News - Mean Streets
by Ranjini Banerjee
Every flower or magazine being sold at a traffic light has a story behind it," said Lauren Andres, the compere for the play being showcased by Jamghat and Khoj Foundation. Aptly titled Humein naaz hai, this satirical play on the plight of the homeless surviving on the streets of Delhi, was written and directed by Lokesh Jain, a founding member of Jamghat, a NGO that actively works towards helping street children in Delhi, change their destiny. The streets of Delhi are home to more than 40,000 such children and this play is a reflection of their life story.
The play, situated on the streets around Jama Masjid, started with a song and dance routine, where the characters on stage represented a typical crowd that we see on the streets each day, but never really notice. We had a 'chai wala', his little assistant, a fruit seller, rag pickers, a eunuch, fighting street kids and many such characters. The story then unfolded, gradually revealing many a dark story behind every individual who was living the streets.
Jamaalu Chacha, who owned a sprawling haveli before independence, is now living on the streets earning a living through his tea stall. Kataari, a eunuch, has resorted to the flesh trade for survival, while Jhabbar, a watchman, had to migrate to this city to earn a livelihood for his family back in the village when damaged crops left him with no other option. The street urchins Feroz, Azad and others are addicted to sniffing solution and spend their time gambling, fighting or as rag pickers.
The audience is witness to the harsh reality of street life where each day and night is a daily struggle to survive hunger, beating, illness, sexual abuse and fear. The 90-minute play teaches us the lesson of a lifetime. Out of the 33 artistes, eight are children who are from Jamghat. The play helps them enact their own life stories and the result is an authentic depiction of street life. The songs, an integral part of the play, are completely off tune, much of the acting is amateurish, but when the play ends, we cannot help but give the artistes a standing ovation because it is indeed a story that was told from the heart that touched our hearts.
It is high time society wakes up and protests against the lopsided development happening all around, that attempts to eradicate the poor rather than poverty.
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