Bengaluru: Kumar wants to be in the army someday. His friends, Bhagya and Kasturi want to be police officers and Shyamala a teacher. There's very little chance that these children, all of them about 12 years of age, will get anywhere with those dreams.
You might know them too, they're the kids who tug at your clothes as you walk along Church Street and Brigade Road, pleading with you to buy a rose or a strip of stickers. While kids their age go to school and dream of being corporate hotshots, these kids run around barefoot in the rain and the cold trying to make enough for a hot meal that day.
On Saturday, a group of students from Bengaluru – Sumukh Mehta, Sana Abid, Nikita Kapadia, Dixit Bhatt and young entrepreneur Rohith Subramanian – proved that a small gesture can make a world of difference. They decided to spend Diwali in a slightly different way, They rounded up four of these children from Church Street for a special treat. They collected and gift wrapped clothes as presents, bought cardboard and stationary for the kids to draw and colour on and made their way to Church Street.
Flowers and stickers still in hand, the kids traipsed happily into Dunkin' Donuts off Brigade Road with their benefactors. "The watchman refused to let them in at first," said 20-year-old Rohith Subramanian. “But they got a very warm welcome inside Dunkin' Donuts.” First, the kids were given sheets of cardboard and stationary. "They drew a national flag, surprisingly," said Subramanian. Two hours later, once they'd had their fill of donuts, they left clutching their gifts, pockets bulging with toffees.
“We have seen many kids in this area who beg for a living. Our objective is to not give them money,” said 19-year-old Sumukh Mehta, who studies in CMS Jain University. “We give them money without thinking about it and the kid usually hands it over to his or her parents. They have no choice but to head back to the streets. They get into drugs – many of them spend their time inhaling 'whitener' fluid. They need food and education, not cash.”
While their peers dream of a future filled with wealth, fame and glory, these kids struggle to survive on the unforgiving streets. And all they want is to do something good for the society that has given them so little.