Monday, January 29, 2007

The girl at the station...















Name: Zaheera Begum
Age: 7
Activity: Begging at Pune Station

I was waiting at the Pune railway station to receive a friend, whiling away time poring into a magazine, when a feeble and shaky voice interrupted me. I raised my head to find a dainty little gal wearing a ragged frock asking me for money. I was struck by the glow in her face. She looked anything but a street beggar. Her eyes were radiant and lively. I smiled at her and she responded with a bigger grin. Her teeth were shining white. Her begging at the station was an antithesis to what her demeanor projected. I instantly took to her and we struck a conversation. She said she was from Hyderabad and that after her father died, her mother brought her to Pune. And that she had just started begging. She carried a heavy Hyderabadi accent and used words like “buka” in Hindi, meaning ‘book’, when she told me how she used to go to school in Hyderabad and how she gave away all her “bukas” to her neighbors before leaving Hyderabad. Soon she was surrounded by more beggars of her age and they kept giggling and talking amongst themselves. I found the others to be more disheveled and craggy than her. A clear indication that she was a new entrant into this dirty world. When prodded more, she started divulging more about the begging business. How a certain Baba brings them to the railway station every morning and leaves them at the station. And in the evening takes them back again in a local train to a place two stations away. All this clearly indicating an organized syndicate behind this. She also revealed how others had decent clothes at home, but are asked to wear torn and dirty clothes while begging. Before I could talk more with her, the train I was waiting for arrived. I clicked a few pictures of her and asked if I could meet her next time I came there. She gave me her coordinates at the station where she could be found. I bade her bye promising to come back to meet her again. “Jumme ke din aana”, was her parting shot. I never went back again.

I feel guilty whenever her thought crosses my mind. I feel guilty of using her sorry state on my blog to make it look dramatic. Just as many socialites and film stars do posing with such children, for whom charity is a fashion statement. I feel guilty of not having been able to get back to her as promised and confirm her whereabouts. I don’t know where she is today. I read in the newspapers about an anti child begging drive that started just two weeks after I met her. The article also alluded the fact about these children being forced into remand houses where they are left to fend for themselves. I wonder which of the two environments are better for them. I left for Bangalore the following week to join a new company. Today I only hope I could reach to her somehow, may be through this incredible medium called Internet. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I would request anyone who reads this post to please pass this to as many people, especially in Pune. Who knows I might get her back again.
Thanks in advance.
Ravi
9900569187
kumars.ravi@gmail.com

12 comments:

Himanshu Monday, February 26, 2007 10:24:00 PM  

After such encounters, most of us end up in writing blogs or discussing those stories with our friends. But have you ever thought that such incidents prove how irresponsible citizens we are. Had you been a responsible person or(to be more harsh) had that girl been a close of yours, you would have taken some action to bring that girl out of that sorry state. After hearing her, i think it was your moral duty to atleast lodge a police complaint against those buggers.
[There is a man in Tamil Nadu, who has filed the maximum number of PILs. This man is fighting for a number of causes and for a no of mindless Indians alone.]

Ravi Kumar Tuesday, February 27, 2007 7:17:00 AM  

yes i deserve this wrath of yours...my conscience would only ease once I get in touch with this girl again.. i had my best intentions of getting back to her...but we are all "busy" people you know.. I am trying my best to get to her... this story needs to be spread to as many people as possible..

preeti Friday, March 02, 2007 7:03:00 AM  

its indeed very shameful of not bein able to keep up to yr commitment u made with the girl.yr converstion with the girl might reflect on the soft corner that u possess for these unprivileged kids.but had u taken the pain to search for her after that day,yr concern would have paid off very well atleast for an innocent's rehabilitation.i hope she isnt waiting.i criusly wish u reach her as soon as possible.

Smita,  Friday, September 21, 2007 4:49:00 AM  

Hi Ravi,

I read your blog about the little girl child. I had a similar though a more heart wrenching experience.You can read it at http://graceunderfireflies.blogspot.com/.

Like they have 911 numbers in the US, there is a dedicated child helpline. It is Dus Nau Aath...i.e 1098. It is a government initiative. I have called up that line and have even got an update on what I reported. The only flipside to the whole thing was that I was not in a position to validate whether they were telling me the truth or not.
Their website is http://www.childlineindia.org.in/.

