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our dreams, our hopes‌

stories of survival

former street children All children who tell you their stories in this book used to live on the street at least once in their lifetime. They ran away from home for different reasons, but all found their way to Delhi, the busy capital of India. In one or the other way they found out about Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) and the opportunities the organization provides street and working children. SBT runs several contacts points all over Delhi – this is the place where most of the kids come first. Open during the day SBT staff provides food, nonformal education, medical assistance, games and other activities. Social workers talk to the kids and try to build up a relationship with them.

When a child decides to stay for longer with SBT it can come to one of the organization’s shelter homes. In these 24 hours full-care shelters food, clothes and education are provided together with a regular schedule for the kids. The children presented in this compilation came to different shelter homes such as Aasra or Apna Ghar. Today, they all live together with more than 100 other kids in the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) shelter home – a three floors building with several class rooms, dormitories, a kitchen and other facilities for the boys.

Salaam Baalak Trust Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) is an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organization, established in 1988 with the proceeds from the film "Salaam Bombay!" made on street children by noted film director, Mira Nair. The organization provides support for street and working children in inner cities of New Delhi and Mumbai. This includes education, basic literacy and


schooling, full care facilities for the young, drop-in shelters for older children, health care and counseling in HIV/Aids and TB awareness. Today, SBT runs five 24-hour full care shelters for children, three for boys and two for girls, as well as seven contacts points all over Delhi. SBT is also involved with Childline, a 24-hour toll-free helpline service, catering to children in distress all over India.

twelve amazing stories‌ Listen to the stories from twelve former street children who were eager to survive and now look forward to a brighter future. This book is their way to express themselves, tell their dreams and hopes, show their portraits and share their personal stories with you. Happy, sad, funny, thoughtful, full of hope and always with the spirit of survival - in this compilation former street children tell you their very

personal story. Each of them takes you on a journey through his amazing, often broken and sometimes unbelievable life. This compilation comes from teenagers living with Salaam Baalak Trust. They expressed themselves during a workshop at DMRC shelter home. Interviews have been taken, before the children went through their stories and finally put it together with their portraits they have selected for this compilation. All pictures have been taken by the children on their own.

portraits Ramzan

























my name is RAMZAN

When I was a child I used to live in Calcutta. I was ten years old when I ran away from home and took the train to Delhi. Getting there was not easy: Every person I could find I asked for help. Some gave me money, others didn’t. Hiding under a seat of the train it took me three days altogether until I finally reached Delhi – at the Old Delhi railway station.

“Do you have a place to live?” she wanted to know. But I had not. “So why are you not going to Aasra shelter home?” she suggested. This is how I found my way to Salaam Baalak Trust. Life in Aasra was simple, but much better than on the street. And the best thing was: I was able to go to school – at this time I got admission for 6th grade! Today I’m in 8th grade and I’m eager to graduate from high school in four years from now. One day I want to go to college - that’s my dream.

I was starving, searching for food and desperate to find a job when my new life has just started in the Yamuna Pusta slums. I was lucky to find work in a household » I’m eager to graduate where I decorated and graced the family’s gods and I’m very interested in social studies, but the thing I’m from high school in four shrine. They gave me lunch and dinner, but still I years from now. One day I most excited about in life is chess! I never learned It was living on the street. Not to think about from books or teachers, but from a TV soap opera where want to go to college education: I wanted to learn and one day I met a they played the game. I learned how to move the that’s my dream. « teacher on the street who brought me to another chessmen, but my only problem was that I didn’t know woman in his school. I will never forget her name how to win the game. That was four years ago in Aasra. Shakira, because this is my mother’s name, too. “Do you want to Today, I’m living in another shelter home and I give chess classes for study?” she asked me. Yes! I told her about my wish to go to school. other boys. In future, I want to become a professional chess player.



my name is SANTOSH When I was a child my family was very poor. My father was employed as a construction worker and didn’t earn a lot, so money has always been a problem for us.

