‘There is a street­light un­der which I study in the evening’



A ROOF over his head is a lux­ury that he craves as Kumar Pil­lai hides from the sun near his fam­ily’s makeshift tent. He lives near the busy Western Ex­press High­way and is part of the “fly­over pop­u­la­tion”. Most kids drop out of school and help their fam­i­lies by sell­ing lemon­ade and flow­ers.

Kumar’s brother Satya, 20, is the fam­ily’s sole bread­win­ner. Satya works at a five-star ho­tel and earns 6,000 per month. Their mother Beem Bai was born with a med­i­cal de­fect in her leg and fa­ther Shan­mugam Pil­lai stopped work­ing five years ago when he had an ac­ci­dent at a con­struc­tion site. “Ev­ery­body sug­gests we should put Kumar to work, but we want to im­prove his life,” says Shan­mugam. “I could not study be­yond Class V, but I want to make sure he does. His destiny should be dif­fer­ent from ours.”

Kumar has just com­pleted Class VII from Nityanand Marg Kan­nada School. In Mum­bai, most BMC schools are till Class VII, af­ter which stu­dents are forced to at­tend pri­vate schools if they wish to con­tinue ed­u­ca­tion.

“My school is lo­cated 45 min­utes from where I live,” says Kumar. “Ev­ery day, I take a bus to school and it costs me 10 each way. Once school gets over at 5.30 pm, I come back and help my mother with house­work. Dur­ing hol­i­days, I don’t work be­cause our house is de­mol­ished al­most ev­ery two weeks. We have to pack up ev­ery­thing with al­most no no­tice. Last month, they came and broke our jhopad­patti dur­ing my final ex­ams and I lost a lot of my notes. There is a street­light un­der which I study in the evening. Though I have passed, I did not check my mark­sheet, as I know it will be poor.

“I like go­ing to school. Sir log achhi baat karte hain. We are given dal, chawal, khichdi and bis­cuits. Now, I will have to try and get ad­mis­sion in a pri­vate school for Class VIII. I hope the fee is not very high and my brother can af­ford it. I want to study till Class X, and then work in an of­fice.”


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