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A Face Lost in the Crowd

He came with two of his little siblings to our school at the young age of seven. In the distant background, I could see his emaciated mother suckling a little baby while trying to manage the other two little ones. He, as the oldest, spoke for the family asking if I could arrange a place for them to stay in our sector where people have partly constructed houses for which they keep chowkidars to maintain the place. Unfortunately, I did not even know of anyone who would have given them, a family of six children, a place to stay.

I admitted two of them to the school though. Clad in their new uniforms with empty stomachs they came to school every day. The school provided a mid-day snack to children those days, which was hardly sufficient to quell their hunger, but it was something.

The Lions Club Tri-Centenary distributed sewing machines to poor women on the Baisakhi day, so I took his mother and who given her own sewing machine. Soon thereafter, the family disappeared. Months later, on one of my errands, I saw the whole family trudging barefooted looking for a place to dig their feet in. Apparently life in the village was no better than in Faridabad, and they had returned. Again I lost track of them.

Last month he came and asked me again if I could make living arrangements for his family. I asked him where he lived and he told me he lived in a village thirty miles from Faridabad. He had taken a free ride in a tempo and had come to see me. The sewing machine, he told me had been sold by his father who used the money to buy liquor. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to help his family find a place to live. I gave him a banana, which he took gladly and promised to come to school everyday. There was no disappointment on his face, but he did not come to school. I still look for the muddy face and ruffled hair on the streets. He might still come one day. As we do not have a place of our own, having residential schools is a distant dream.