I can’t believe its been six months since I started visiting the waiting room and exactly a year today since the Threads of Humanity programme was launched there. The Waiting Room is a place where juveniles in conflict with law wait for their bail plea to be heard in front of the magistrate. It seems like just yesterday when I went there first time to meet the boys…expecting anger…frustration….denial.
But what I came across was totally unexpected…a 12 year old boy, Sameer( name changed), who was charged with stealing, sat there smiling shyly at me. It took a while for him to open up, but when he did he just couldn’t stop talking. He told me about his family, friends, how he worships Salman Khan, how he wishes he could grow up to be rich and successful so he wouldn’t have to steal again…
Like any other boy his age, don’t you think?
Then why do people around them think that they are not normal? I remember police officers jokingly saying things like”madam ye bachhe normal nai hai…sale sab harami hai…aap log agar inse pyaar se baat karoge to ye aur crime karenge” And never mind it’s allowed or not, we’ve all heard stories about how the boys are treated when they are arrested.
I’ve met scores of boys now, and not one of them has ever misbehaved with me or any of the volunteers. If anything they are eager to talk, paint or play games. Most of them are school dropouts but still are participative and are willing to learn if treated nicely.
One case that I don’t think I’ll ever forget is that of Ajay (name changed), a 15-year-old boy who had killed his neighbor’s 4-year-old son. When he first came he didn’t talk, he just watched me interacting with other boys. After a while he told me about his case and that he likes playing chess, so we started playing. When I was about to conclude the session he told me that ever since he committed the crime, everybody around him had been telling him that he is a monster, and I was the first person who didn’t say anything insulting to him. Then he confessed he was indeed very sorry for whatever he did, and that he just hasn’t been able to sleep peacefully ever since.
So I wonder is it that difficult for these kids to leave their life of crime? Or whetherthat could be achieved if we counsel these boys and make efforts in order to rehabilitate them?
They are not bad people, it’s just that they have a very blurred perceptionof right and wrong, because of how they’ve been brought up. But it is not something that can’t be changed.
I know what we are doing are small steps…but at least they are steps in the right direction…
- Bhanu Mehta has been working with us for the past 7 months and she takes workshops at Waiting Room regularly.