INSPIRE CHILDHOOD: VISIT TO BAL ASHRAM

Children started to run as they would be running towards ice-cream van. I turned my head towards the direction they were running. I knew that 7:00 a.m. he should come. “He will come with the sun” — I was told the day before. Children were touching his feet (indian way to greet respectful person, guru or elder family member). He was giving blessings touching their foreheads. “Ruta, come — Eirliani told me and took me to meet him. I was confused for awhile: how should I greet him? Should I touch his feet, too? But that would be so unnatural… While I was trying to take a decision, Eirliani introduced me to him. He reached my hand to shake it in western way. I shacked his hand and bowed my head as Japanese people do. Seriously? Nothing came out of my thinking how to greet a person of great deeds.

Kailash Satyarthi, photo by Bachpan Bachao Andolan

Kailash Satyarthi founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (eng. Save the Childhood Movement), the movement against child labour. It has been working and fighting against child labour, traffic and poverty since 1980. Bachpan Bachao Andolan organises raids to rescue children. Children are taken out from the factories or other places where they are forced to work (child labour) and taken to save place, where they get opportunity to get back their childhood. Bachpan Bachao Andolan aims, as it is written in website, “to identify, liberate, rehabilitate and educate children in servitude through direct intervention, child and community participation, coalition building, consumer action, promoting ethical trade practices and mass mobilisation” (for more press here). Children usually work in dreadful conditions. They work long hours physically challenging work, which is not suitable for small kids. The only one joy for them (if you can call it like that) is ration — one small bowl of rice. The scars on some children faces witness that they had experience violence, too. People, working with Kailash Satyarthi, search for miserable children parents going though long legal issues. Unfortunately, parents are not so easy to find. Some children are too young to remember from which village they are. The worse is that some parents, when they get their children back, resell them again for 1000–5000 INR (13,5–67,5 EU as per rate on 19thOctober, 2016). While all process is going on, children stay in Mukti Ashram, Delhi. Later, if parents are not found, they are shifted to Bal Ashram, a nice oasis surrounded by Alvari hills in Rajasthan. This was the place, where my friend Eriliani invited me to spend a weekend.

Child labour. Photo by Bachpan Bachao Andolan

Eirliani and their colleagues went to Bal Ashram to record children stories, which are needed for Bachpan Bachao Andolan campaigns. On the way to Bal Ashram I was a little bit worried. I volunteered in orphanage in Lithuania (Students organisation — Ne imti, bet duoti (eng. Not to take, but to give)). I had experienced character of children insulted and left by their own parents. Children are difficult to communicate with. They are silent, denying, refusing and sometimes aggressive. But once I took off in Bal Ashram, I felt that atmosphere were different there. We were accommodated in dormitory same as children live in. The schedule of the day (Summer) was hanging on the wall. It starts on 06:00 a.m. with yoga class. “I looked at my phone screen, which showed 11:56 pm. “So early — I felt a little bit unhappy to wake up so early. “Yes — somebody told me from my back in the same sad voice. “Well, but we should take part in yoga class with kids” — we decided in the end.

Children doing yoga. Photo by Bachpan Bachao Andolan

I was surprised how disciplined are the kids. I was late in the morning for yoga class. I was running to do yoga still trying to open my eyes wide. Children dressed in uniforms were following the guru’s instructions. I was surprised by children’s soft character. They were obedient, polite and good behaved. They greeted me: “Good morning, Didu” (hind. Didi- elder sister, Didu — its diminutive) or “Good morning, Hindi” (They couldn’t memorise my name, so they decided to call me Hindi, while I know this language and talked with them in Hindi). I was touched by their smiles and happy faces, which you cannot see among the people, who have comfortable life. I was touched by their opened-hearts and their love to each other. I never saw anybody taking care of each other as these children did. During my stay, I didn’t see or hear any fight or conflict among boys, which is quite usual at this age. I was touched by their pain and they effort to live further without anger in their minds.

Kailash Satyarthi with childre. Photo by Bachpan Bachao Andolan

One child was asked: “What do you like the most in Ashram?”. He replied: “Guru Ji”. “Why?”. “He have more love for us than our own parents had”. Guru came to stand next to with modest smile. The guru Ji, child was talking about, was rescued by this organisation, when he was a child. When he grew up, he decided to stay in Bal Ashram and help kids to grow up. He is not the only one. I noticed other young man running around ashram in T-Shirts with note “Best — Buddies”. He was helping kids and us. I asked: “Who is the guy?”. When he was 10 years old, he was rescued by Kailsh Satyarthi organisation and grew up in Bal ashram. Now he is a student of engineering, but he spends all his holidays volunteering in Bal Ashram.

Morning Yoga. Photo by Bachpan Bachao Andolan

For all his work, Kailash Satyarth was nominated by Peace Nobel Prize in 2014. My visit to Bal Ashram was really inspiring. The values are handed generation to generation. Hopefully, I have taken enough inspiration during this two days in Bal Ashram.

Me and Kailash Satyarthi. Photo by Chandrima.

Originally published at inspireourdream.blogspot.com.

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