Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 9
At several traffic light points in the city, a kaleidoscopic view of “street kids” rummaging through swanky vehicles is likely to catch your attention. Holding stringed balloons in their hands and oblivious to this “touch-me-not-Covid era”, the little ones make their way through cars in the scorching sun and tap at your window in the hope of getting a penny or two in return, while all they get are stares and despair!
A few metres away, their parents can be seen juggling with their craft too and following the crowds, eager to make the day’s living before the night sets in. They largely eke out their living by selling brooms. A broom costs between Rs200 and Rs250, enough for them to fill their bellies. During night, these “street kids” are seen assembling their paraphernalia and retiring under the trees along the road. Their makeshift shelters are just made up of dupattas resting on four sticks. On a lazy day during the weekend lockdown, the kids are seen less on roads. With not many vehicles at the intersection point, it’s a field day for them too.
Asked about the second wave of Covid, one of the migrants says with a tinge of pride, “Hamein koi corona nahin hua. Sadkon pe rehte hain. Hamein kya hoga (what corona, we stay on roads. We did not suffer from any such virus).” According to Ganesh, a migrant labourer from Chittorgarh in Rajasthan, an MC van came and took their samples. All of them tested negative! Despite staying together in groups along the roads, none of them ever faced any symptom of Covid.
One is struck by a realisation that how Covid caged the so-called elites inside their “sanitised” cars and left them gasping for oxygen, while these free-spirited souls were out on the roads with none of them wearing any mask.
A fear that bothers the migrants is the “ashram wallahs” who pick their kids from roads and take them along. “It is only when we deposit thousands of rupees with the authorities that we get our kids back. A van comes and takes our toddlers away. I had to pay Rs25,000 to get my son back from these ‘ashram wallas’,” said Ganesh, showing his ID card. “We can raise our kids with our own money. We are proud of whatever we earn at the end of the day. We got some ration kits in the beginning of the lockdown last year, but now, we are managing on our own.”
Ganesh’s wife Reena joins the conversation with a sleepy toddler tucked along her side. She says, “Gaon jana hai. Bachon ko vahin padhaenge. Yahan jhaadoo bech ke apna pet bhar rahe hain (we want to leave for our villages, will teach our kids there).” Quite contented with whatever they earn at the end of the day, they say the lockdown bothers them more than the pandemic. Asked about what kind of help they need from the Administration, pat comes the reply, “Bas ap tarpal le aiega, barish me bache so nahin pate (just give us tarpaulin sheets, our kids find it hard to sleep during a rainy night).”
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