Today I would like to write about a boy, Rajendra, whom I have already once introduced to you before. Unfortunately, while we were very positive about his family’s future in that time, we cannot say the same now and we just hope that we will have the chance to educate Rajendra as many of the coming years as possible.
When I wrote about his family in 2010, the family had come to Vrindavan some months before and Rajendra’s father was looking for work. Not only for him but also for his father-in-law, his sister-in-law, his daughter and two sons. They told a heartbreaking story of how the children’s mother died of kidney failure because they could not afford the treatment, how the father’s brother committed suicide and how they were now just desperately looking for work.
We employed the three adults and sent the children to our school, wishing to thus make a difference in their lives. While the children’s grandfather and aunt soon left the Ashram to move back to the village, their father, a rickshaw-driver, picked up the school-children with his rickshaw and dropped them back home every day. The regular income that we provided him however soon didn’t seem to be enough. He asked for a higher, came by often to request some extra money and soon asked for that much money that it became too expensive for us to afford him. On top of it we had the suspicion that he spent a big part of his salary on alcohol. Nevertheless, we carried on teaching his children for free.
Until his daughter Rajbai didn’t come to school anymore one day. We went to ask why she didn’t come and got to know she had gone to visit her aunt in their village. No, she wouldn’t be back for a while. We explained how bad it would be for her schooling if she was absent for a month or even longer. Yes, he would send her back to school as soon as possible. He didn’t. We got to know later that she had come back to Vrindavan and was working as a maid in people’s homes. Then a bit more than a year ago, we heard that she got married. She was thirteen in 2010, when we wrote about her. She was thus fifteen when she married.
When you talk about this with her father, he insists she was eighteen and he married her only a few months ago. He even tries to convince us that he had no other chance, not having enough money to feed her and raise her further. The moment you ask her younger brother Rajendra, he will repeat a sentence he has learned well: ‘She was eighteen years old!’ There is no birth certificate to prove anything else.
When the new school session started last year, the elder brother Narendra didn’t come back to school. Now fourteen years old, he had started working in a shop in town, selling chai, Indian tea. He didn’t have interest in learning more, we were told, and the boy himself didn’t reply anything. All efforts to convince them to send him back to school failed.
When we arrived at their home this time during the winter holidays, it was a sad scene to see. Rajendra ran to wake up his father – at eleven o’clock in the morning. He came out, disheveled and definitely hung over, stinking of alcohol. He was lying in bed while his elder son was out working, earning money, and his younger son playing outside. Rajendra told him to put on a jacket, to try and make his hair look better, urging him to make a good impression.
It broke our hearts to see this boy’s effort to make his father presentable. We had our talk, getting to know that he earned very little with the rickshaw these days, blaming the weather and what not. The rent of about 20 US-Dollar is paid by his son’s salary, approximately 40 US-Dollar in a month. He obviously doesn’t see a need to do much effort in his own work – if it is enough for his alcohol, he doesn’t have to worry anymore, as his son is now earning enough for all other expenses.
We left after pleading once more with him to consider his children’s future. We urged him not to even think of taking his last son out of school, explaining him once more the benefits of solid education.
It is sad but this is what we are constantly working against: Parents who want to take their children out of school, child marriage, child labour, a small salary now valued higher than a good job in future. We will continue our efforts and instead of getting discouraged by situations like Rajbai’s and Narendra’s, we want to focus on our success, the progress of Rajendra.
He is a smart boy and he learns well. He is jolly and always respectful. It is never a child’s fault and that’s how we will do everything we can for Rajendra’s future.