Shruti is a ragpicker. She is 10. She is not alone in this thing. There are another 200 children like her in Mohan Nagar who do this. Shruti has two siblings also, aged 5 and 3.
Her family shifted to Mohan Nagar in Delhi, from their native, in hope of a better future. Her father was a farmer back in the village but whatever he is used to earn was spent on paying debts. He somehow paid all his debts and came to Delhi to start a new life. But he had no degree and no special skill. He faced a tough time in finding any job.
It was on their fifth day in Delhi that he got a job as a labor in an under construction apartment complex. The pay was meager but he had no choice. He and has family lived in a tent on the footpath, near the Delhi railway station. The tent was small for a family of 5 and there was no electricity and water.
Shruti had to pick rags to earn some extra money. She would go searching for things like paper cups, plastic bottles and other items. Somehow her family would earn enough to get two meals a day. But on some days, they had to sleep with an empty stomach.
Her father wanted to go back to his village, but he had no land left. He had sold whatever he had to pay his debts. And working for someone else in the village was even worse than living in slums.
Shruti had made some friends while collecting garbage. Their families also came to Delhi in hope for a better future but got caught in the vicious cycle of poverty.
One day, in the second month of their stay in Delhi, a lady in her mid twenties came to the tent where Shruti lived. Her name was Madhu and she was a teacher. She wanted Shruti to come to her school. Her father declined.He wanted her daughter to be educated but was afraid of losing a bread earner. But Madhu convinced him saying that he will not have to pay any fee and Shruti will also get meals in the school. She also said that a lot of other children like her are also joining the school.
Next day, Shruti woke up a bit early. She was excited for her first day in the school. She reached the school well before time. The school building was not in a very good shape but it didn’t bother Shruti. In the school she met some of her friends who also used to pick rags. She was enjoying studying with them. She loved laughing, talking and sharing things with them.
They also got to eat lunch in the school. For most of the children, it was the best food they had in a very long time. The school ended in the evening. Shruti din’t want to leave that place. But she was happy thinking that she will be coming here everyday now. Her eyes had a spark. She had a new energy to learn and grow. One single day in the school had given wings to Shruti and other children like her. It was the beginning of a new and wonderful time for them.
© Rishabh Priyadarshi