Two sides of the road

Every morning as I drag myself to college, I come across these bunch of kids who are on their way to school. Their lively sare an insult to the life-less adults who are enveloped in the monotony of life.

On the other side of the road:

The kids are on their way to school, the enthusiastic faces eagerly waiting to see, what a new day has to offer them. ( I don’t know if kids really think that way these days :D). Lugging their heavy school bags, grandparents, servants or parents would be following them. The kids are clad in neatly pressed uniforms, handkerchiefs pinned to their shirts, shoes shining black and socks sparkling white. The kids wait for their van while the are parents engaged in conversation. The kids are always prim and proper, except for a few tantrums thrown by the youngest of the lot. The arrival of the van leads to a mad melee between elders and kids. Parents shove each other to get their kids into the van first. Sometimes, parents barge into the vans to ensure their kids get space to sit, or sometimes bully motion other kids to shift so that their kids get a window seat. Since the van is a privately operated one, rules and courtesies are comfortably forgotten. Kisses are blown, bye-byes are waved and the elders return to their routine lives. These kids go to the reputed schools of Bangalore, parents spend hefty amounts to provide the best education for their kids and life moves on. These kids are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I’ve been seeing them  for more than a year now. Having observed them for quite sometime, I wouldn’t be surprised if they grew up into pampered spoilt brats.

Shift focus to my side of the road:

Sometime in June, apart from the regular crowd at the bus-stop, a group of kids aged between 6-12 entered the bus-stop and monopolized all the attention I had reserved for the kids on the opposite side of the road. These kids wore tattered uniforms, walked barefoot, the school bags were shoddy and most of them looked malnourished. The eldest of the group hardly 12 years old, assumed the full responsibility for these kids. The naughty young boys and their acrobatic displays on the railings in the bus-stop attracted everyone’s amused looks. They fought, threw mud on each other, they’d pick up some random metal scraps or papers from the road ( for what use, only they know) and  would be in a disheveled state by the time they reached school. Yet, the same unruly kids can pull your heartstrings when you see seven of them sharing one Marie biscuit. The BMTC buses which go in their school’s direction are always overcrowded. When the buses arrive, the kids look for the senior kid’s approval, as they don’t know how to read the bus number or the names written on the board. Sometimes they make a dash for the wrong bus, to grab space and the senior kid would shout at them and the kids would jump out of the bus.  Few bus drivers, never stopped for these kids and the kids would run behind the bus, mostly to no avail. Many times,  these kids had to travel on the foot board of the buses and my heart skips a beat when the bus goes away. The scene forced me to utter a prayer for these kids’ safety. There is nobody to say bye to these kids, nobody to  blow kisses. There is nobody to fight for these kids. End of the day, they have to fight for their space, their existence and their survival. They are children of the lesser gods only by birth. Their endless chatter and playful antics in those 15 minutes at the bus-stop everyday was enough to cheer me up on an otherwise drab boring working day.

From what I could gather, these kids lived in a slum located somewhere close to our area. Their parents were mostly construction workers. These parents work hard too, to provide whatever education they can, to their kids. But, whether these kids are really interested to go to school or not, I don’t know. I don’t think they really learned anything from school, their inability to read the boards made me think so. Their school is no exception from the  typical government school image portrayed all over. Absentee teachers,  empty classrooms, high dropout rates, unhygienic and terrible conditions… Most of them go maybe, only for the mid-day meals.

Since November, the kids have disappeared. I have no clue about what happened to them. Most probably, the construction workers must have shifted to another place and the kids would be living in dire straits in some other area. I don’t know if they still go to school. Yet, their absence has been disturbing. I don’t know where exactly they lived, I don’t know all their names. Yet, they gave me a reason to stop grumbling about having to go to college. Unlike most of them, lucky ones like us were never deprived of an opportunity.

A huge disparity, spanning across the width of a 60 ft road. Isn’t this the same all over our country? The road to development starts from education, everyone claims. The words ‘Right to Education’ has been making the rounds for a long time now, yet what is the point in giving rights like this, when there are no right means to provide the same.

Yet, I wonder how exactly can we make education accessible and affordable for all?


2 responses to “Two sides of the road

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