This picture was taken this morning. Diwali morning! For this young rag picker it was just another day. He had loaded his rags on his hand cart just like any other morning and was now going to set about sorting the trash so that it could be sold by the evening maybe just in time for Diwali prayers with his family of he was one. There are many children like him, children who should be in school and not rag picking or panhandling at red lights. Children who are born with the same right are our children and yet who do not have anyone to ensure that their rights are protected. Laws are passed, and more laws are passed: Right to Education, Prevention of child Labour and so on and yet one does not have to be a rocket scientist to see that millions of children are denied these rights every single day. These kids are not invisible as many would like us to think. It is just that we have lost the aptitude to see them and by we I do not just mean you and I, but the very people who make the laws aimed at protecting them.
Even today as we will whizz through the city to make our last minute shopping or drop the now proverbial box of sweet and/or Diwali gift - ranging from a set of cheap glasses brought from a China market or a box of the finest crystal from branded stores - we will not see the little girl who taps at our car window, and even if we see her and even give her a coin, we will not get outraged at the fact that a child of India, protected by the same Constitution we have such pride in, is begging. We will not remember the laws that exist and certainly not ask ourselves what we can do to make sure that the childhood of children that are not ours is protected.
How quick we are to take up the cudgels on behalf of our children if they are slighted in the least? How we run to school to meet teachers and principals if we feel that our child has been hurt? Then why is it so difficult for us to feel a light empathy towards the child that begs at a red light or the one that works at your neighbour's home? These are questions that have always disturbed me and continue to do so each and every time I see a child in pain. How I wish I could take each and every child and give him what he truly deserves: love, security, care, education and the right to see his dreams come true. Even after 12 years of working with underprivileged children and trying to fulfill their dreams, I still feel extreme sadness and helplessness.
It is only when we all feel responsible for all that is not right that things will really change.