Two years before his mother was murdered by her live-in partner in their rented house in Kota’s Tagore Nagar, Suraj quit school because of lack of interest in studies and began washing cars.
The 16-year-old, however, is concerned about his younger sister Saloni’s education. Saloni, a Class 3 student, lives with Suraj at Madhu Smriti Sansthan (MSS) child home in Rangbari, 5 km from where they lived with their mother until she was killed in 2013.
Suraj recently wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister for the exchange of 171 banknotes of 1,000 and 500 rupees, valuing ₹96,500, that he found in a pillow cover in their house in Sahrawada village, 60km from Kota. The deadline for exchange or deposit of old notes at banks was December 30.
The siblings, who became orphans when their mother was killed, have been living at MSS. Suraj rejoined school and is now in class 9. A month ago, when he learnt about demonetization, he remembered how his mother used to tuck away notes in a pillow cover as savings and told the child welfare committee (CWC) about it.
The CWC took the children, along with the police, first to Tagore Nagar where they lived as tenants where they found some utensils and a television. The children were then taken to Sahrawada on March 11 where the team found the bank notes and jewellery worth ₹50,000 apart from some other household items.
Suraj has faint memories of his parent’s estranged relationship but vividly remembers his disturbed childhood. “My father, Raju Banjara, drove trucks,” he says. “My mother told me that he left her when I was 2 or 3 years old. She worked as a nurse in a private nursing home in Kota to raise us.”
The boy says his mother belonged to Chhipabarod area of neighbouring Baran district but built a house in Sahrawada after she bought a small piece of land on the advice of a friend who told her that land was cheap there. “My mother brought down the mud house on the land and rebuilt a house for us. We didn’t know anyone in the village because we didn’t belong there but we occasionally lived there,” he recalls.\
Suraj says he quit school the year the house was completed. “I was 11 then. I washed cars for two years before my mother was murdered by Kamlesh Gujjar uncle, who lived with us at the Kota house,” he says with hatred visible for the man.
“Uncle was an alcoholic and my mother and he often fought over it,” he says.
Pooja Banjara, his mother, was 35 when she was killed.
“Uncle went to the police station and said that my mother had died in a road accident. But a police investigation found that he had murdered her,” he says.
The case is pending trial in a local court and Kamlesh is in jail.
The boy speaks like a grown-up. “The children’s home is my family,” he says when asked about his relatives. “I never saw anyone visiting us, not even during the last rites of my mother,” he says as his eyes well up.
A woman turned up at the home claiming to be their grandmother (father’s mother) after reading about the old currency notes in their possession, but Suraj said he didn’t recognise her.
Saloni says Suraj and she will become schoolteachers and teach poor kids like them. But, for Suraj, his sister’s education is more important. “Once I exchange these notes, I will open a fixed deposit (FD) in her name so that she can use it when she needs it. She’s very good in studies,” says the elder brother.