I once knew a boy called Nandu. I don’t actually know his real name, everybody just called him Nandu. He was the youngest among the kids at the Home for Juvenile delinquents. We were a group of Law students and used to visit these kids every Sunday morning and spend time playing with them. This particular Home, for some reason, accommodated both the offenders and the ones who were still not produced before a judicial authority in the same premises. Among the kids, there were those few adventurous ones who had taken on risks early in life and others were ones who landed there by accident. A diverse group, nonetheless, with not one’s story same as the other. But there ran a thread of painful similarity in every kid’s story.
The children at the Home belonged to varying age groups. Nandu, at 6 was picked on by all the kids since they were all older than him. Added to his misfortune, he was slight built as well. Looked heartbreakingly innocent though. I often used to wonder how he managed to stay in those surroundings.
Being the youngest, he was our favorite and we used to pamper him a lot. Having been completely deprived of affection of any sort, he enjoyed our company a lot. We never knew how he landed at the Home. He spoke a strange language which none of us understood. Although, I must say, he was a clever child. Within a month of coming to the Home he picked up the local language. Sadly, it was more often abusive language. It was shocking to hear filthy words coming from that innocent child. We were however sure that he did not understand any of the ugly words he used.
Even though he started conversing with us, Nandu refused to reveal the story of how he landed at the railway station from where, we heard, the local police had picked him up. Our aim was to help the innocent kids go back to their parents and not spend the rest of their childhood in such a notorious atmosphere. We decided to probe Nandu’s friends to find out the truth. From bits and pieces of information we came to know that Nandu had lost his school bag on his way home one day and fearing that his father would hit him had run away from home. He reached the railway station and got into the train which was at the platform. The next morning, he found himself in a whole new city. The police, not able to place him anywhere else, had him admitted at the Home until they were able to find his parents. Actually, most young kids at the home claimed to have a similar story so we were not entirely sure about it.
However, we were convinced that Nandu had been placed at the Home by mistake and determined to get him out of that place as soon as possible. We sought advice from few Human Rights Lawyers and tried to do whatever was possible from our end. Finally, we managed to arrange for Nandu’s case to be taken up by a judicial authority. We knew that this was a tiny victory compared to the larger task of finding his parents, but were excited all the same.
That Sunday we all played happily with the thought that this could be Nandu’s last weekend at the Home and soon he might be reunited with his parents. Nandu looked happy as ever but I could sense that he was uneasy. ‘He must probably be scared about facing his parents’, I thought to myself. We promised to meet him later that week and left.
On Tuesday morning I noticed a tiny column in the newspaper. It was a news item about 15 kids from the Juvenile Home who had cut open some windows and wire meshes, jumped over the high walls and run away. A sneaking suspicion was confirmed when I called up the Home and found that Nandu had indeed been one among the 15. At 6, he obviously did not understand the consequences of his action. I just wish he had.
I still do not know if the story of Nandu getting lost at the railway station and arriving at the Home was true. Considering it were true, would it be right to blame Nandu for his act? Or would it be his parents who were to blame? Or would it be our system’s fault? In the end, does it matter? All that remains is a kid who lost his childhood.
Lawyer. Animal lover. Bibliophile. Singer & Plays Violin.
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