Street children


Time: around 9 am. Day: Sunday. Place: Jamal. Description: Perpetual commotion with honking micro vans, bickering conductors, utterly annoyingly patient drivers and feebly strained impatient passengers like us, throwing frequent glances over our watch, hoping against hope when the driver would jam his foot on the accelerator pedal, and few irascible ones hollering at the drivers. Surely enough amidst the hustle and bustle, popping out here and there, are the inevitable street children.

When you are helplessly relying on the other person to get you some place on time, the least thing you want is being beleaguered by one of those imploring, insistent street children. When already driven to the point of insanity waiting for the vehicle to start, with the irksome street children falling all over one's foot, the sole thought that reverberates within my head is "hey… shoo… shoo… now don't you even dare touch my foot. I don't exist for you and you don't exist for me. Get away from here".

The other day, I was confronted with such a situation. I tried to avoid any interaction with one of such street children, pulling back my leg below the seat as far as possible.  I was secretly elated that I was sitting next to the window where the kid couldn't reach my foot. However a lady, seated beside me, wasn't quite thinking the same line of thought as I was.

To the kid's infinite pleas for a rupee, she responded, 'Look kid, don't beg when you can work with the two hands you have. I shall give you 10 rupees if you come with me to work at my home.' Most of us have often applied the same trick and the kids run away on that remark. She must've presumed the kid would throw up a wry smile and vanish! To my surprise and I guess to hers as well, the kid nodded affirmatively and sat obediently on the front seat for almost 5 minutes. Eventually the conductor dragged him out and the van left.

Had she really meant what she'd said, she could've stopped the conductor. But then again, we are just everyday people; we are not Mother Teresas, are we? We've got our own woes and problems to solve. Instead of putting up a pretense, I could have given the boy a rupee. Though it's against my principles to give money to such street children since it only encourages them to beg further, I find it hard myself to reconcile the ambivalent thoughts of altruism and rationality. In those times I often recall one of my highly socially inclined teachers telling us, "I play my part by giving those kids money, and it's up to them to make a wise use of it…." But who is going to tell them to be wise, when they are sniffing away dendrite? Do they even see the line separating wrong and right, when rummaging through the garbage? With the emergence of a 'new' Nepal, one can only wish the street children's plight were well addressed. (TKP, March 13, 2007)

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