‘Now, study­ing has a dif­fer­ent mean­ing. Study­ing means I’m learn­ing to be­come a gentleman’



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-


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.


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