The joy lurking in their eyes is contagious. Our three little heroes -Arjun, Armugam and Ashok- donning brand new yellow T-shirts cannot help grinning at this wave of media recognition that seem to enfold them in its public aura. Cradling the NDTV “Indian of the Year” Award in their youthful arms, the three young musketeers bask in the glory of flashlights and outpouring of love that come their way.
Their wide smiles belie the miserable living conditions they come from. Take life head on seems to be their driving force.
Kakka Muttai (The Crow’s Egg) is a critically-acclaimed 2014 Tamil blockbuster movie which revolves round the life of two street kids whose ultimate desire is to taste a pizza and how they go about fulfilling their dream.
So what makes Ashok, Arjun and Armugam qualify for this endearing moniker?
Just over two months ago, 14-year old Ashok, ten-year old Arjun and Armugam all of eight years who eke out a living on the footpaths below the bridge of the Chepauk railway station were all excited to pitch in with their bit of relief work when Assistant Commissioner of Police Peer Mohamed called them.
Now how many of our rich kids or for that matter even kids from normal middle-class backgrounds who live in cloistered over-protected environments would even respond much less rise up to the occasion?
Such selfless action at a time, when their own families were being completely drenched in the rain flooding their makeshift shelters.
“Do we have any other place to go? We had to sleep here itself with the rain pelting down mercilessly on us. We neither have a proper shelter to shield us from nature’s fury nor do we possess any identity proofs. When we ask for ration cards to be issued to us too, they mock us asking how can any identity card be given, when we do not even have a residential address of our own?”
So much for official empathy!
None of their families own even a temporary shelter with most of them being daily wage-earners going about the daily humdrum of their lives in literal rags.
“We did not prod them in the least. The children themselves took the lead and went ahead to help. They stayed put at the police office for one entire month. They would engage in relief work all through the day with eating and sleeping done in the station premises itself,” says Murugan, Armugam’s father.
When asked about the nature of work they did during the Chennai floods, they were crisp in their reply. “We distributed medicines, food and water bottles in all the badly flood affected areas,” chanted all the three in unison.
Even at such a young age, all the three were more than willing to lend a helping hand to those affected by the unexpected floods. None of them gave a thought to whether they were actually equipped to do so. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, so they say.
Becoming a Collector is their ultimate ambition. Why so? The best way to serve society, they believe.
When selected for the NDTV “Indian of the year” Award, they were absolutely delighted to fly to Delhi for the ceremony, with even a minor fight breaking out mid-flight as to who would occupy the window-seat, laughs one of their co-adult volunteers recollecting the trip.
Kids will be kids, no matter what!
Their Delhi experience was super, according to Ashok. “We met many celebrities and stayed in a hotel,” gushes Arjun.
Murugan is simply overwhelmed at the thought that their children actually flew to Delhi and back. ““We’ve never even stepped into an airport. We are so proud of our children that they went to Delhi and back by flight,” shares Murugan.
BJP MP Tarun Vijay has now come forward with a promise to sponsor their education and shift them to hostels for a better chance at life.
“All we want for our children is that they study well and get some good government job,” hopes Gauri, Ashok’s mother.
All of them are good at studies and are students of government schools located close to the vicinity where they stay for now.
“They are our very own ‘Kakka Muttai’, as their never-give-up attitude is similar to what is show-cased in the movie,” emphasizes another co-volunteer.
We do sincerely hope all the three of them emerge winners in their own right in all that life throws at them.