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AN OPTIMIST: Santosh with his mother Mahadevi living on the pavement in front of the shopping complex at the district stadium in Bijapur.
AN OPTIMIST: Santosh with his mother Mahadevi living on the pavement in front of the shopping complex at the district stadium in Bijapur.

Suresh Bhat

BIJAPUR: The pavement is their home and they depend on the mercy of others for a living. This is the tale of the 13-year-old physically challenged boy Santosh Rathod and his ailing mother Mahadevi.

Abandoned by his father and evicted by the landlord, Santosh and his mother had nowhere to go and ended up on the pavement in front of the shopping complex at the district stadium in Bijapur. What makes their plight pitiable is that Mahadevi is a paralytic and has been rendered immobile. Their struggle for survival begins at the crack of dawn every day.

What makes him special is that Santosh, despite such adversities, is going to school. For several years, he and his mother were moving from one house to another in different colonies.

Penury, disability and ill health made them "bad tenants and unwanted neighbours". They were evicted from their house at Harin Shikari Colony a fortnight ago after they failed to pay the rent. Since then, they have been living on the pavement. With Mahadevi developing chronic asthma, the burden of looking after her is entirely on Santosh.

The circumstances have forced him to take to begging.

His routine begins early in the morning. He stands at temples, mosques and other places, and begs. After collecting enough money for the day's expenditure, he goes to school. He is a sixth standard student in government school no. 13 here.

According to school headmaster A.S. Patil, he is good in studies although irregular. Santosh says, "my mother's health is unstable and for her medical expenses, I have to collect more money missing classes. Sometimes, the collection is very little and I have to continue for long hours," he says.

But he is determined to continue his studies although the future looks bleak.

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