It’s Independence Day and we are all buying Indian flags. You might have also seen the one selling them; little children, clad — if at all — in torn bits of clothing, bones sticking out, standing outside your car window, waving those Tricolours at you.
It’s an Independence Day ritual, almost.
However, will those bits of paper and cloth transformed by the colours of a country help the children? Will the flag help the most hapless of those who salute it?
There are nearly 472 million children in India under the age of 18 years, representing 39 per cent of the country’s total population. A large part, 29 per cent, of that figure is made up of children up to 6 years old.
The children selling flags we are buying are young and they have dreams. Ask them what they want to be, some will say schoolteacher, others would vow to be messiahs for children like themselves.
What will they do after the day is over? See for yourself, with these videos recorded by our team at Vijay Cross Roads, Ahmedabad.
“Didi please flag lailo,” pleads 3-year-old Naina with a glittering smile, holding flags in both her hands.
Naina’s mother and aunt sit every year on Vijay Cross Roads on the eve of Independence Day to sell flags.
“Most people choose not to buy flags, we only get lucky at times when a parent comes to us to buy a flag for their child,” says Naina’s mother.
Naina doesn’t go to school yet, but her mother promises to admit her when she turns 5.
Naina walks up to a car, the lady sitting inside rolls down the window and buys a flag for her child. Naina returns to her mother with a ten-rupee note in her hand, her face shining with joy.
Bhoomika, 11, does not have flags to sell, she is begging.
“I had a handful of flags, which I sold in the morning and now I am begging to earn a few extra bucks,” she says, smiling.
She was studying in sixth grade when her father met with an accident. She was then pulled out of her school, Apang Shala, for lack of funds.
“I am begging as my father is currently doing the rounds of a clinic. He was an auto-rickshaw driver and he has lost his right leg below the knee. So me and my grandmother beg here. My mother ran away from home,” says Bhoomika.
She wants to be a police officer when she grows up.
Rakesh alias Lokesh is 9 years old and has four years of experience selling flags on Independence Day. He studies in grade two. All four members of his family do the same work.
Ask him why he does it, and he says it’s because his parents don’t have money.
Rakesh wants to become an “officer” when he grows up.
Do they make these flags? No, he says. His family members bring it from Lal Darwaza. What they bring and what they sell changes according to seasons and festivals.
Ankit is 12 years old and wants to become a doctor when he grows up. He has been selling flags — and other sundry items, according to the season and demand — for five years now.
He says there are four members in his family and to just be able to afford food to eat he has to work.
Ranjit’s story is similar, but his ambition is different.
The 11-year-old has been selling flags and other materials at road intersections for three years. There are three members in his family. He has to do this work to survive.
Ranjit, however, wants to become a businessman when he grows up. He wants to help children like himself and donate to the poor.
He says that very few people buy the flag and those who buy it bargain to pay less.
Thus, with a heart filled with patriotic fervour you lower the window and buy what they are selling. The children of India.
Happy Independence Day.