March has really lived up to being a festive time. We began by celebrating the return of Sunita, Rajkumar’s younger sister. She returned from a two month de-addiction trip to Kerala with Julie. In her excitable manner she tells us she learnt to swim and dive in “salt water” and spent a lot of time on the beach eating with Julie…and most importantly away from correction fluid/whiteners.
The reunion of brother and sister was a tearful one and we hope we do not need to once again rescue Sunita from a near death addiction to this cheap “drug” of choice for many such street children.
Sunita in red, sits besides Deepu rocking those sunglasses and flanked by Prince from behind.
We then went on to celebrate holi in our own Street Smart fashion: with a stereo playing our favourite and latest Bollywood tunes to which everyone danced for what seemed like hours and concluding by gorging on gol gappe/panipuri to our heart’s content. We all let our hair down, most of all the staff who were most enthusiastic to admit that the last time they had enjoyed a good music & dance session at Street Smart was over Lohri in January.
Chandni, a double amputee, has been attending the Street Smart program since September 2011 for two hours every day. She was found begging opposite the Panchyati mandir and had already been begging at that spot for five years before she began her journey with us. I’m sure some of you may have even seen her there already. Her mother tells us that there were many people who came forward with the wish to help her but Chandni’s father was never exceptionally keen.
Her father is a day labourer therefore making Chandni the households sole constant earner. In a day she would earn Rs. 500 and her importance is evident as her mother never denies Chandni her simple pleasures such as juice and packets of Kurkure (chips/crisps) when she so desires. Chandni knows her importance.
She’s is 10 years of age, the eldest of five siblings, has very short hair, is frequently mistaken for a boy at first sight, and is missing her right leg from the knee down and her left arm from the elbow. What we’ve discovered however, is that she’s a happy, audacious girl who’s constantly singing and dancing to Bihari songs at the drop of a hat. We would have never imagined what a wonderful dancer she actually is. What’s more, she’s a very clever child and learns at a faster rate than our other children. She’s never disinterested, be it art or the alphabet that one is teaching: it’s always a pleasure to see her learn. Her presence can fill an entire room: she is not one to go unnoticed.
Since the beginning of March her mother has agreed to allow Chandni to attend our program for a longer period, between 10 am to 2 pm. This is brilliant news. But March holds yet another reason for us to celebrate: three days ago we received her prosthetic leg!
The NIVH very kindly provided Chandni with a free prosthetic leg and it’s arrival has been
great FANTASTIC! Two days in and she was already found dancing and singing with her prosthetic limb, while Vandita strummed the guitar and the rest clapped her on.
Just out of interest it should be mentioned that contrary to what I believed, the doctor who examined Chandni at the NIVH said that the reason for her missing limbs is due to incomplete development. If one looks closely at Chandni’s limbs, one can see a single nail on the tip of each of her underdeveloped limbs which is indicative that this was not caused by abuse but rather some other phenomena.
The program has also had an upgrade with the addition of chairs and tables for the children to sit and write on. I say “upgrade” not because they lacked earlier but because it makes a psychological difference to the children whether they study sitting on mats or whether they study sitting up in what feels more like a school set-up. There seems to be a greater sense of discipline now. Let this attitude grow…as we step into more academic developments which will give these children greater opportunities and also make their learning experience a lot more fun.