That was three years ago. I failed to find a regular school, but luckily I got admission for an open learning system. I’m in 10th grade now and I want to go on studying for graduation from high school. I fully concentrate on that, yet I don’t know I was seven years old when me and my family left our home in much about my future plans. These decisions are still to be the state of Bihar and came to Calcutta, where I was working in taken. However, I’m very interested in engineering, computer a hotel, cleaning dishes. At this time I had no chance for and other hardware and I hope I can learn more education. I lived there for some years before I about these things in future. But for this I also » I’m very interested in decided to go to Delhi – the town I thought I need to improve my English. engineering, computer and could find a better place to live.

other hardware and I hope I Now, I’m working for Childline, an I arrived at Old Delhi railway station, where can learn more about these organization that takes care about the children other street children told me about Kisayala, a things in future. « on the streets. Anyone who has seen and is shelter home for street children in Gurgaon, worried about street kids can call 1098 to tell south of Delhi. I went to that place, but after a about the place and situation so that the social workers can while I ran away again, although I got admission for school. It come and look after the kids. I like the work, because I’m not took me some time before I decided to go to another contact only on the phone, but also supporting the field work. Six night point, but finally I came to Salaam Baalak Trust and another a week I’m doing this now and I hope to continue it for much shelter home. Since then I’m living with my friends – these longer. days at DMRC. Here I can take karate lessons, improve my English, play football with other boys and watch movies. Especially Hollywood blockbusters I like. 6


my name is ANIL I was ten years old when I came to Salaam Baalak Trust. At this time I knew only very little about Hindi and no English at all. The only language I knew was the one from my home village called Madhpa in the state of Bihar.

I came to Aaasra shelter home and stayed there for about one year. They gave me food, clothes and a place to stay. Afterwards, I went to Apna Ghar where I made a lot of friends during the ten years I stayed there. I was only in 4th grade when I left my village for Delhi. With the help of Salaam Baalak Trust I was able to get admission I ran away from home because we had trouble in our family over and for 5th grade in a government run school. Since then I’m over again. We were farmers and working on the field was hard continuously studying: I finished high school and I’m currently labor. One day my father was drunk and he started fighting with doing my Bachelor of Business Administration. My first year is my mother. Another day he was beating me. The next morning I already over and I keep on studying every day. It is a great chance to decided to run away. I went to the railway station and took the next start an independent life, become a good train to Delhi, because many villagers communicator and also to improve my » I’m studying now to gain as much looking for work also wanted to go to the knowledge as possible. I will use my ideas in English. Indian capital. future, when I’m working as a manager and I really want to become a good business But when I came here, everything was so person. I’m studying now to gain as much run my own business – independently and different from the place I’m from. Crowds knowledge as possible. I will use my ideas with no one telling me what to do! « of people everywhere, noise, traffic, in future, when I’m working as a manager pollution – it seemed to be a hard place to and run my own business – independently and with no one telling live. So I wandered around the New Delhi Railway Station as a rag me what to do! picker and sweeping the floor until a social worker from Childline, an organization taking care of street kids, found me. He was Last year I came back to my home village for my brother Suboth’s asking questions and told me about Salaam Baalak Trust. wedding. I’m crazy about my family! Both my parents are still living in the village and I really do miss them a lot. Hopefully in the future I will be able to see them again.



my name is SURAJ

I was born and raised up in a small village called Bhagalpur in the curious about this organization, so I came to Kesalia shelter home. state of Bihar. Life there was not too bad, but when I was a child my But quickly I felt sad and upset. The space was small, children lived father and mother were fighting all the time. My dad used to gamble separate, there were no beds and I didn’t feel comfortable. Still it was a lot, losing all our money. His addiction made us a very poor better than living on the streets, so I stayed at the center for seven family and caused trouble at home almost every months before I shifted to DMRC shelter home, where night. So one day I decided to run away – and I » I’m fascinated about arts I’m feeling much better now. came all the way to Delhi. and music and hope to Today, I study at the National Institute in Open become a professional It took me 22 hours to reach the capital of India, but I School. I’m in 10th grade now and it will me take two was lucky: I didn’t need to pay as I was still quite more years to finish high school. After this I want to singer in future! « small at the age of 14. At the first time, I was work and earn my very own money. But I also want working in a hotel for ten days – but I ran away again and came to to study! I’m fascinated about arts and music and hope to become a Connaught Place in the heart of Delhi. There, I spent two years of my professional singer in future! Maybe in a few years from now I will life on the street. I lived near Gurudwara Sikh Temple, where I could sing traditional religious songs in front of my fans in Delhi and get food quite easily. beyond. One day, my friend Jatender told me about a place where street children like us can get food, shelter, clothes and education. I was



my name is RAJEEV I was born in a small village in the state of Bihar and grew up there until I was 10 years old. At this time I started looking for a job to earn money and buy some toys. My father was a farmer and used to smoke a lot. He had some money, but every night he went to a market for gambling. So money was a problem for me, my sister and my three brothers.

