On skates, a youth with a mission

K. Manikandan

Prakash Phand's journey is about protecting childhood "I started to learn roller skating when I was about 10 years old. In two years, I started to teach other children my age and some older"

TAMBARAM: After a two-month journey on roller skates from Mumbai to Tamil Nadu, covering a few thousand kilometres, 21-year-old Prakash Phand has seen his share of bad roads, but he isn't complaining.

He left Mumbai on November 14 with his haversack, weighing 10 kilos, and a Walkman for company.

He skated his way through Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, before entering Tamil Nadu near Kanyakumari and after covering a dozen districts, reached Tambaram on Sunday morning.

Child rights

His mission: creating greater awareness among the people and the government on the importance of preventing child abuse and protecting childhood and child rights.

"I know how it feels to have one's childhood deprived. I have seen from close quarters children going astray early in their lives, getting addicted to tobacco, liquor, drugs and ending up as anti-social elements," Prakash remarked.

An orphan who did not even have the comfort of close relatives by his side during his childhood, Prakash says he has studied only till the fifth standard and could not communicate easily with people in the South during his journey.

"I started to learn roller skating when I was about 10 years old. In two years, I started to teach other children my age and some older. And I could see the vast contrast in the lifestyle of children coming from affluent families and the children in my neighbourhood at Kamatipura [the hub of commercial sex activity in Mumbai]."

Prakash, who has a diploma in social work and training in tailoring, volunteered to do social service in Kamatipura where he gives roller skating lessons to children of commercial sex workers.

"The focus of my present journey is to create awareness on the importance of protecting childhood, preventing child abuse and upholding child rights. It is not just the responsibility of a child's family, but of society," he says.

His journey has been made possible partly due to his earnings and help from a relative and friends.

Though he is yet to approach any government agency, he hopes he will find some before he completes his journey in Mumbai.

The journey for the most part has been exciting; he covers 150 km a day on an average. "Some motorists shout at me, some help, so the reaction has been mixed. But I only hope that people get the message on protecting children's rights," he said as he hit the highway to Andhra Pradesh.

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