Will ‘Azadi’ mean a meal for me, ask street kids

August 13th, 2011 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) Dressed in a worn-out shirt and shorts, Rodu, all of 11, hopped past swank sedans and intimidating SUVs at a busy traffic intersection in south Delhi. Clutching a bunch of tiny Indian flags and waving them mindlessly, he pored through window panes, straining to find a potential buyer.

Independence Day for him, like most other street children, is no more than an occasion to have better sales of their merchandise.

Smiling, pleading, the kids do all they can to cajole people into buying their wares. Things become a wee bit easier before the I-Day, considering the patriotic mood of the public.

Suresh, a lanky 10-year-old, confidently walks up to a car and points to his plastic flags, saying “Ek le lo (please buy one)”. The window promptly rolls up.

While not all may be lucky - like nine-year-old Sheru who could not sell a single merchandise until noon Friday - their level of enthusiasm is simply unbeatable.

“That’s all right…abhi to poora din baaki hai (the whole day is left),” Sheru smiled.

According to civil society activists, there are over 50,000 street children in Delhi alone.Many make ends meet by selling knicknacks on the road. Besides flags, some of these children also sell decorative pieces with tricoloured motifs which can be placed on car dashboards.

Seven-year-old Sangita, who walks barefoot, has a tinge of desperation in her voice as she asks around, “Aap logey? (will you take one?)”, but the smile remains intact.

The day starts early for the older children who purchase the tricoloured flags and other merchandise in bulk from the wholesale market in Sadar Bazar, central Delhi.

They work for almost 12 hours every day.

“By the end of the day, we make about Rs.20-30, just enough to fill our stomachs,” said 15-year-old Nandini. “We eat from roadside eateries.”

Ask them about the significance of the flag they hold in their hands and you see a dozen puzzled eyes.

Suddenly Nandini rattles off what seems like a mechanical answer: “Jhanda uncha rahe hamara, hamara Bharat mahan! (let our flag fly high, my country is great).” Others look at her with surprise.

For these children, freedom is the day they and their families have a complete meal.

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