Children’s song from Masoom (Click)
It is a week day afternoon at the Jaipur railway station. A passenger train pulls up and a young boy, somewhere between seven and ten, wearing a soiled shirt and shorts, gets down. He is unaccompanied and carries nothing beside a torn cloth bag. He looks around at the crowd milling around him and then gingerly walks towards the exit. The gait is slow, the expression on the face unsure, almost scared. As he saunters around, his eyes spot other children, his age, his size, adroitly getting in and out of coaches, carrying discarded mineral water bottles. The boy stands and stares and them musters courage to walk up to another boy, about his size, who seem somewhat accessible. The two strike up a conversation. As the minutes tick past, the young boy who has arrived in Jaipur looks a wee bit less fearful. He has aquaintances among the gang of “platform children” . The gang is not overtly friendly at the beginning but asks the newcomer to tag along with them to a place where he can have a bath, and a nutritious meal. The boy who introduces himself as Saddam readily agrees. Hours later, Saddam is barely recognisable. His face is scrubbed, his hair brushed, his clothes are clean and his lips break into a beaming smile as he plays carom with many of his newfound friends. The place: FXB India Suraksha’s daycare centre which offers runaways and other vulnerable children a refuge.
The centre exists to help children who are tossed into precarious circumstances through no fault of their own. It exposes them to a new way of looking at the world, equips them with skills and lets them make a choice. Many lives have been saved this way. It was started following an informal investigation- into the lives of children living on the platforms of the Jaipur train station.
(Adapted from Hopes Alive, Surviving AIDS and Despair, authored by Patralekha Chatterjee)
Photos by Patralekha Chatterjee