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It is strange how one can feel so helpless and powerless being educated sometimes. I am at the Baba Ramdev Nagar Slums and I watched children who have no bright future given as a gift to them… dream and work towards making that a reality. It is Republic Day here in India (26th January, 2014) and we hoisted the National Flag, sang the National Anthem and celebrated this historic day by dancing and distributing sweets. This squatter settlement is one of the densest in the city and comprises of people from different regions and states. The students who have gone to school have never made it beyond the 8th grade in the past 20 years. It makes my heart bleed to know that I can’t do even half of what is expected of us as a society to help.

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There is always a major cause which we choose to close our eyes to and it is an issue which needs to be addressed today. Nivi befriended a little boy  (Dinesh) today who says he doesn’t go to school because his mother died and his father drinks a lot. His only caring relative is his grandmother and it takes his earnings to make their ends meet. He is 12 years old. Nivi spoke to a few people in charge and starting tomorrow, he will be back to school.

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This is one story of one individual in one Urban Deprived Community. There are thousands like this boy who work and learn the meaning of life the hard way. Are we even aware of the existence of an entire class of people who are living below the poverty line? Numbers and graphs don’t matter because as long as it isn’t causing a nuisance to us in any way, it is something which hasn’t gotten serious enough yet.

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We walk past them on an everyday basis and we choose not to look. The clothes and shoes we wear, the bags we own… ever wondered who makes them? Factories employ children as their labor is cheap and sometimes they aren’t even paid full wages even though they do twice the amount expected from them. We skip past the major stages of production and manufacturing and just enjoy the part we like… shopping from malls.

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I don’t really know what I expect people to do after they read my entries but I wish you would make a conscious effort to actually open your eyes to the world that is around you; the world which makes yours function. Think about the boy who is bringing milk to your doorstep before you even wake up or the little girl who stands in for her mother when she is ill or for the family who does your ironing down the street… What about the boy who is selling you smokes at the end of the road or the one who makes an extra effort to get you kulfi at a restaurant when he really needn’t have traveled 2 km to get you that…?! They are around you and me… every single minute of every day… Have you ever once stopped and asked if they go to school? We have such busy lives that we tend to forget… I know I do! I want to make a change to this uncaring world and I want you to join me in this attempt at making a difference.

Can we make a simple promise to ourselves that we will make sure that at least one child we see on the street in the future… starting today, see the likes of a school?! All it takes is for you to stop, stand and stare… Our country has a long way to go but we have to believe in a cause to make a difference?! Can you be that change?!

P.S. Thank you, Divya and Sasha for coming up with this brilliant idea of spending the day with them 🙂

Picture courtesy for the beautiful smiles that you see: Nivedita Menon (Nivi)

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