mother refused point-blank  and so the matter was dropped for the next one month. Meanwhile, the hour-long lessons at Dilaram Crossing continued between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m..

Then one day, out of the blue, the same child asked for a paint brush and the team was elated! Vandita quickly went over with the supply of paints and paper and that day, they also learnt that the child is not a boy but a girl whose name is Chandni. Gradually, Chandni’s mother also began to open up to Vandita and asked her if the group could teach Chandni while they were at Darshan Lal Crossing everyday? Our coordinator agreed and thus began Chandni’s daily with slate and chalk.

Many passers-by stopped and appreciated the effort, several gave us books, stationery and other useful material. From sometime now, Chandni has been coming to Street Smart for two hours every day. She is incredibly bright and is the most beautiful child in this little heaven of sometimes-difficult-to-manage angels! 😀
Chandni’s mother comes to collect her daughter at 12:30 p.m. and is now looking to work somewhere. Anybody know anybody, do let one of us know.

Here are a few photos of Chandni’s at Street Smart:

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