As he watches his family members clearing dishes and making beds on a footpath, 19-year-old Ravi Birhor (name changed) feels a strong sense of déjà vu.
The former balloon seller remembers the years he spent living on the pavement before his life turned around on September 13, 2008, when he saw two terrorists plant bombs inside a trashcan on Delhi’s Barakhamba Road.
At least 30 people were killed and over 100 injured in five synchronised blasts which rocked the Capital that day, but Ravi helped police identify the two militants who were part of the Indian Mujahideen attack.
He received the President’s medal for bravery at next year’s Republic Day and was taken in by an NGO. But they had to let him go after he turned 18.
Ravi was back on the streets and back to his old life, but with a personal security officer (PSO) in tow as he was a key witness in the terror case.
“The whole situation is peculiar. My PSO also looks flummoxed,” he said.
“I have stayed away from home for so long. I am no longer habituated to sleeping on the streets. But that is not the only problem. I have to appear for three exams in October to pass class 12 but there is no way I can study under the present conditions.”
Ravi went to school for the first time at the age of 12 with the help of the NGO. He was unlettered before that.
“The government told us in 2009 that once he clears the class 12 exams, he will be given a government job. It is extremely crucial for him to be able to study and pass these exams,” said his father.
The youngster tried to work as a waiter at a posh Delhi hotel but couldn’t keep up with the chaotic hours.
“I was expected to work from 7:30am to 9pm. I did not get any time at all to study. My sole aim, currently, is passing the class 12 examinations,” he emphasised. “I want to start college after that but I don’t think I will have the money. At least after class 12, I can get a job in retail management since I have earned a skill development diploma in the field.”
All he wants is some support to finish his education.
“I really need a place to stay in, a hostel maybe, till October so that I can study for my exams in peace,” he said.