Sold for Rs 500 by parents as a Child Labourer and other inspirational stories
31 August 2009
BANGALORE: Gaja is nine years old. At the AHA! International Theatre Festival for Children, he wowed the audience with his bulti-jumping and drum stick tricks.
Little does anyone know he was sold for Rs 500 by his parents from Bihar to a factory owner in Bangalore four years ago. Now, the stage is his world.
Gaja and his friends belong to a troupe called Gondwana Band. They come from different streets of Bangalore and have worked as child labourers at homes or in factories. Having been rehabilitated by Bornfree Arts School, Jayanagar, these kids now learn dance, drama, music, sculpture, photography, film-making and architecture, apart from going to a regular school.
The children have performed at more than 1,000 venues by now. The programmes range from mimes to playing musical instruments. They have teachers who are popular artistes, like Yana Lewis, who coaches them regularly. The money from these arts sustain the 40 children.
The band is also a project of Bornfree Arts School. Children who somehow escape from their torturous life are rehabilitated. "It is usually spread by word of mouth. Children who are now with us tell others they know about the organization. They act as child liberators," said school founder John Devaraj.
When children come here, many are addicted to drugs or tobacco. The rigorous practice of these art forms kick their old habits away. The children are set into the mood by volunteers, who are artistes themselves. "They see us work and try to imitate us. That is the first step," John, an engineer, said. And then the taste develops. "Art is inherent in every human being. It is just a matter of triggering it," he said.
The organization was formed five years ago by John, when he realized the power of art in transforming people. "I do not want to run this as an NGO but want to make it a movement, whereby people realize that child labour is a crime," he said.
Many of them want to find their families and go back, but they know the task is not easy. "They sometimes get emotional when they see other children with parents. But they are tough. They have learnt how to live. Nothing can deter them now," John said.
The children had recently been to Pakistan on a cycle rally to spread the message of love and peace. They bicycled to Lahore from Bangalore and talked to their counterparts.