It's not a bed of roses

It's not a bed of roses

Pathetic situation

It's not a bed of roses

A tiny soul makes her way through a bustling 3 pm crowd on Brigade Road, her right hand grasping her little brother’s left hand and her left hand carefully cradling a bunch of roses. 

   She scans the crowd for potential customers as the cries of her mother and three-month-old baby sister echo in her ears. 

   Fears of having to go to bed on an empty stomach for yet another night force her to approach the man in a suit who appeared to have money to spare for some roses. The hours drag on and the siblings’ persuasion yields several rupees. 

   Once they have enough to get by, they make their way back to their thatched hut on another street. Life, for Anita and Tarun, is no bed of roses. 

Natives of Andhra Pradesh, these children are ‘brought’ to  Bangalore during their ‘summer holidays’ to earn some money. 

Anita (10) explains rather nervously, “Uncle brought us here from Chittoor and we’re working since we have a holiday in school.” 

Not surprisingly, every family of street hawkers, has the same story to tell.  Persuasion led six-year-old Suresh’s mother to reveal, “We don’t have a home. We sleep on the road wherever we can. We buy the roses in the market every morning and from what we earn, half goes to the rose sellers the next day.” 

Upon being asked how many roses are sold in a day, the dejected look on her face grows as she admits, “I have a  nine-month-old child and what we have is just not enough. But we scrape through.” Anita’s mother elaborates, “A bunch has about 50 roses, which we sell for Rs 20 each. Usually, at least 40 get sold. Some pedestrians are nice but we get yelled at a lot, which we’re used to.” Tarun meekly adds, “Sometimes they give me chocolates.” 

Bangaloreans’ hearts go out to these children. “I feel these children depict the reality of India. They don’t have a childhood since most of them are used as bait by their parents to earn money at a terribly young age. It’s outrageous and pitiful,” says Vaidehee, a student of Mount Carmel College. 

Most believe that the shadow of trafficking follows these young ones. “What they earn is mostly for a trafficker who controls them and it’s scary to even think of what they must be going through,” says Arman, a student of Jain University. 

Namitha, a 12th-grader at Cluny Convent, muses, “I feel miserable knowing that they’re doing this to earn a living for someone else.” Ananya, a businesswoman, adds, “People don’t care for older women. So children are used to make people feel sorry for them.” 

According to Akshitha, a counsellor in BOSCO (Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota), an organisation that works for street and working children across India, the task of extracting street children from the clutches of trafficking and a life of difficulties is no cake walk.  “What I’ve noticed is that most of the children that have come in complain of being forced into selling things by their parents. Peer influence in which they grow up is also a factor. They know of nothing else,” she adds. 

On what the organisation hopes to achieve, she reflects, “We have a child welfare committee that tries to counsel the parents into educating their children and giving them a better life. If they don’t agree, we try and take them under our wing in our hostels.

 They deserve better parenting, a better environment to grow up in and good education. Hopefully, we’ll soon see these kids in schools and not on streets.”