150 x 144 cm
oil on canvas
contrast to the newly rescued boys at Mukti Ashram, the boys at Bal
Ashram Rehabilitation Centre in Rajasthan are relaxed, confident, noisy
and lively. Intensive counselling and affection has encouraged them out
of their shells and they are eager to learn, play, eat and dance.
is full of beans and eager for attention. This tiny boy of 9 tells me
how he had started school at the age of 5. One day, when he was 7, a
fair came to a nearby village to celebrate Lord Krishna’s birthday.
There would be drama, dancing, sweets and many other exciting
things. He stole 10 rupees from his father and sneaked off to see. As a
punishment his father stopped his schooling and took him to work in a
brick kiln. Working from 8am until 9pm he could cast 100 bricks a day.
was so malnourished when he was rescued that the BBA activist who found
him thought he would die if left any longer. BBA persuaded his father to
let him come to Bal Ashram to feed him up, get his strength back and
complete non-formal education so he could go back to school in his
village. He had only been at Bal Ashram for 5 weeks but already he had
grown and started to fill the smallest clothes they could find, which
had hung off him in the first weeks of his stay.
day at Bal Ashram allows for half an hour of free time before school and
an hour in the evening. Ramesh is always the first on the climbing frame
or grabbing my hand to play with him on the swings. In the early morning
cold he sits up high in his warmest jacket, surveying the site or
swinging upside down from the monkey bars. At meal times his
high-pitched voice can be heard above the chatter and his flamboyant
Bollywood moves on the dance floor gain much admiration!
the scars left from the clay cutting tools and his tiny stature give
away the poverty and harsh conditions of his previous experience.
I returned a year later Ramesh had completed his rehabilitation and gone
home to his village school – a healthier, happier boy with hope for