An Innocent Wish List

Cover - Street child - Kolkata

Some experiences change our perspectives on issues which we might have been reluctant to address or might simply have been ignoring. Such encounters stir up something within us which fortunately helps us to wake up from our deep slumber of indifference. My chance meeting with Rani was such an experience.

In one of my earlier articles I wrote about the unloved street children in Indian cities. And I would say that the views and opinions expressed in that article were an upshot of my chance meeting with Rani. In this article I will simply narrate about my chance meeting with Rani and all that she told me in a matter of few minutes. Simple wishes but heart touching.

I met Rani in Connaught Place (CP), which is located in the heart of New Delhi. It is not just the city’s key financial and business centre but also the centre for contemporary art galleries, cinema halls, high class restaurants, pubs and showrooms.

Connaught Place is always crowded with visitors, busy either shopping or just chilling out and strolling around. Thus such places are also full of street children and beggars trying their best to extract some alms from the visitors.

I was sitting on a bench in Connaught Place and was waiting for a friend. I was watching two street children doing their best to get some money from a married couple. The couple looked annoyed and did all they could to ignore them. After a while one of those kids saw me watching her and came walking towards me. The moment she reached me, she started saying, in a parrot-like fashion, “Give me money; I am hungry”. However, at the same time, she seemed totally disinterested in the words she was saying.

I found her very cute and asked her to sit beside me. But she refused and kept asking for money. I gave her a twenty rupee note. The moment she held the money in her hands, a bright smile glowed on her face. I think she was just expecting a few coins.

Immediately, she came and sat beside me. I was surprised and asked her if she didn’t have to go and ask other people for money. Her answer was, “My target for the day is complete. I can now do whatever I feel like.” I never knew that these young street children also have targets like adults working in marketing firms.

However, I could guess what she meant. She was likely working for some people who employ children for begging. Because no child would like to spend their day begging if there is nobody forcing them to do so.

I wanted to know more about her and started asking her questions but at first she did not reply as she was so busy counting the money she had collected on that particular day.

Her little hands, covered with dirt, looked really cute as she was counting the coins and rupee notes. And I found it even more cute when I realized that she hardly knew how to count.

I offered her an ice-cream and this time I saw a brighter glow on her face when she repeated the word “Ice-cream” enthusiastically.  She started savouring the ice cream and after a few minutes told me that she loves ice cream so much that she would beg the whole day, if she were given an ice cream every day. Her statement pricked my heart and I experienced a sharp pang of guilt.

I asked her about what she liked and what she wished for. By this time, she began to show some interest in talking to me and started telling me about herself and her wishes, which actually left me in a pensive mood for the next few days.

Her name is Rani. She does not know anything about her father and her mother died some years back. Since then she has been living with other street children. She does not know how old she is. She begs from noon till night. At times she does succeed in collecting more money than the target she is given but she usually fails in achieving her targets. When this happens, she is beaten. And she told me that she gets battered very often. But she refused to tell me anything about the people who beat her.

She loves playing with dolls but has not had any to play with for many years. She had just one doll but she lost it. She wants to have a doll like those that the hawkers sell on the streets of Connaught Place. She wants to wear beautiful dresses like other kids, especially the ones with frills. She described to me in detail the dress that she would like to have and seriously my heart melted. She also wants to wear lipstick and earrings. She wants to wear high heels like the women who come to Connaught Place.

She longs to see how a car looks like from inside. She would love to travel by bus and go somewhere. But she does not know where to go. She wants to wear a school uniform but does not want to study. She wishes to eat a meal in one of the nearby restaurants. She pointed out one of the restaurant and told me that she had heard from one of her friends that the food in that restaurant is really delicious. A tourist had offered to pay for a meal for her friend in this particular restaurant. It was a McDonald’s outlet.

By this point she had finished her ice cream and she looked at me and told me that she had to leave. I asked her to wait so that I could buy her a meal from McDonald’s. She started jumping up and down with happiness and excitement. The moment she got the paper bag with the meal, she smiled and told me that she wanted to share it with her friends and rushed towards some other street children.

I felt very happy to see her excitement and happiness. I realised that just a little amount of love and kindness can really make a huge difference to a child who lives on the streets.

Credits

Image Title Author License
Cover - Street child - Kolkata Cover – Street child – Kolkata Biswarup Ganguly CC BY-SA 3.0

Discussion (One Comment)

  1. very heart touching <3 Many times we just see them as "the street children", forgetting that each one of them has their own story and their own wishes and struggles.