the boy in the red shirt

I would like to share two small almost negligible incidents that happened yesterday.

While showing the project to a visitor we stopped by our tiny Govindpuri primary centre. The room was so tiny that some of us remained outside where a bunch of young lads sat loitering. One of them wearing a bright red shirt seemed to be their leader. I asked him what he did and the answer was almost thrown my way: I just hand around. I persisted in my queries and this was what transpired. This young boy - about 15 or so - had dropped out of school in class V because according to him there was no teaching as teachers did not bother to teach. He then got a job but left it as the pay was not regular, and now he was looking for another one, just any kind of job would do.

Later in the day I went to the Greater Kailash M block market looking for some hairpins and rubber bands, ware usually sold by enterprising young men on the pavement in front of the shops. I, of course, had forgotten about the recent cleaning drive that had ensured the disappearance of all such stalls that had been there for as long as one remembered, sometimes passing from father to sons one had seen grow. The once bustling market looked strangely devoid of its soul. Refusing to give up I walked along around the market, knowing in my heart that I would find the elusive ware I sought. And then, as I was almost about to give up, I saw one of the familiar faces tucked in a shop doorway with a few trinkets on the ground. I approached him and asked him if he had the things I needed. He smiled and asked me to wait a minute and dashed to his car parked across the street and fished out the things I sought. He told me that all stalls had been cleared but he hoped that things would change soon.

I had once written a post about a young boy selling guide books in front of an exam centre and marvelled at the spirit of enterprise displayed by young Indians. It is sad to see that the new sealing and other suddenly discovered laws are hitting at the livelihood of the poor. Young people like the boy in the red shirt who dropped out of school not because of lack of ability or desire but because of abysmal teaching could easily find employment in the very small shops or road eateries that will be soon closed.

I am one to respect laws. But laws have to be applied from day one and not be circumvented for years by shady means and then resurrected to suit newfound interests. One cannot forget that between the two time has elapsed and realities changed.