“Life is nothing when you live in the street because anyone can do anything to you. That life was very horrible, a struggle for me.
It was very difficult to survive there.
I was not educated, I had nothing and I didn’t know the world. Now I know life; if I have a problem I know how to deal with it because I can see it from a different perspective.”
“Do you remember Red Fort? Behind the Red Fort there was a slum, a big slum. My family and I used to live there with lots of people. It was the biggest slum area at that time. I just was 6 years old when the government decided to demolish the area. When they knocked down the slum, it was a very chaotic moment. All the people were running, nobody knew what was going to happen to them. My family lost the place where we used to live; most of the people became homeless. I lost my family in the chaos and then I started to live in Old Delhi, alone.
I saw other groups of children, street children, and I joined them. We used to hang out together, beg together and work together at that time. Our income resources were begging and rag picking. It was so horrible when it was wintertime because we needed money to rent blankets. Those experiences were so difficult.
In Old Delhi there was a river (now it’s black and smelly) where we used to go to swim. That was the place where I started to take drugs. I was maybe 6 or 7 years old.
I did a lot of drugs, lots of begging. When I was 10 years old I met two social workers from the de-addictions (it’s like a detox department for street children). They were talking with my friends, explaining everything very nicely, how they could help street kids like us to start a new life. At the beginning it was difficult for me to believe them because they were too nice. I wasn’t sure about where they would take me, maybe to sell drugs, I didn’t know. I was so young and I already saw people using girls and boys for bad activities. But there was also positive thinking in my mind: “Why don’t I go with them at least once, just to see…?”
So I decided to trust them. I went with them and I saw the de-addiction center with so many kids. I saw their experiences. They used to be also street kids and they used to take drugs as well. And then I saw their lives… they were living in good conditions. So then, I started to live there and after three months they proposed the Salaam Baalak Trust to me, saying that it would be good for me because I would have chances to also start my studies there. I was so surprised!
I was ten years old when I arrived at Salaam Baalak Trust. The first day I saw so many children, and they were all super busy with their activities and studies. They became an inspiration for my life. After two months, just two months, a social worker asked me: “would you like to start your school now?” and I said, “Yes! Why not!”. This was the first time for me to go to school. I lived at Salaam Baalak Trust for 8 years and I completed my high school there. Now I’m doing my college. They still help me with my studies but I have to take care of myself and things like rent, food, clothes, everything. So I’m studying and working for the association as a guide!
I live with friends who also come from Salaam Baalak Trust. We have just one room where we fixed up a kitchen, our beds and a small table to study. I am also in contact with my parents. When I left Salaam Baalak Trust, I went to Old Delhi, talked to my old friends who gave me their family information. I started looking for their families. I found them and they sent me to my family. When my mother saw me, she came to me and immediately started to cry. We met after 13 years, I was six years old when I lost her and I met her when I was 19 years old. When I lost my parents somehow they moved far away from Delhi and now they’re living at the border of Delhi in a rented room. When I go there I give them money to help. I have brothers and sisters. I always think about them because I don’t want them to make the mistakes I did. I was a kid, and I feel very lucky that good people found me. Now this is my responsibility to show them a good path where they can start their life.”
From having nothing to have something is much better, even if it’s not Taj Mahal