We haven’t seen much of Maya lately. I’m sure she’s hiding from the 111-plus temperatures assaulting us here in Delhi. There’s always a bag in the car for her for when we do see her and it’s lovingly packed by Lalawith an outfit, a toy, a book and non-perishables. Last week we saw Maya take the bag to a group of children who were waiting nearby in the shade of an overpass. She shared the contents.
You know that we’ve struggled with thinking of ways that we can help Maya. One of the things I wanted to do was learn more about street kids and the lives they live. I contacted an organization that runs a group home and I toured areas around the Delhi train station which is often the entry point into the city for children who run away from home. This organization has “contact points” set-up throughout the city. These are locations where kids can come for medical attention and help. This is the first step in reaching out to kids and convincing them to either return to their families, if they have any – or to renounce the “freedom” of the streets and agree to live in a group home. This isn’t always an easy thing to do because I learned that so many of these kids sniff glue, a cheap and easily available high. Sniffing glue dulls pain from injuries and illness as well as curbs hunger. It’s also highly addictive.
Street kids fall into one of three categories: runaways escaping poverty, families who beg together, and gangs run by pimps. Most kids on the streets are boys. Girls usually cut their hair short and try to disguise themselves to avoid being picked-up by police and returned home or being pimped for prostitution. There’s plenty to run from if you are a particularly spunky girl – many village girls are married off young and/or forced into domestic work by age 10.
The other interesting thing I learned was that street kids love to watch Bollywood and Hollywood movies and that they save their earnings to go to the movies on Friday afternoons – often, en masse to low-rent theatres. This is the delight of their rugged weeks and they get to dream dreams that deliver on the silver screen.
Here’s a roomful of boys who live in a group home that I visited. They spend their day in this room having lessons, meditating, eating, napping, learning karate, etc. As you can see, there are no chairs, no desks, no sofas, no toys, no books, no paper – nada! It’s a confined but safe life. (I think…)
Of Maya’s life, I have no answers. I’m guessing that she begs with her family or a group of families. There is some organization to the beggars at her street corner and she appears and disappears with regularity. More as this story unfolds….
On topic, here’s another facility that I visited with Lala’s class yesterday. This is a school run by a local NGO (non-government organization) to educate the poorest citizens of Delhi. These kids live in a nearby slum, often in families with four or five kids all stuffed into one sweltering room, as described to me by a math teacher at the school. Lala’s 5th grade class came here to meet the kids and to help them practice English. In this lesson, our children shared books they had written about their daily routine, and in turn, the Indian children made their own books to share. This is an English medium school, which means that all lessons are taught in English. See Lala reading to her partners:
I wandered off to peak around the school. Here’s the kindergarten class. They had 38 students squeezed into this classroom. Not all fit into the picture:
Boys far outnumber girls in this school which is a reflection of the abominable status of girls in India. The director of the school told me that it takes 9000 Rupees, or about 200 dollars to send one child to school for a year. I cringed when I thought about how I take out 10-thousand Rupees from the ATM to get me through the week. On the drive back to Lala’s school, we talked about how we might help at least one little girl get an education. The nice thing about this is that we could meet her and follow her progress. Again, stay tuned…
I thought this little scene was interesting. While poking around the school I noticed two women sitting on the ground in the center courtyard. I was curious about them, and as I watched quietly from a corner, I saw this little boy give a few coins to one lady and walk off with a piece of what appeared to be toasted bread:
I’m melting… It’s been 111 degrees Fahrenheit every day this week and temps may rise to 113 by saturday. Open air Tuk-Tuks are the way to travel if you don’t have your own wheels. Taxis often don’t have AC or only pretend to have AC and you pay extra for that pretending. Tuk-Tuks wreak havoc on the hair but when it’s this hot, who cares? Short of Japanese-powered air conditioning, moving air is better than over-paying for nothing and sweating in places you never knew had sweat glands.
At the end of most days, this is how we survive – we strip and dip. I love this photo because Lala and I are caught teasing each other… you can see it in our expressions. I won’t tell you what we were saying, but Lala comes from a long line of shit-talkers on both sides of the family!