So one day a rich man came to the temple and told me that I should go to school and studying would be good for me. “When you start learning, your life will become better”, he said. So I took the decision that I want to go to school! But how?

I knew that there was a shelter home near the temple for a long time, but it took me three years on the street to go there. Food and a place to When I was a child, my brother finished high school one day. I went sleep were no longer a problem for me. I also learned karate and really to visit him as my father didn’t allow me to go to school and when enjoyed yoga classes every Sunday. But apart from that I’m still the teacher saw me he asked “What are you doing looking for education. I do learn with the help of an » My dream is to become an here?” and he started beating me. This was my open school system, but whenever I ask the staff to artist, a fashion designer who only day at school. get formal admission they deny and give me a creates clothes that perfectly fit frustrating answer: I am too old. But how can I Other villagers told me to go to Delhi. “All time improve my life without education? How can I go to every unique person. « you will have money there”, they said. And when I to college without a high school degree? People are have money I could buy toys! And hopefully I will saying that my age is too high for school, but still I want to study to also be able to study. So I took the train from Bihar to Delhi. That have a better life in future! was in 2002. But life there was different from the stories the people told me. I was working in a Dhaba (a small restaurant) washing the My dream is to become an artist, a fashion designer who creates dishes and taking orders. I was also selling flowers and fruits at a clothes that perfectly fit to every unique person. I want to give a new temple. Yes, I did earn some money, but still I was living on the look that perfectly matches with the body. I’m drawing sketches, yet street for more than three years – all day running to work here and it is hard to learn more about fashion design only from movies, there. I was tired and desperate for a rest. model shows and magazines. It’s hard to do this with so many barriers, but I won’t give up until I finally achieve my right to learn!



my name is IRFAN

When I was five years old I and my family travelled all the way before we moved to that place. It feels good to be here and I love to play from north-east India to Delhi. We came from a small village and games like cricket together with my new friends. So I decided to stay our hope was to make a better life and earn more money here – together with my older brother Nawab. than before. » I like it to come to At the same time I miss my father and we try to visit the shelter home after Fortunately, we knew some relatives in Nag Loi, where him as much as we can. But he lives a very poor life, school and play cricket because it’s hard for him to earn enough money to we could stay for some time. Yet, we had no own place to live, because we didn’t have the money to afford it. I survive. or chess with my was going to school at this time. My father was selling friends. « Salaam Baalak Trust helped me to find a school where fruits on the street and he is still doing this. Yet, he I’m going to 5th grade now. I like it to come to the shelter earns only very little and struggles to feed his family. home after school and play cricket or chess with my friends. It’s a Searching for shelter we found out about Salaam Baalak Trust. Me nice place to be, although it makes me sad from time to time not to and my brother visited one of the shelter homes three, four times live with my father anymore.



my name is RAJENDER When I was a child I used to live and wander around on the streets of Delhi. My home was a slum of the city where I learned to survive together with my family. We had tents to protect us from rain and sunlight. The living conditions were poor - with nothing more than rubbish and plastic around us. One day, my friend told me about a shelter home in “Lajpat Nagar” in Delhi, where they provide food, clothes and shelter for children like me. I went there and since then I called this place my new “home”.

I really want to become a singer – that’s what I’m absolutely crazy about! Whenever I sing in the shelter home the kids and staff encourage me to carry on. My favorite songs are Bollywood music and romantic tunes – with Kumar » My dream is to Sanu and Udit Narayen as two of my idols.

become a professional singer one day. If I get the chance to make a career as a vocalist one day I will take it. «

However, I didn’t feel good in Lajpat Nagar, the rules were strict and the food was not good. But I wanted to study! At this time I was eight years old, my brother was dead and the only alternative was to live on the street again. So I lived there for one year until I came to Salaam Baalak Trust.

I came to another shelter where they also provide food, clothes and shelter, but at the same time I can enjoy the freedom to come and go


whenever I want. Here, I’m learning English, study in 8th grade and since two, three years I practice singing. I’m learning it on my own, although I hope to find professional assistance in future.

