Gorging on chicken momos is nothing short of luxury for six-year-old Ganesh and eight-year-old Kiran. For the siblings, most of the basic necessities of life may be defined as falling under the ambit of luxury.
Ganesh, a student of class 2, goes to a primary school run by the civic
agency in Block 27, Trilokpuri.
Helplessness is writ large on the faces of the siblings as the ceiling fan at their accommodation is not working these days. They have to look for other options that are available in their locality.
It includes going to a public toilet since they do not have one in a room that they call ‘home’. A public tap in the narrow lane where the room is located is the only source of water and sometimes acts as a bathroom for the siblings.
Life is not too complicated for Kiran and Ganesh. One can count the few things they own — a bed, a ceiling fan, a trunk and a stove with a single burner. Their home does not have a proper floor. The arrangement of bricks in an organised fashion doubles up for a floor.
Unlike other children their age, the siblings do not look forward to the summer vacations. They eagerly wait for it to come to an end so that they can enjoy the mid-day meal distributed in their school.
“Mein kabhi-kabhi khana bacha kar ghar le aata hoon taaki raat mein kha sakoo,” (I often save a portion of the meal and bring it home so that I can eat it for dinner), says Ganesh, who is known as the naughtiest child in his slum cluster.
Going to school brings some sort of respite for the duo, who generally gulp down some biscuits with tea before leaving for school.
“School mein rang bharna achcha lagta hai. Madam bahut saari jaankari deti hai jaise body parts aur teeke (vaccination),” says Kiran, who prepares meals when they are at home on Sundays and holidays. If they are running out of rice and lentils, the siblings head towards Aanganwadi (a programme run by the Centre) with their utensils, to grab a meal.
Education is the only hope for the brother-sister duo after they lost their mother in an accident. Their maternal grandmother brought them to live with her as their father was not in a condition to raise them. After the demise of their grandmother two years back, they are dependent on an uncle, who sometimes ferries them to nearby markets in his rickshaw to buy clothes for them.
Ganesh aspires to be a policeman, while Kiran wants to be a doctor or a teacher.
The siblings understand the gravity of their situation and despite all odds they want to complete their primary education at Baalwadi, a hub centre funded by the Hindustan Times under its You Read They Learn (YRTL) initiative and supported by NGO Pratham.
They understand that they can grow up and make money by educating themselves. For them education is the only key to lead a comfortable life. “Humne suna hai agar man laga kar padai karenge toh achchi naukri milegi aur paise aayenge. Phir hum Maggi bhi khareed kar khaa sakte hai jo hum abhi nahin khareed paate,” said Ganesh, who once ate noodles at a friend’s place and since then has been yearning for it.