CHENNAI: Appu has fast hands. Close to a decade ago, his speed and dexterity with his fingers helped him become one of the fastest ragpickers to roam the Kodungaiyur dumping yard. Today, they’re filling puffs with vegetables and putting the finishing touches on pastry at the Chennai Baking Centre. “Till I saw my result, I never thought that I would have a single shot at passing,” he laughs cheekily. “Till the last revision test, I never passed a single one,” he says. Having liked the lure of the pastry more than turning his textbooks, he was resigned to continuing work until he actually passed his boards. Unlike his rather broken brand of Tamil, Clara, his friend from the place he has come to call ‘home’, speaks perfect English.
Bubbling with energy, Clara is over the moon. She scored more than 80 per cent in her 10th boards and is inching closer to her dream of studying English literature. Less than six years ago, she was rescued from a home for destitute children where the proprietor was accused of harassing the children. She has come a long way since.
Baking for a year, she spends her free time making extra money icing cakes with her friends. “I work at the Baking Centre with Appu. It’s hard work, but sometimes I get free by evening, so its fine.” she says.
She seemed quietly starstruck at the idea of getting higher education. “I’ll study harder next time. I want to go abroad for my higher studies, it’s my longtime dream.” she adds wistfully.
“I will study too!” quips Appu with his impish charm as he strikes funny poses for the camera with his friend. Many years ago, he was taken in by his grandfather and his aunt — with the latter harassing him constantly out of fear that he would lay claim to the old man’s property in R K Nagar. “My appa (Appu calls his granddad that because he never knew his father) was the watchman at the night shelter in Kodungaiyur and it was then that I was rescued and brought here. The home shut down and he moved to the yard, so I don’t hear from him too much,” says the boy who currently lives with his friend at MCCSS, a protection home in Perambur.