Thursday, June 05, 2008

Street Children

At the Habitat Centre this week, I was drawn to some amazing photographs. In the main courtyard the face of a Nepali boy squinted from foyer, at the entrance to Eatopia, the face of little girl with large, soulful eyes gazed at plump kids as they trooped into for their chocolate donuts and video-games.

When was the last time that I was touched by random pictures? I don't remember...

This was an exhibition organized by Salaam Balak Trust, Youthreach and Tarun Chhabra, an executive-turned-photographer who works with street-kids. It was a clever idea to have the displays in the lift-lobby's and foyers rather than one of those self-contained exhibition spaces at IHC. The regular halls are not very different from the cars from which we nonchalantly watch the world of street children.

In an exhibition hall you observe the paintings or sculptures, wonder what the artist was trying to convey with his abstract forms, and the moment you walk out of the hall the images are fade away in some recess of your mind.

Sitting in a car we watch the kids hawking magazines; holding out toys, balloons or flowers; somersaulting or squeezing through hoops to catch your attention, and pretend that these are abstract forms of a greater artist. We feel a vague sense of guilt and a half-hearted indignation at the usual scapegoats (lazy bureaucrats! corrupt politicians!) for not doing something about them.

There is no escaping the photos in the lift lobbies. You can turn your face way from pictures of the policeman thrashing a child who sits cowering on a railway platform; you could ignore the little girl injecting drugs to kill hunger, but they have a way of creeping into your mind, gnawing at delusions and mocking our pretense.



A poem on the above photo by Snehadasan (or is it from the namesake?)-
I was hungry
and you set up commissions

I was without work
and you said God helps those...

I was homeless
and you strutted around in care

I was naked and cold
and you discussed my modesty

I was thirsty
and you downed a couple of beers

I was without love
and you stroked your dog

I was without a sense of direction
and you looked away

I was poor and you said
the poor are always with us

I without care and attention
and you had high priorities...

Will anybody give us a hearing?
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