Whenever I sing their tunes I’m deeply going into the songs. Sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m happy and most of the time it’s all about mixed emotions. I’m losing myself in the rhythm of the music.

My dream is to become a professional singer one day. I also want to sing outside the shelter. Nowadays I’m giving singing lessons to some other kids in the shelter home which makes a lot of fun. If I get the chance to make a career as a vocalist one day I will take it!


my name is IQBAL At the age of five I left my home. I fed up with my parents fighting and causing problems all the time. When I was a small child there was no unity in my family. My father was with my bigger brother and my mother with my sister and I struggled with my own identity. I finally ran away from my hometown Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh coming all the way to Delhi.

street. But then I trusted her and so I came to a shelter home from a charity organization in Gurgaon, south of Delhi. I was able to study, had food and a shelter there. The facility was good, but I missed my freedom. I was upset and so I run away from that place again.

I finally came to Salaam Baalak Trust. For some months, I worked for the organization as a peer educator talking to other street children and doing field work with the staff. Since four » I want to become a software years I’m living now with the organization – engineer. This is the only work finally at DMRC shelter home. I continuously studied and graduated from high school with the I never get bored of. I want to help of Salaam Baalak Trust.

But how could I survive on the street? I collected garbage and worked in a tea store to earn some money around Old Delhi and New Delhi Railway Station. I got food from different places and spent my little money on watching movies and playing design my own software and video games. But sleeping used to be a problem. run my own business with no For the future I want to become a software engineer When I tried to rest at the train station together and work in the field of information technology. pressure from a boss. « with many other children the police often came This is the only work I never get bored of. I want to beating us up to banish us from the station. At design my own software and run my own business with no pressure this time I used to spend a lot of time with three friends. We were from a boss. I did a four months long course at the NIIT (National working together, went to parks and took local trains to different Institute of Information Technology) about the IT sector and places. That was a lot of fun! communication. Nowadays, I need to wait for the sponsorship for a After one year I met a woman who asked me if I want to study and if three years long course to get a Bachelor of Arts in software I’m looking for a place to stay. First, I was scared of her, because I development. Eventually, I will be able to live an independent life! thought she might sell me to someone and force me to beg on the



my name is NADEEM When I was young I lived with my parents in a village called Giana in the north-east of India. At the age of seven I went to Delhi together with my family. Here, I started studying at the Mada Dersa, a school for families with Muslim religion. One day, I had an argument with my father about the food. I just didn’t like it and it was too spicy for me. I was a little boy at this time and fed up with my family. So I made the plan to run away and took the chance when my mother was in a mall.

Now, I’m studying in 10th grade with an open school system. I can fully concentrate on that because I don’t have to worry about food or clothes anymore. I really do enjoy living » My dream is to join the here with my friends, playing cricket or other games Indian army one day. I and watching movies from time to time.

want to become an air force pilot, but first I need to pass the entrance exams after 10th grade. «

I went to a school friend where I stayed for more than one year. I couldn’t stay for longer, but I also didn’t want to go back to my parents. My friends gave me the advice to look for an organization called Salaam Baalak Trust that takes care about street and working children. Although I never really used to live on the street I went to a contact point of the organization to speak


to one of the social workers. After a while, he brought me to one of the shelter homes.

My dream is to join the Indian army one day. I want to become an air force pilot, but first I need to pass the entrance exams after 10th grade. At the same time I’m also interested in arts and hope to learn more about it in college. I’m fascinated about film-making which is much easier for me to understand than other science subjects such as physics or chemistry.