I totally understand you boarding the train. Sometimes the situation doesn't hit you hard, unless you have moved away from it. Then it gets you thinking and lament the fact that you did not do enough.

Arijit Wednesday, October 10, 2007 2:44:00 PM  

"Hatred is human but Indiferrence is Inhuman". Ravi I respect your emotions because you were not indifferent to that child on the station. Friends you have been chiding him for not returning to that girl ... but look at the flip side. Had he been just another person on the station oblivious of all that is happening around. He wouldn't have written this blog and he wouldn't have received such rebuke. Of course it would have been very great of him to lodge an FIR or PIL or whatever but what is important here is he could go ahead and talk to that girl, which may probably have given few moments of joy and hope to the destitute girl. Certainly action is more important than emotions but the first step to an action is the emotion. Ravi I really appreciate your spreading this emotion among people. Who knows any one of us or anybody who reads this blog may come forward and turn that emotion into action. But let's do our part let's keep these emotions kindled in our hearts. This is what makes good people and that is what makes a great nation.

Sanjay Saturday, March 15, 2008 6:05:00 PM  

Can i ask all those people who are asking Ravi to do an FIR or a PIL.Now because all of you know that this is happening thru his blog you can act instead of asking Ravi............
It is always easier said than done...
good work Ravi for bringing this issue..

Banibrata Dutta Tuesday, November 04, 2008 1:33:00 AM  

Darn heart-wrenching account... and you atleast had the courage to write about a promise (thus far) unkept.

I wonder what the PIL or FIR would achieve for the girl in question, though it may be 1 step in the right direction, from a more general perspective. The young girl would lose touch with her remaining family, will be put in a remand home as noted, will have to under-go maltreatment / abuse ...

This post had made me realize that we humans react differently to people in the same state of misery, based on how "cute", "presentable" and apparent-background they have. I am not sure, I myself would have felt so bad, or connected, had it be just an ordinary beggar, with runny nose, not seemingly from a good background, on whom misfortune had befallen recently.

Thankfully, inspite of all our biases and inadequacies, post like this does make us stop and think for a moment for these unfortunate kids, and that something deliberate, something concrete needs to be done for them.

So, thanks for the post.

Sunayana,  Tuesday, November 04, 2008 4:19:00 AM  

Hi Ravi,

I like your honsety in admitting a few things - promises unkept etc.

But i would like to say something -i hope i do not sound very harsh, but it is just a suggestion:
may be you would not get back to this girl at all, dont shut your eyes, where ever you are, kids of the same state exist, kids who are pushed on streets to beg so that their elders can eat that day's meal, i suggest why dont you take up improving the state of those kids, keeping this account in your mind? imagine, you are indeed helping that girl whom you met in Pune, atleast with this you would be helping more than you had even imagined.

I say this because once the lesson learnt its easier to put into actions next time before you commit the same mistake again :)

Ofcourse, you would definitely feel better and happy by the end of the day.

Best Wishes,
Su

Sunayana Tuesday, November 04, 2008 4:20:00 AM  

Hi Ravi,

I like your honsety in admitting a few things - promises unkept etc.

But i would like to say something -i hope i do not sound very harsh, but it is just a suggestion:
may be you would not get back to this girl at all, dont shut your eyes, where ever you are, kids of the same state exist, kids who are pushed on streets to beg so that their elders can eat that day's meal, i suggest why dont you take up improving the state of those kids, keeping this account in your mind? imagine, you are indeed helping that girl whom you met in Pune, atleast with this you would be helping more than you had even imagined.

I say this because once the lesson learnt its easier to put into actions next time before you commit the same mistake again :)

Ofcourse, you would definitely feel better and happy by the end of the day.

Best Wishes,
Su

sweety Wednesday, April 29, 2009 9:50:00 PM  

I feel ashamed of myself tooo i left a world of helping others and helping myself now...

Lakshmi Thursday, April 30, 2009 7:13:00 AM  

Ravi,

Thanks for this post..appreciate you writing this..its imp to sensitise people abt these issues and I think you have done that to me

yashvir Friday, February 04, 2011 3:17:00 AM  

Hope if things were in our hands. If we could bring this to an end. But sometimes we can just hope, think and do nothing.
Ravi, you could help one such child or two or three. But there are thousand such kids who are forced in this business. I wish if we people can come together with a group something like NGOs and contribute some efforts to provide these children proper food, cloth, shelter and of-course education.

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