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A happy home away from home

No banners seeking help, no pamphlets asking for aid. And absolutely no publicity. Yet a few victims of Gujarat violence are being given a new lease of life, a new reason to hope and smile. Children have been admitted to schools even as social workers enable them to forget the past. RANA A. SIDDIQUI writes about the noble endeavour...

Children prepare to begin their life anew.

IT IS not an exhibition of children being brought to narrate the torture inflicted upon them and their families in Gujarat before the Press in Delhi. Nor is it of stills and videos of charred bodies and demolished houses in the State. Instead it is about a silent endeavour to make a few souls happy by providing them a new life. And maybe, just maybe, help erase the scar of the loss of their near and dear ones. It is about taking them to a home away from home -- "A Happy Home" -- from Gujarat to Delhi.

Zakat Foundation of India, a Delhi-based non-government organisation, has brought 27 children in the age group of four to 12 to provide them with home and hearth, love and care, food and shelter. These children from Gujarat are either orphans or hail from families who lost all property in the Gujarat violence. Under the name, "Happy Home" the trust has initiated a society with the help of a few people. This "Happy Home" at Abul Fazal Enclave in South Delhi houses these children -- 18 boys and nine girls. One Naseeruddin Shah, a social worker, has lent his house without charging any rent. Sajid Ahmad, a painter by profession, his wife and a 13-year-old daughter Sana take care of children while young Siraj Ahmad and Shaheed Alam cook for them and many other self-effacing volunteers turn up to spend some time with children to cheer them up. These children have been admitted to different schools across Delhi. Due to language problem -- as some of them know only Gujrati - some of them are repeating classes. For example, Abrar Malik, who was in class IV in Nijanand Vidyayalaya in Gujarat is now in class I in an NDMC school. The child does not realise the difference, "My school is very nice. Books are so easy," he chuckles while the losses at his home in Gujarat seem to have faded from his mind. His driver father's four wheelers were burnt and all his property looted. "He did not have even two rupees to make a local call to get some help from friend when we reached there three weeks back. So, out of his four children, we picked up Abrar as he was the eldest," recalls Sajid. His wife tells you that the children's relatives and parents regularly call them to know about their well-being and they always request us to take care of their beloved ones as our own children.

Sajid has given up painting to take care of them, his daughter Sana, who has just written her exams for class VIII, has decided to appear for class X exam privately as she will not be able to devote time to children if she attends classes regularly. She trained them all in Hindi and English to make them appear for their admission tests in schools.

A little coaxing and she reveals that it requires great patience to take care of them specially when they fight. The children have their own ways, not always polite, to settle scores with their peers. Often they remind others of what happened to their parents or homes in Gujarat. Before going to bed, they often remember their mothers' lap, lullabies, cosy beds and refuse to sleep. Some kids cry often saying that they want to go home. When the light goes off at night, she fans them so that they don't cry, washes their clothes and readies them for school in the morning.

Siraj, who worked as a cook in Jama Masjid area of Delhi, has left his job to cook for these children. "The money paid here makes little difference but the contentment level is much higher," he says smiling.

A member of Zakat Foundation pleads with you not to highlight the noble work going to give the affected children a new lease of life. "Look, we are not looking for any publicity through media. It creates more antagonism as there are vested interests. Whatever little aid we are trying to muster, it is from our personal contacts only. Sponsorship has come for 17 children so far. The trust is all set to bring 30 children more from Gujarat and a few widows as caretakers within a week," he says after much persuasion.

It is early days yet but children of Gujarat may just get back in Delhi what they lost in Gujarat. That is a sense of life, belonging, dignity.

Photos: S. Subramanium

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