Touchdown. First stop Delhi. First thing to notice is that everything takes ages, long queues, a lot of traffic, a lot of people. 4 hours to get out of the airport into my taxi, the next thing to hit you is the noise. Horns, bells, beeping…the sound of the traffic, cars driving, mopeds, bikes, carts, cows, tuk tuk’s. They are all there pulling out in front of each other, stepping out, speeding up..somewhat madness. However, despite all of this, along with my apprehensions from all the warnings I had been given before I left, there was an overriding feeling of calm and acceptance. Most smiling, no one shouting at the person who stepped in front of them; a relaxed chaos, amongst a vibrancy of colours, smells, sounds.
Taking us through the the streets was Vishal from the Salaam Baalak trust, a charity which provides care and protection to some of the 50,000 street and working children in Delhi. Vishal was a kid ‘from the streets’, born into a life of begging and sleeping rough. Kids like Vishal, would be sent to the streets to earn what ever money they could to give to their parents to survive. However, many of them end up blowing whatever money they have on drugs, becoming hooked, living fix to fix. Vishal substance of choice was ‘flute’, glue. He explained that this was most common as it was cheap and accessible. According to a study by the Delhi Commission for protection of child rights on substance abuse by children 93per cent of children on the street consume narcotics. Despite, the government making school free for all, and in the last four years offering lunch to those who attend, most do not see the importance of education or unable to attend due to the need to survive. Being sent out by their parents to help find money, or they are kids ‘on the streets’ who have run away and only have themselves to rely on.
Fortunately for Vishal, when picked up by the Salaam Baalak, and offered lessons and somewhere to stay, he embraced the opportunity for a way out. Since leaving at 18 he now runs tours and is studying for a tourism and hospitality degree whilst learning three more languages.