That, dear friends is the time when we carry out our usual straightening exercises. These exercises are usually done by Shaila but sometimes by Vandita too. The average straightening session involves the team sitting the children down and explaining to them (and not always calmly) the benefits we get out of this program as well as the benefits that they get out of it. This helps create a balance in the equation again so as to restore peace in the realm!
Every so often, our kids begin to assume that the program is being run for the benefit of the people/organization running Street Smart. And we cannot blame them. See, the kids often talk of “social workers” who visit slums and migrant settlements with government papers and wads of money. They give these slum dwellers or migratory families rupees X and then have them sign a bill that is often 3-4 times the amount given to the intended recipients. Therefore it is no surprise that our kids till date do not buy the “because every child has the right to a safe life, happy childhood and decent education” explanation.
So during times when the kids begin to feel they are doing the teachers and other staff members a favour by coming to Street Smart or by block printing, they also then begin to act like they are the high-lords of the kingdom of Rein Basera! They talk back to teachers, they threaten to walk out of the school if they are asked to study and resort to several such antics.
This time too, observing behaviour described above, Shaila and Melody (the founder of JOYN who has enabled our older kids to train in block printing and make a whooping rupees 150 everyday) sat the kids down with some figures. They explained the economics behind running street smart- from salaries to food expenses to the expenses borne by JOYN to have sheets block-printed at Street Smart and then brought over to the JOYN workshop to be converted to finished goods like greeting cards, diaries and others, the funds that we get and how they are never enough.
So when I walk in later in the day, I am surprised to see a very subdued and angelic group of children before me, quietly going about their respective work. As soon as I enter the hall at Rein Basera, I brace myself for about ten little kids to come running and jumping all over me. A few cling to me around my neck, others wrap their arms around my waist and start swinging and by then I am not even sure where the other kids are hanging off from! But today, I almost thought I had entered a parallel universe when I see them look up from their work briefly to say Namaste. Aah the bliss!
I was accompanied by my aunt who is visiting town and she carried some fruit juice and chocolate muffins. During an unusually quiet round of snacks and the beverage, I cleared my throat a couple of times to get somebody to say something. But they were all impressively repentant. Finally when I convinced Naina to break the silence, she says seriously “we were screamed at today”. When I ask why, she says “because we were acting smart” and breaks into her typical, evil grin! Thereon the whole group started talking and laughing about what had transpired earlier.
Yeah, the team managed to make the last dose of straightening, last a few hours this time. A new record, surely! 😀