Forgive me for using this analogy. It hardly does justice to the subject. "Before", that is some days ago I went on a Saalam Balaak Walk in the Streets of Delhi. As always, this walk ends at the holding centre where the "lost railway children" are housed while they are assessed. Children who are abused, addicted, alone are talked to by social workers at various contact points on the railway line and if they agree they can be taken in by SBT to be looked after. For me visiting this holding centre is heart wrenching and I struggle to fight back the tears every time I am there. On this visit there was a little boy who must have been 7 or 8 and who was sobbing quietly where he was sitting. I feel the need to take away his sadness and to be the instant remedy to his grief but sadly I cannot do that- which makes it even harder.He has recently come off the railway line and he has lost his family and was finding it hard to adjust to his new life.
Here they are:
The "After" to this moment is the one I experienced when I went to the SBT's dance performance at the Chinmaya auditorium a few days later. I walked in to this big theatre and there was standing room only. All the homes, the children, the staff members, friends, volunteers, guests and lastly by no means least the founder of this wonderful Trust Mira Nair (who made "Salaam Bombay" in 1988 about the slum kids in Mumbai) were all gathered there to watch the children perform and my god what a performance it was. The cheers and clapping, the squeals of delight at the handsome boys and the girls who were performing brought the house down.
Everything, the choreography, the lighting, the videoing, the costumes, the music were all put together by SBT children and it was slick and professional and a delight to watch. Teenagers took us through some wonderful Bollywood numbers and some fantastic acrobatic moves and the younger children delighted the whole audience with their turned up jeans and cheeky smiles.
In my hurry to get there I did not take my camera, but perhaps I have painted an accurate enough picture for all of you to take away the sound of the clapping and the cheering.
These are the Trust's children, who have stopped crying, have gone into one of the homes, have settled down to a family life which involves all the children and the staff of their homes and who are graduating with flying colours and daring to dream dreams that they never in their wildest "before" lives thought imagineable.
The "After" effect has produced actors, acclaimed photographers,computer software programmers and travels agents, able administrators and artists. But above all the trust has the ability to turn these lost lives into lives empowered with confidence and knowledge and a belief in oneself. What a humbling achievement.