TODAY -

The heart that reserved for destitute kids

Rabin Prasad Kalita *



They picked up recyclable materials from the street, garbage dump, market or in trash bin. They were a group of four minor rag pickers between 7 to 10 years of age meet at a point and starts picking rags in the railway colony. They picked up anything which fetched them money such as paper, cardboard, plastic, iron scrap, tin containers, and bottles.

Nupur the eldest one helped other three minors to identify the retrievable bits and pieces. She walked along them with a rod tied with a piece of magnet to fish out for salvageable iron bits. Their extreme poverty forced them to enter in this profession to stay alive.

Arpan, a Vivekananda School student seldom see them roving and collecting scraps from unhealthy plunk. Seeing them wandering all the day in search of rags slinging huge plastic sacks on their petite shoulders out cried his tiny heart in pain. They went through a very tough time in searching all over to eke out their livelihood.

He scrupulously watched their untidy and dirty clothes, careless hairs standing by side of the road. Very often he saw them meeting with injuries and falling sick due to the toxic substances and sharp material while they scrounged with bare hands as well as bare feet.

It is also a hard truth that, no credibility is given to these deprived rag pickers who play a vital role in waste management system especially in urban area.

Sometimes he broke into tears by seeing them consuming food-waste sitting together collected from the pile of waste. Gradually he developed a sense of help towards them. Every so often, he would bring toffees for them or biscuits bought out of his pocket money. He loved to talk with them and was eager to know their wellbeing.

Thus he became an identified face who ardently thought about them. Seeing him at a distance they would run shouting Arpanda- Arpanda and asked for anything which he could provide them to eat. Soon they get his nods; they would hop and shout with joy and accompanied him to the shop.

Hardly they found him empty handed while he was on the way to his school. Those poor children also felt delighted to meet Arpan daily at a fixed time.

Sometimes with his diminutive head was indoctrinating them to go and attend the nearby government school where there is a proviso of mid-day meal. They said, of course they went for a few days to the school but stopped in-between because it was hard to survive with a scanty single meal for whole the day. Hence, they decided to continue to pick rags and sell those to the middle men for their living.

He observed that they didn’t have much attention from their families even they don’t heed to their parents’ advice as they met their own expenditure themselves. Very often they spent their night sleeping on pavements or in shacks because of their weak links with their family.

One day while Arpan was on the way to his home, he saw three of them were involved in fighting except Nupur, who was trying to disperse them off standing in-between. The cause of the fight was about the decision of a bit valuable find amidst a mound of rubbish which was claimed individually by all three pickers.

While they saw Arpan was coming near to them, the fight was almost clogged and all of them approached him for a convenient solution as to who should own the find. It was probably an earnest respect paid to Arpan which he earned over a period of time of cordial closeness with them.

Occasionally Arpan used to call them to collect some reusable used clothes and foot wears which were earlier worn by him and his sister. Therefore, he informed his father Siddhant about his promise to help those destitute kids. A couple of days later when Nupur and her colleagues came up to their railway colony quarter, Siddhant greeted them with some palatable dishes along with available supports as assured by Arpan.

Seeing them leaving his home happily, Siddhant‘s heart got fulfilled with enormous peace and tranquility. At the same time, he was equally concerned about their future too.

After a few years of empathetic association along with these street children, Arpan had to move out of the city to Chandigarh for his higher study. And thus their everyday flocking with Arpan was almost come to an end from meeting in person.

By the time, the older one among the three boys grew physically enough to ride a tricycle and started collecting as an itinerant buyer directly from households, shops and offices. Though he started it independently, but his relation with other three guys was not yet over.

As they grew up, their behavior as well as the view to see by themselves started changing. They began to chew and smoke tobacco along with country liquor with many other colleagues of the same community without getting interdicted by any one.

One evening teenage Nupur walked up alone to Siddhant’s home with shaky legs under the influence of liquor in search of Arpanda. Siddhant astonished to see her in that sleazy condition. Although she was boozed up, yet she maintained her prudence while enquiring about Arpan.

When she knew from his father that Arpan stays far away from them, she said “okay uncle, please convey our good wishes to him and also tell that we were remembering him”. Concurrently, she mumbled herself “lest Arpanda would have been here today”. Before Siddhant would speak anything, she walked out wobbling all the way. Siddhant stood still for a couple of minutes looking at her until she was swallowed up by the dark.

That evening found him in an awkward and helpless state of mind which banged him with many unanswered questions. There are thousands of Nupurs all over who are exposed to addiction, physical abuse, eve teasing and exploitation by the outsiders. Teenage girls are most unsecured amongst the street children while they are in search of their basic needs like food and shelter.

Thereafter she was not traceable for almost a year. One fine morning suddenly she got appeared with her sparkling bridal silk sari accompanied with a smart young man into Siddhant’s home. Siddhant got surprised to see her smiling face after a long span of audio-visual separation between them.

This time too, before he opens his mouth to speak, she and her just married bridegroom touched his feet and asked for blessings. Siddhant brought them in and blessed for their long union of conjugal life and offered some cash as a token of love. Then they begged a bye with a heart full of celestial happiness and left them off holding each other’s hands firmly to start a beautiful nuptial life.


* Rabin Prasad Kalita wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a resident of Guwahati and can be reached at rabin1966(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 02, 2019.



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