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The joys of street childhood

entertainment Updated: Aug 19, 2010 02:26 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Haroun, 12, and Rahul, 13, sleep on a footpath near Oberoi flyover. We caught up with them in Qureshi hotel, a no-fuss eatery in Nizamuddin Basti, a 14th century urban village. They were supping on salan and rotis.

Unable to read or write, Rahul could still recite the complete count from one to hundred while Haroun could do that till the figure of eighty. It was not surprising since they do not go to school. Instead, the boys earn money by collecting empty mineral water bottles from garbage bins in Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station. Haroun had fresh injuries on his left cheek, which had resulted from a street fight.

Haroun, who had no plans to dress his wound, lives with Rahul. They both belong to a same village in Bihar. Two years ago, they came to Delhi as ticketless passengers in an express train. Their parents stayed back. It was not clear if the boys missed their village.

“In Delhi, you don't hear the cry of jackals or ghosts at night,” said Rahul who took on this name after the screen name of a favourite film hero. Both boys are film buffs. Even though making no more than Rs 50 each daily, they do not mind spending some of that in watching VCDs at film parlours in Nizamuddin Basti.

Racing through a life muddled with garbage bins, abusive street smarts, Bollywood flicks, pavement beds, and roadside squabbles, these two children have somehow found time to think on the possibilities of another world. “I want to be a good man,” said Haroun. On further prodding, he said he would not mind being a doctor.

Rahul fancied himself as a teacher. “Then you would have to read daily and so you would end up learning something,” he said.