Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I visited the sisters at Snehaylaya, Maloya a few days ago. I went there to donate some old clothes. It was nearly half past eight at night. Unlike the time when the children’s shelter was based in the sector that I live in, I had to make formal entry in a visitors register kept with a security guard. I wasn’t allowed to go straight to the sisters but a message was sent to them about my arrival. The sisters sent a message to let me go to their living area. I went and the three sisters were overjoyed to see me. My institute is less than half a kilometer away from this place but since the time the kids and sisters have shifted to this much bigger, government run children’s shelter almost 3 months ago, this was my second visit. When they were in Sector 47, I visited them at a frequency of almost 3-4 times a week. They were about to eat dinner so they asked me to join in. Their accommodation is decent but the sisters are anything but happy with the way the government is running the show. They’re allowed to take the sick kids only to a government hospital, there’s no conveyance at their disposal and although they don’t complain about this problem, the ordeal of getting treatment done from overcrowded hospital is enough to make anybody’s patience run out. When they were in Sector 47, they were managing around 25 kids, here there are 200 kids, many of them they say, almost irreparably damaged characters, victims of circumstances like abusive fathers, rape victims, children of prostitutes, children of terminal ill AIDS patients etc. The children that went from Navjeevan sector 47 were quite disciplined but living full time with the other kids is taking a toll on their upbringing. Sisters say that the government is apathetic to their needs, they’ve built two big buildings, furnished them, stuffed them with kids, got pictures clicked and made news in the papers about their good deeds and subsequently washed their hands off after handing over the whole system to the three nuns and a few other caretakers…and yes while they washed their hands, they handed over a set of rules to these people, one of which says that the sick kids will not be treated at any place other than a government hospital; no arrangement to take them there or any other help in anyway.
Sisters also told me that they only get to eat daal (lentil) and rice all three times a day, seven days a week, a stark contrast to the time when they were at Navjeevan. These are growing kids, being raised on meager amount of substandard food. At Navjeevan sometimes when I’d spend a whole day with the kids, I used to find it impossible to manage these 25 creatures and at such times I had to resort to a decent bit of chiding; I wonder how they manage 200. The sisters are also unhappy about the fact that they cannot have their fellowship at this place, because if they do, the outside world will perceive it as them trying to run some kind of a “religion conversion” racket; people love jumping at conclusions on such subjects. There are lots of peacock running free inside the premises of my institute and the sisters told me whenever they heard the peacocks cry out, they remembered me as they knew the sound was coming from my institute. I felt sad, really sad. To me the kids now had better four walls to live in but were being denied the affection and care they enjoyed at Navjeevan. Additionally there are these other kids, who need just as much love but also need someone to show them the right path and undo the damage that circumstances has done to their impressionable minds. The kids seem happier than ever, they’re not as restricted as they were. They love the freedom but don’t realize the harm that might occur to their lives if they’re not guided well. They don’t seem to bathe regularly anymore, most of them were dirty and enjoying the mellow fruitlessness of the autumn that seems to have engulfed their dwelling.

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