One day, during my morning walk, I came across a very cute little girl of about seven or eight standing in front of a half constructed building. She had another little boy with her, who was ‘perhaps her brother’ I guessed. He was about five or six. My heart went out to them when I saw them picking up twigs from the footpaths nearby.
I went close to the girl and asked her whether she was going to school. She said ‘No, I need to look after my younger siblings” I asked her if she had ever attended school as a child. She replied in the negative. I waited to meet her mother. She came out of the watchman shed.
I asked her why this girl and her siblings were not being sent to school and if she wished I could take them and put them in a nearby school. She was very hesitant to speak to me. She said she had to ask her other elders at home who were also within that construction area.
ಅಮ್ಮಾ ನಮಗೂ ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ದ್ರಾಕ್ಷಿ ಕೊಡಸ್ತೀರಾ?
ಅಮ್ಮಾ ನೀವು ನಮಗೆ ಆಪ್ಪಿಲ್ ಕೊಡಿಸ್ತೀರಾ?
ನೀವು ಮಾಡೋದು ಸರಿ ಅಲ್ಲ, ಭಿಕ್ಷೆ ಬೇಡೊಕ್ ಶುರು ಮಾಡ್ಬಿತ್ರಾ?
ಹಾಗಾದ್ರೆ ನಾವು ಶಾಲೇಗ್ ಸೇರೊಲ್ಲ. ನೀವು ಆಪ್ಪಿಲ್ ಕೊದಿಸಿದ್ರೆ ಶಾಲೇಗ್ ಸೇರ್ತೀವಿ, ಇಲ್ಲ್ದೆ ಇದ್ರೆ ಇಲ್ಲ.
ನೋಡಿ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ ಅವರುಗಳು ಇರುವುದು ಹೀಗೇ
I did not leave it at that. Next morning I barged into their shed and asked the family about what they intend doing about the children. I found that she had 4 children, all in the ages of eight, seven, four and two.
This was the reply that I got from them:
They hail from Raichur and as soon as the building was completed they would return to Raichur. I asked them why they could not leave them in Raichur with some family members for being sent to school. They said nobody would keep them there.
Now, the girl and another boy who was with her seemed very interested in joining school. Once again when I walked on the road they ran after me to ask me, what happened to my idea of putting them in school? They said they were prepared to stay in Bangalore even if their parents returned to Raichur provided they were given accommodation and food by the school.
In the evening my husband and I went to buy vegetables at HOPCOMS and I saw the same group of children running after me. We bought some grapes and when I was about to put them in my bag the ‘girl’, who had become my pet, looked at me asked me. ‘Amma, nanagoo swalpa draakshi kodtheera? (Amma will you give me some grapes, too?)’. There were four of them behind her. I just could not say ‘No’. I bought 200 gms of grapes and distributed them to the group of children.
On our way back home, my husband was telling me that if I kept doing this, they would come behind me everyday and that was not a good habit for them. Maybe he was right. But I just did what I felt like at that moment and I felt it was okay.
The next day I went to the bank and on my way back I saw the same bunch of kids running towards me. I just waved and smiled at them. The girl came near me and asked ‘Amma namag apple kodistheera?(Will you get us some apple?)’.
‘Oh God! What have I got myself into?’ – I thought.
Yes, my husband was right. I had now made ‘beggars’ out of them. Mind you, they did not ask for ‘bananas or grapes’. They now wanted apples.
Something broke within me. My feelings towards these children changed a bit.
‘Neev madodu sari alla. bikshe bedok shuru madbitra? (What you are doing is not right. Have you become beggars?)’ – I said in a rather gruff voice and trotted off ignoring them altogether.
‘Haagadre naavu shaaleg serolla. Neev apple kodisidre shaaleg serteevi, illde idre illa (In that case, we will not joint school. If you get us some apples, we will go to school, otherwise, no!)’, said the girl with a frown on her face. The girl whom I had thought of as ‘cute and sweet’ did not look very cute and sweet to me anymore!
I became silent. I felt sad for them and myself. I walked away. This is the way they are. Street smart. ‘May be I am a fool!’ – I thought as I walked home.
This made me escape from these urchins. They would follow me where ever they saw me and ask ‘Icecream kodisteera, ma? (ಐಸ್ಕ್ರೀಮ್ ಕೊದಿಸ್ತೀರಮಾ?)