106 x 152 cm
oil on canvas
little boy with the cheekiest of smiles playfully steals a hat from the
manager. He proudly poses with the over-sized, back-to-front Adidas cap
and tells me his story.
he was very little his mother and siblings died leaving him to grow up
alone with a father who drank heavily and beat him. He was compelled to
beg, hoping for a few rupees but often receiving a kick or slap instead.
One day 10 year old Maneesh was begging on a train, when he came across
a BBA activist on his way to Mukti Ashram Rescue Centre in Delhi. When
asked why he was not studying, Maneesh explained his predicament.
Legally unable to take Maneesh, the activist wrote the address of Mukti
Ashram on a piece of paper and gave the little boy 20 rupees (about
Maneesh could not read he found his way over 300km by train, bus and
rickshaw and, before the
activist himself had arrived at Mukti Ashram, Maneesh had knocked at the
door and asked to go to school.
I first met him he had transferred to Bal Ashram Rehabilitation Centre
to complete his non-formal education, enabling him to reach the standard
of the other boys of his own age in school. Consistently very attentive
and top of the class, he caught up very quickly. When I met him again a
year later he was proudly wearing his blue and beige school uniform and
heading off to school with all the other local boys. Within that year of
encouragement and security, he had blossomed into a confident cheerful
lad whose goal was to become a doctor – a far cry from the fearful
little boy found begging on the train.