“I learned from EKATVA, that if you drop the dandiyo while dancing, you just have to continue the step without it,” Eleven-year old Vicky says. “If something is not in our hands, we have to make an effort to move forward without it.”
In moments like this, he demonstrates a clarity and wisdom beyond his years.
Vicky moves through his childhood effortlessly, with a boyish grace, despite so much that can be judged as lacking in his life. Vicky’s family, including his parents and five older siblings, inhabit two tiny, poorly lit rooms in the Shankar Bhuvan slum community.
The health issues of Vicky’s father, who suffers from tuberculosis, and Vicky’s older brother, who has periodic fits of seizures, have put an emotional and financial burden on the family. But when asked what difficulties they experience, Vicky’s automatic answer is “nothing much”.
His parents, however, carry the weight of their poverty less easily.
After having tuberculosis for many years, Vicky’s father only recently began treatment. He explains that he has drunk heavily for nearly 25 years. He tried to stop numerous times, urged by his children and poor health, but each time, he again took up his costly habit after a couple of sober months.
“I used to ask him to stop, especially after he got sick,” Vicky says. “But he would always say, ‘Beta, I am helpless to this addiction. What can I do?’”
After falling ill with TB, Vicky’s father was not able to work regularly, and money became especially tight. During summer vacation, Vicky and his brothers would polish shoes on the streets to earn some extra income for the house. After one day of working busy intersections from morning till night, they would come home with about 50 rupees.
“I had so much fun,” Vicky says, recounting this all-too-common tale of child labor as though it were an adventure.
Although his demeanor sways between thoughtful around his elders, and playful among his peers, Vicky is rarely ill mannered. Yet, this was not always the case. His parents recall the foul language and disrespect with which he used to address others when they made him angry. Vicky too, describes how he used to threaten to run away when he did not get his way, refusing to help his mother with housework.
“But after going to Manav Sadhna and joing EKATVA, his temper has cooled.” Vicky sits in the corner, silently and carefully scrubbing dishes as his mother describes the change she has seen in him.
When the dandiyo sometimes slips out of his grip, Vicky manages to continue dancing with excitement, rather than regret. He draws attention to his bright smile, set below bushy eyebrows, so it’s easy to overlook what is missing from his childhood.
written by pooja shah :)