A young girl dressed in rags cheerfully plays with her siblings right under the bridge near a traffic signal. Her only worry is to wait for the signal to turn red so that she could beg for a few coins as the cars slowly come to a stop. She knows the bruises that await her in case she does not ask for money. The bruises are a familiar memory, nothing she has not known before.
The little money she earns everyday along with her four younger siblings is spent on purchasing food for the family. Getting enrolled in a school to study and then getting a job to support her family has never crossed her mind. When asked if she would like to study, she returns a confused look and instantly responds by saying that she does not understand. She is poor and does not have the means to study. She lives under the bridge and begs for money – that is her life.
That is another young future of India which has been compromised and slain by poverty. Neelam, the girl in rags will spend her life without even coming close enough to touch the world of education, for her world and this world do not collide. There are many other Neelams in the world today.
Now let us take a look at the other world, that of education. There have been a multitude of schemes that have been brewed up for the inhabitants of Neelam’s world like the introduction of mid-day meals, free education till the middle school, free stationary etc. These innovative schemes have been introduced to attract more and more children to come and study, to be part of a brighter India. The main aim behind these wonderful ideas is to convince the children who are doomed to beg at traffic signals in every part of the country, that there is another outlook towards life – they too have the privilege to get educated and earn in a way that commands respect. They do not have to live their lives at mercy of the people behind their wheels handing out their loose change to them.
But since a young Neelam, unaware of the opportunities present in front of her, still begs every single day is indicative of the fact that there is an obvious gap between the two worlds. The story of Neelam raises a lot of questions- Are these wonderful schemes really that wonderful? Are they really serving the purpose for which they were designed? Will the two worlds ever come close enough to collide?
If more effort is put into spreading awareness about these schemes so that the people who really need them come to know about them, the original purpose will be met. Rather than coming up with something new every few days, it would be beneficial to strengthen the existing ones in terms of making the people aware about them. If this is done, another young future of India may not need to be compromised. Poverty will soon not become the killer of a better future, of a brighter and an educated future.
That young girl dressed in rags quickly traces her steps back to the place she calls home after a whole days work. Cheerful as ever, she is not worried about sleeping hungry tonight. This time, after telling her about the opportunities that await her, when I ask her the same question again – ‘ Would you like to go to a school to study? ‘, the confused look is replaced by a knowing smile and twinkling eyes. The heart-warming smile makes me realize, that I have made a difference today. The two worlds can collide after all.