THE KIDS

Sadam

Sadam is 15 years old. He always has a lot of energy and jokes, but is moody when things do not go his way. He is the leader of the group of boys living on the street, telling them what to do and what not to do. He does not smoke nor chew tobacco, but he does abuse solvents. He shows a certain amount of caring for the youngest boy, Mushraf, teaching him the ways of the street, in addition to hitting him. It is somewhat strange to see this affection, he behaves as if he is the older brother with stern love for his little brother. This is understandable enough - Sadam was once the little brother, new to living on the street.
We have known Sadam for 5 years.

Manisha

Manisha is a 12-year old girl who talks to us and everyone else as if she is an adult. She is bright and perfectly capable of looking after herself. She has a sick mother who lives in a plastic makeshift tent structure alongside a road in the city and she often visits to brings her money for medicine or food, but Manisha is independent and lives accordingly. She has no problem telling people off and if there ever was any aspect of a little girl in her it disappeared a long time ago. She chews sweet flavoured pan tobacco and subsequently spits quite constantly.
We have known Manisha for 6 years.

Mushraf

Mushraf is 10 years old. He is very funny and quite cheeky, he loves joking around and play-acting, and he is fascinated by the Bollywood movies, re-enacting all the characters he has seen, singing the songs, dancing. He has eczema and smokes bidis, Indian hand-rolled cigarettes. He puts up with a lot of slaps and kicks from all the older kids, but will be one of the older kids himself one day. He has already started to abuse drugs, which is sad considering his young age, but also almost understandable. In a society where you are looked down upon because you are a street child it becomes easy to follow the older street kids, do what they do. After all these are the people who are looking out for you.
We have known Mushraf for 2 years.

Niraj

Niraj is a 16-year old street boy. He is tall, thin, very quiet and fairly simple, but seems happy enough - he smiles almost innocently most of the time. He has a bad sore across his neck - possibly from long-term drug abuse of inhaling solvents. He is the oldest boy in this group, but he is not the leader type, so contently lets Sadam take on this role. Life is becoming harder for him now that he is no longer seen as a child, begging becomes less and less fruitful. Luckily the kids share amongst themselves and Niraj is ok for the moment - eventually the older kids tend to have to find other forms of finding money. We have known Niraj for just over a year.

Badhal

Badhal is a 13-year old street boy. He is energetic and friendly, and can be very well-behaved - confronted with a camera in his face at 5:30am as he harshly awoke on his cold concrete bed, the first words to come out of his mouth were "Good morning. How are you?". However, he can also be a bully at times to anyone younger and smaller - like Mushraf. He seems to be Sadam's right-hand man. He smokes a lot of bidis, Indian hand-rolled cigarettes, and chews a lot of pan tobacco. He has told us that he has his family somewhere, but they are far away and he is not welcome to stay with them.
We have known Badhal for around 2 years.

Puja

Puja is a 15-year old street girl with bad burns. Her parents are dead, but she has an aunt who lives in Delhi. This aunt is the mother of Muskan whom is given to Puja to carry around begging. Puja often sleeps in the street although she can go to her aunt's modest dwelling sometimes. Due to a threat of violence because of alcohol abuse her aunt often sleeps in the street as well. Puja's face and hands were burnt as a child and she has had to live with the scars. According to the other kids there was an Indian surgeon who once offered to 'fix' her face, but she was not allowed to do so by her aunt for begging purposes.
We have known Puja for about 3 years.

Niraj

Niraj is 21 years old. He no longer stays begging in the Pahar Ganj street - both due to being too old to make much money and also due to being addicted to smoking heroin. He stays in one of the backstreets, probably steals, smokes, and remains in a daze most of the time. I have known Niraj for 11 years, since he was a 10 year old little kid sleeping in the street. Despite all the time and the drug abuse he is somehow still the same kid - when he's not smoking he is capable enough. Whenever I visit Delhi the other kids go to find him and he always comes to see me. I never give him money - I never have. I actually think of him as a friend whom I don't have much conversation with, but have known for a long time.

Sumit

Sumit is 15 years old. He has been living on the streets since he was 4 when his parents died. Sumit is addicted to smoking heroin and consequently very slow with a broken body. He is not violent but rather gentle in his own way, though at the same time he self-harms himself to get what he wants. He cuts his head and neck open with razor blades if he is caught by the police - once he sliced his scalp 5 times infront of me because the cinema guard had taken his box of matches, which, unknowingly to the guard, contained his heroin. I have known Sumit for 6 years and I am always happy to see him again, still alive. 

Muskan

Muskan is 4 years old. She is the cousin of Puja, who carries her around the street begging every day. She is cute like most little girls are, but growing up will not offer her much. She will probably never be put into school. By the age of 6 she will probably be sent to beg alone, pulling at the skirts and heart strings of all the female tourists. It is a difficult situation - one is told not to give as this supposedly encourages begging amongst the children, resulting in an absence of schooling. But these children have an almost non-existent chance of being sent to school anyway. They beg because it brings some money for their family. If they cannot beg they might be sent to work. Is child labour a better alternative?