Azera Rahman, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, December 24, 2007
First Published: 13:10 IST(24/12/2007)
Last Updated: 13:20 IST(24/12/2007)
In the grey winter mornings, six-year-old Chottu smiles as he trots along one of the capital’s roads with a bunch of red Santa caps under his arms. He has no clue what Christmas is. But he does know that he makes an extra buck at this time, bringing cheer to his family.
Chottu is just one of the hundreds of children on the Indian capital’s roads who, like elsewhere, sell various items, from newspapers and magazines to balloons, flowers and other products to commuters.
Pleading and begging, more often than not their faces are clouded with disappointment as people roll up the car windows or shoo them away as they try to sell their products.
But not during Christmas.
"Since the past three-four days, I haven’t had to work too hard to sell my caps. They are readily bought by people," Chottu told IANS, a little hesitant, a little shy.
So what does Christmas mean to him and his family?
"Hmm? At this time of the year generally the sales go up, so I bring more money back home…and we – my mother, I and my baby sister – all are happy," he said.
According to Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of the Bachpan Bachao Aandolan (BBA), an NGO that works for the benefit of children, there are nearly 5,000 street kids involved in the selling of Christmas decorations.
Sanjida, heavily pregnant and a young mother of two, similarly is really happy with the sales. "I have sold 50 such caps in two days," she smiled, sitting on the pavement with her kids in south Delhi’s RK Puram area.
"I get these caps from Sadar Bazar, which is a wholesale market, near Connaught Place. I sell them at Rs 25," she said, folding the last cap into a polythene packet.
"Otherwise, I sell red roses, which I buy from the early morning flower market in Connaught Place itself. Although I am selling flowers too, the rapid sale of caps has lightened the load of earning my daily bread," she said even as a huge bunch of flowers lay beside her.
Although these items – the red Santa Claus caps or the Santa Claus mask – are easily available in the market, people prefer buying them from the street kids instead.
"Call it the festive mood or whatever, but when celebrations are around the corner you like to see happy faces around. You want to make people happy. That’s why these days when a street kid approaches me with a red cap I simply buy it," said Rajesh Kumar, a teacher.
"In any case my kids would buy it from the market…why not make these kids happy as well by buying their stuff?"
As the mood is upbeat, with Christmas and then the New Year round the corner, people tend to give away and splurge a little.
"The other day I was returning from a get-together in an auto when at the red light a kid came by, begging me to buy his balloons. Somehow I was so moved at the sight of his torn clothes that I bought the entire bunch of balloons," said Sharda Nath, a college student.
"That smile on his face…it was adorable. He was obviously not expecting it! I then gifted those balloons to my friend. It just made me happy seeing the kid and then my friend thrilled."
Like on Christmas, the sale of miniature flags on Independence Day or flowers on Valentine’s Day also shoots up.
"I don’t know what ‘Krismas’ (Christmas) is or who Santa is but he must be a good man. Whenever he comes, he brings smiles to my home," said Chutki, a smiling eight-year-old with Santa Claus masks tucked under her arm.