of dreams.. and broken zips


as children we have all dreamt of what we would want to be when we grow up... i remember wanting to be an air hostess, a nuclear scientist, an astronaut and god knows what else..

even slum kids have dreams: they often want to be teachers, doctors.. even actors.. and sometimes they even say 'we want to be like you'.

the young boy in the picture is Sanju. His father ran away with another woman. Sanju has two younger sisters. Deepa the middle one has been sent to the village. Manju, two and half, comes to our creche. Sanju's mom cleans homes and leaves at 6 am returning late in the evening, leaving Sanju is charge of getting little Manju to school.

Sanju is an angry young man who does not know how to handle his feelings. He used to come to project why but was a difficult child to control. He stopped coming and hangs around in the street in spite of our best effort. In the afternoon he does go to school but that also is not regular. And in the evening he often has to bear the frustration of a tired mother, who often hears complaints about her neglected kids.

This morning I spent time talking to him, wanting to know how I could get him to come back and study. In the course of our little chat, I asked him what he wanted to become when he grew up. After some thought he mumbled 'mend chains'. I was perplexed and asked him to explain. He did: Sanju wants to become a zip-repair man (there is one who roams giri nagar repairing people's broken zips)!

I was filled with immense sadness faced with this child and his tiny dream, his one life ambition. I just sat long after he left lost in my own thoughts. How could the life of a man who wandered through streets holding a few zips and lugging a shoulder bag become the ideal of a smiling boy. At an age where one can dare dream of the impossible, what makes a child stop at something so insignificant.. how suffocating and sad must his life be... what did he see in this man who goes around shouting in the street hoping for someone to call him so that he could earn a few rupees... was it escape from the life of a surrogate parent when one wants to jump and play with others, or from the embarassment of having a little sister clinging to you..

Sanju has to be given back his childhood and te right to dream big, but how?

that is the question.