my name is AJAY It was in 2001 when I came to Gujarat at the age of eight together continued: “Are you looking for shelter?” Of course, I said yes. So I with my family. In our home village money was always a big went to one of the organization’s contact point where I came almost problem for me and my family. My father died when I was only six every day. I also started studying with an open school system, before years old. So I worked in a tea store to support my I got admission for 4th grade in a regular school. After » I wrote a letter to my three years I finally went to a shelter home called Apna mother. mother and told her Ghar. Since then I continued my studies and I’m in One day I heard about Delhi – the capital of India. about my life here and 10th grade now. People told me that it would be easier to find a job over that I really miss her. there. I thought that was my chance and I decided to I wrote a letter to my mother and told her about my life Six years ago, she take the next train to Delhi. I had no ticket and when here and that I really miss her. Six years ago, she finally also came to the ticket collector found me, he handed me over to the finally also came to Delhi together with my little brother Delhi together with my Rabi. Now he lives with me in the shelter home and we police. But I was lucky, because after I told them my story they just said to me: “Go to Delhi!” visit our mom almost every month. little brother Rabi. « I arrived at the New Delhi Railway Station and stayed there for eight months before I found out about some temples nearby at Connaught Place. In the mornings I went to these places to have food and shelter, but in the evening I had to go back to the railway station to sleep on the platforms. From time to time the police came and beat us up to banish us from the railway station. I was happy when I found out about a church where I could sleep at night which I did for three months before I met a coordinator from Salaam Baalak Trust. “Do you want to read?”, he asked and


I’m earning money now as a tour guide by cycle for two days a week. It makes a lot of fun and I like to take the tourist on a bicycle ride, although I have to wake up very early in the morning. In future I want to become a graphic designer and find a job in a multimedia business. I practice designing on the computer on my own, but also the teachers are helping me. And hopefully one day I can work for a design company and live at another place abroad.


my name is SHARAFAT When I was a child, I lived in West Bengal together with my family. 15 days I spent in Nizzamudin Railway Station in Delhi before my One day, we took a train to the eastern part of friend Appu came back to pick me up. I first arrived India - hoping for a better future. in a drop-in center. After one year I joined my » I’m doing a 15 months long friend in a shelter home called Apna Ghar. course at the Institute of Our journey took us to different places in Rajasthan, but wherever we came we were only Finally, I started to study and I got admission in Computer Accounting. In the able to work as rag pickers and collected garbage 6th grade in a regular school. The start was very end I will be a certified like plastic bottles or thin iron on the streets. My hard, but over the time it became easier for me to Industrial Computer parents, my three brothers, two sisters and I were follow the lessons. In the end I successfully Accountant. My dream is to sleeping outdoors with nothing but the stars above graduated from high school. Now I’m doing a 15 become a business man – us. Never, we had a place to stay. months long course at the Institute of Computer hopefully in another country. « Accounting. In the end I will be a certified Time went by, until I finally came to Delhi. I had Industrial Computer Accountant. My dream is to a friend who was also a rag picker. I met him in Ajmer, a city in become a business man – hopefully in another country. Rajasthan, and he used to be in Delhi before. So I asked him where he was living there. “I’m living in a shelter home. And I’m also working Most of my time for the last eight years I spent in a shelter home and studying there”, he said. I was curious and excited to find out from Salaam Baalak Trust where food, clothes and shelter are more about this place. So I also wanted to go there and I took the train provided. These places helped me to leave the streets behind me and to Delhi. start a better life. Today I think that any goal for the future can be achieved and my plans can become reality – if I only do my best.



my name is AFTAB

I spent my childhood in a small village in the north of India. Two school and do further studies. I want to learn more about computers, years ago I took the train to Delhi and came to a contact point for its hardware and how to repair it. street children at the New Delhi Railway Station. As I’m really interested in engineering and I wish I could it became clear that I would stay for longer I took the » Neither have I go to a college in Delhi after high school to gain more chance to stay in one of Salaam Baalak Trust’s brothers nor sisters. And knowledge about it. I’m also curious to find out more shelter homes called Alman Center. At this time I was I also lost contact to my about Photoshop, Microsoft Office and other computer 13 years old. mom. One day I hope to software. When I’ll have finished my studies I want to I left my home because I was looking for a job. My come back to my home work in a company dealing with computer business. father died when I was very young so I and my village in Bihar to see Still, I do miss to live with my family and it makes mother had to raise our own money to live and survive her again. « me sad to be so far away from my mother. Neither have on our own. I brothers nor sisters. And I also lost contact to my Life in Alman Center was good. I found friends and started mom. One day I hope to come back to my home village in Bihar to see studying in 8th grade. These days I want to graduate from high her again.



Find out more about children living with Salaam Baalak Trust:

Salaam Baalak Trust | salute to the spirit of survival


Stories of Survival  

All children who tell you their stories in this book used to live on the street at least once in their lifetime. They ran away from home for...