Sunday, 6 November 2011

Anyone got 500 Rupees? (around €7 or $10)

All I caught of her name was Rina - an inadequate, anglicised simplification of a poetic Bengali name, probably a Goddess. She was from Loreto Sealdah, a remarkable school right in the heart of Kolkata, and she had been deputed to show me the Rainbow Room.

16 or 24 - who knows? Innocent but worldly, she wore two rings on the toes of her right foot. Barefoot, in traditional Churidar dress over long Kurta pants, she danced like a nymph up four flights of stairs, smiling as she chatted.

Loreto initiated this special programme for children who live on the street. It calls them Rainbows because 'they come and go as they please: you never know when to expect a rainbow but it gives great joy when it appears'. The programme provides housing and meals seven days a week and schooling, whenever the children aren't eking out a living on the street.

The programme is only for girls, so I was surprised when the first of the children I saw on the fourth floor was a little boy He could not have been more than four years old. When I asked Rina why he was there she smiled:

"Oh, he's a special one - he was rescued from Howrah Train Station"

"Rescued from what?"

"His father"

I looked quizzically.

"He wanted 500 Rupees for him" she said, face deadpan.

What value, one little life?

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