While roaming around Colaba market on foot one morning, I came across two street performers putting on an acrobatic show. I wasn't surprised considering I'd seen several of those back in Delhi. The show usually unfolds thus. One of the performers beats a drum, calling out to people to come and watch the spectacle, while another (usually a small child) climbs up the pole and walks on a tight rope, often holding props. A collecting bowl is set out on the ground and onlookers are expected to drop in some money if they like what they see. The little girl whose performance I witnessed that morning was balancing little lamps stacked over her head and carrying a long pole in her hands, even as she balanced her weight perfectly on a rope suspended mid-air. The sight of a small child successfully pulling off such difficult antics was fascinating. And at the same time, distressing.
The girl most probably didn't go to school, since performing in the streets can't be just a weekend job. Being able to keep her balance on the tight rope while carrying numerous props must be a very hard job and must definitely take a toll on the child's physical health as well. Devoid of education and a secure environment to develop physically and psychologically, she was probably forced to perform in the streets in all weathers to earn a living for her family. Such a child is sure to define her worldview and the future course of her life within the confines of such a hapless existence. This inhibits the development of her overall personality and stops her from realizing her full potential in life. I couldn't help but feel really dispirited at the sight. Even greater was the weight of the realization that I could do nothing to help the child in that moment.
I spent some time thinking about the issue later. Spotting an injustice isn't difficult; you can most easily point out the various problems faced by the world and the people around you. But what about the solution? In this case, what are the alternatives in front of the street performer? Poverty and a general lack of sensitivity towards the developmental needs of a child are the major reasons that drive parents to make their children work. It is the responsibility of the parents, thus, to make all possible efforts towards their child's wellbeing and education. They could take up extra work to earn enough so that the child doesn't have to work. She could in turn be enrolled in a school or at the very least, a vocational training center so that she could learn to read, write and use her skills profitably. Essentially, promoting education and awareness are the only effective ways in which such children can be helped. I may sound like an idealist, but in fact I do understand the various constraints faced by the child's family, the government and the society at large in addressing this problem. However the solution ultimately lies in the willpower to act despite all odds, doesn't it?
I just wish the little girl finds a better life and happiness in her future. Meanwhile, I should probably conclude this more-serious-than-I-intended post and sign off for the night. Stay tuned for some more Mumbai Magic. You can find all the posts here.