‘Now, studying has a different meaning. Studying means I’m learning to become a gentleman’
SIDHU YADAV | 17 | STUDENT
I WAS born in Gaya, Bihar. When I was three, my father got into a big fight. So he took me and my brother Sidhant and ran away to Patna. My mother had died when I was even smaller. I don’t even remember her face. She was murdered. So I used to live with my father, who worked as a coolie at the railway station. My father was an alco-
SARVODAYA VIDYALAYA, JOR BAGH, NEW DELHI
holic and used to waste all his money on drinks. I didn’t like that, so I ran away to Delhi with Sidhant. I goaded him to run, saying Delhi was a fantastic city. I was six at that time and Sidhant was nine.
When we arrived at the New Delhi railway station, three women from a shelter approached me asked me where I came from. I was scared to tell them anything because my father had warned us that strangers steal your eyes, heart and lungs. But these women were saying that they would take us to a shelter. I was scared but I still went. I lived and studied there for a while. But I missed my father, so I ran away on my own and was back at the station. The very next day, a cop caught me and put me in a government shelter at Alipur. I was enrolled into a government school but I wasn’t learning much. After five years there, they were planning to transfer me to a bigger shelter. I had heard stories of abuse that happened there, so I ran away before they could transfer me.
I was back at the railway station and soon went back to my old shelter. When I arrived there, I discovered that my brother had left that shel- ter. But I stayed on. A year later I was transferred to Tara, a shelter in Delhi.
Earlier, I was studying in the National Institute of Open Schooling ( NIOS) system. It’s not exactly a school. You just study on your own and whenever you have doubts, you go to the centre on the weekend to clear them. It was like a puppet school; a school only in name. It was very difficult. In chemistry class, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just looking at the words and numbers on the book and copying them down. I was in Class X but my real academic level was about Class V.
I knew that with NIOS, I didn’t have a chance. They’d say, “Oh, he’s from the open school.” I wanted to prove that I’m as good and as normal as they are. So I thought let’s get mainstreamed. In
order to get into a regular school, I had to catch up on six years learning in the past three years at Tara so that I could get through the admission test for the Sarvodaya government school where I have now made it to Class XII. Catching up so many levels was difficult. Sometimes, I felt it was a really hopeless exercise. I was lost. Now, studying has a different meaning. It means I’m learning to become a gentleman.
Last year, I was part of the group from Tara who went to the French embassy to meet the ambassador. I asked him questions like“Why do you like your job? Because to be an ambassador, you have to keeps miling in front of people even when you are exhausted.” He was really impressed because I was asking him about his feelings.
With education, you can really defend yourself. It’s not just about earning money. There are many kinds of abuses — emotional abuse, physical abuse, etc. You understand that there has been discrimination. You know you have the right to go to court. If you are not educated, how do you know that and how can you defend your self? So you become stronger and stronger with education.
If I had a chance to meet the education minister, I would like to tell him to designa system where every child has a chance to study. In the schools that I’ve been to, the teachers would come late and ask students to go and get tea and samosas. They just pass their time. So the minister must check the system. His job is not finished with speeches. He has given promises to the people and that should be there in reality.