The moment our flight touched down the runway of Tirupati airport, my first thought was… ”Oh my God! I am in a place where most Indians would like to come at least once in their life time for a very diametrically different reason – To have a glimpse of Lord Tirupati. And here I am to spend two days for Career Highway Workshop in a Juvenile Home and may not get a chance to visit the famous temple.”
When I and Monika reached the ‘Home’ – a well guarded building surrounded by Hills – I could feel a ticklish sensation inside me, was it apprehension of a new experience or intimidating black iron grilled building … I didn’t know… Those two days were real hectic .We were among kids, who, except one or two could only speak and understand telegu. Our savior was Mr. Reddy, who apart from conducting the session, was acting as our interpreter.
The first day went quickly, as kids were busy with psychometric tests and lots of introspection, we didn’t have too much time to interact. Second day was really amazing; I started chatting with kids as if we knew each other’s language. A chord was struck! I was witnessing a scene, where kids with different background were trying to settle down in a life which was going to take them ahead for a meaningful independent future. A girl came to me and shyly introduced herself as ‘Jhansi’ then asked me in broken hindi “Dilli kaisa hai?” I tried to answer in simple hindi “Bahut bada hai” and the friendship grew from there. Then Rupini and Laxmi also joined us.We kept talking as if we knew each other for a long time, and we broke up only when lunch was announced. At lunch Mr. Nand Gopal asked me what I thought about those girls. I was really impressed with them as they told me about their dreams, especially with Jhansi as she expressed her desire’ to do ‘Disaster Management’ because she wanted to serve people. Laxmi and Rupini wanted to have their own business which was commendable in their present situation.
That very moment I saw Rupini running towards her friends with a big smile on her scarred face which was visible from this distance. Mr. Nand Gopal noticed my changed expression which was there in my eyes for a second. After clearing his voice he said that the scar was the result of a burn which her step-mother inflicted on her for the temerity of asking for extra rice!! Seeing my horrified expression he shared little more….. Rupini belonged to a rich family. Her father got married for the second time when her mother had died. Her new mother did not like a grown up daughter. As a result, started torturing her. Not only her face but she carried scar marks all over her body. As Rupini could not take it more she ran away from home. Later she was picked up by an NGO and was sent to Home of JWI, which is her home now. I was trying to imagine that girl’s ordeal; precisely then Mr. Nand Gopal bombarded me with one more information about her, “Jhansi can shoot with rifle! In fact she is a very good shooter.” I asked whether she got the training at her home, with a poker face he said,” No, actually she never missed her target when she was expected to kill people.” Seeing my bewildered look he explained, Jhansi belonged to Guntur, she was a trained shooter who was underground for two years. Police caught and brought her in March ’10.
He was trying to tell me something. But my mind was somewhere else… one these girls could have been my daughter!!! I was sure, each kid whom I met must be having stories like these… Spontaneously I started praying within “Please protect my son”. In the post lunch session when certificates were being distributed, kids came running towards us and asked for autographs and group photographs which we gladly obliged.
Next day when our plane took off, I didn’t at all regret for giving ‘Darshan’ of Lord Tirupati a miss. Not because I am a non believer but because of my well spent days among a few kids ,who were not only fighting the odds on their own but also daring to dream.