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“An altruistic love to destitutes” (A true story)

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 7 minutes read

By – Rabin Prasad Kalita

They picked up recyclable materials from the street, garbage dump, market or from trash bin. They were a group of four minor rag pickers between seven and ten years of age meet at a point and starts picking rags in the railway colony. They picked up anything which fetched them money such as paper, cardboard, plastic, iron scrap, tin containers and bottles. Nupur the eldest one helped other three minors to identify the retrievable bits and pieces. She walked along them with a rod tied with a piece of magnet to fish out for salvageable iron bits. Their extreme poverty forced them to enter this profession to stay alive.
Arpan, a Vivekananda School student, seldom see them roving and collecting scraps from unhealthy plunk. Seeing them wandering all the day in search of rags slinging huge plastic sacks on their petite shoulders out cried his tiny heart in pain. They went through a very tough time in searching all over to eke out their livelihood. Standing by the side of the road, he scrupulously watched their untidy dirty clothes and careless hairs.
Often he saw them meeting with injuries and falling sick because of the toxic substances and sharp material while they scrounged with bare hands and bare feet. It is also a hard truth that we give no credibility to these deprived rag pickers who play a vital role in the waste management system, especially in urban areas.
Sometimes he broke into tears by seeing them consuming food-waste collected from the pile of wastes, as if they were enjoying lunch together with rapture sitting beside the pile. Seeing their pitiable state of living, Arpan developed a sense of help towards these poor children. Every so often, he would bring toffees or biscuits for them bought out of his pocket money.
He loved to talk with them and was eager to know their well being. Thus, he became a known face who ardently thought about them. Seeing him at a distance they would run shouting Arpan- Arpan and asked for anything which he could afford them to eat. Soon they get his affirmative nod; they would hop and shout with joy. They all had with happiness. They found him empty-handed hardly while he was on the way to his school. Those poor children also felt delighted to meet Arpan daily at a fixed time.
Sometimes with his diminutive head was indoctrinating them to attend the nearby government school where there is a proviso of mid-day meal. They said they went for a few days to the school but stopped in between because it was hard to survive with a scanty single meal for the entire day. The issue was who would feed them at night. They had to sleep without eating a bit. Hence, they decided to continue to pick rags and sell those to the middlemen for their living.
He observed that they didn’t have much attention from their families, even they don’t heed to their parents’ advice as they met their own expenditure themselves. Often they spent their night sleeping on pavements or in shacks because of their weak links with their family.
One day while Arpan was on the way to his home, he saw them fighting in-between fighting except Nupur, who was trying to disperse them off standing in between. The cause of the fight was about the decision of a little valuable find amidst a mound of rubbish and claimed the same by all three pickers individually. When they saw Arpan was coming near to them, the fight was almost clogged and all of them approached him for a convenient solution who should get the find. It was probably an earnest respect paid to Arpan, which he earned over a period of cordial closeness with them.
Occasionally Arpan used to call them to collect some reusable used clothes and foot wears which were earlier worn by him and his sister. Therefore, he informed his father Siddhant about his promise to help those destitute kids. Arpan’s dad got surprised to hear the words coming from the boy’s heart. A couple of days later, when Nupur and her colleagues came up to their railway colony quarter, they were greeted with some palatable dishes to eat. Then they left along with available supports as assured by Arpan. Seeing them leaving his home happily, Siddhant’s heart got contented with enormous peace and tranquility. He was also equally concerned about their future, too.
After a few years of empathetic association along with these street children, Arpan had to move out of the city to Chandigarh for his higher study. And thus their everyday flocking with him was almost come to an end from meeting in person.
By the time, the elder one among the three boys grew physically enough to ride a tricycle and started collecting as an itinerant buyer directly from households, shops and offices. Though he started it independently, but his relation with other three guys was not yet over.  
As they grew up, their behavior and the view to see by themselves started changing. They began to chew and smoke tobacco along with country liquor with many other colleagues of the same community without getting controlled by anyone. It may sometimes happen when there is no elderly person to look after the children. They may choose any path as per their choice.
One evening teenage Nupur walked up alone to Siddhant’s home with her shaky legs under the influence of liquor in search of Arpan. Siddhant got dumbfounded to see her in that sleazy condition. Though she was boozed up, yet she maintained her prudence while inquiring about Arpan. When she knew from his father that Arpan stays far away from them, she said “okay uncle, please convey our good wishes to him and also tell that we were recalling him”. Concurrently, she mumbled to herself, “lest Arpan would have been here today”! Before Siddhant would speak anything, she walked out wobbling all the way. Siddhant stood still for a couple minutes, looking at her until she got vanished by the dark.
That evening he found himself in a helpless state of mind which banged him with many unanswered questions. There are thousands of Nupurs all over who are exposed to addiction, physical abuse, eve teasing and exploitation by known or strangers. Teenagers are most unsecured amongst the street children while they are in search of their basic needs like food and shelter. Really it’s a very griming situation, especially in slums.
Thereafter, she was not traceable for almost a year. One fine morning suddenly she appeared with her sparkling bridal silk Sari accompanied by a smart young man into Siddhant’s home. He got surprised to see her smiling face after a long span of audio-visual separation between them. This time too, before Siddhant speaks, she and her just married bridegroom touched his feet and asked for his blessings.
Siddhant didn’t take much time to understand seeing her red pigment typically wore in the parting of her hair (symbol of Hindu married woman). He brought them in and blessed for their long union of conjugal life. Before they ask for a bye, he offered some cash to the couple, so it helps to start a fresh life. Then the duo begged a bye with lots of happiness and left them off clenching each other’s hands to start a beautiful nuptial life.
(The writer is an Ex-Air Warrior . He can be contacted at E-mail: [email protected]. He presently stays at 56C, Azara, Guwahati-781017, Kamrup(M), Assam, India)

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