It is not often that one gets to read a real-life inspired story of street children and ragpickers, at that. What is life like for these children whom we see, and yet, do not see? What are their fears? Their hopes? Their aspirations? That is presuming that they do get to rise above their day-to-day struggles and envisage a future for themselves.
Velu, a twelve year old boy, migrates into the city of Chennai, where he meets Jaya, a ragpicker. She takes him under her wing and provides him with the life skills necessary for survival in the streets; a valuable ‘internship’ of sorts! Quickly, Velu learns what makes for lucrative garbage, how to demand his rightfully earned dues (when the rag dealer pays them less), how to budget his expenditure and also avoid being exploited.
After reading this book, I am sure that the next time a child encounters one such Velu or Jaya, she will remember that behind those dirty faces and grimy clothes are children. Children just like them who enjoy friendship, feel fear, have fun. Children who want to laugh, be happy, and occasionally enjoy the luxury of a belly full of food.
Interspersed all through the narrative are snippets of information on the trade, agencies that help, the story of paper and more. Although, the information is very useful it does disturb the flow of the story.
That said, the well-researched information will provide a very useful tool to teachers to carry on discussions in the classroom on waste management – the why, how and what of it.
Young India Books recommends.