Ragpicker chooses to change her destiny
An orphan girl was brought up by a ragpicker and helped by an NGO, which turned her life around, reports Ramashankar
BIHAR: Jyoti Kumari is an icon of sorts for hundreds of ragpickers and minor children involved in begging at railway stations and bus stands in Bihar. From picking up empty water bottles from railway tracks to working in a cafe, her journey is one of the unbelievable achievements.
When Jyoti was hardly one-year-old, she was found abandoned near Mahavir temple adjacent to the Patna junction. A ragpicker late Rajdev Paswan adopted her as his daughter. During day, she would pick up empty water bottles from railway tracks and platforms and beg outside the Patna junction.
This continued until she was 10 years. Then she met a functionary of the Rainbow Foundation, who handed her to the organisation’s centre, ‘Khilkhilahat Aman Rainbow Home’ at Rajvanshi Nagar in the state capital. She came in touch with a functionary during a survey conducted by the foundation in the adjoining localities of Patna junction. “I don’t recall the year when I came here,” says the 19-year-old. That was, in fact, the turning point for Jyoti.
She started learning lessons from the school inside the campus and passed class 10th with good marks in 2019. She enrolled in an undergraduate course from the Open School band was selected for a job at the Lemon Cafe located at the Ashina Nagar-Digha Road in Patna. She managed the business single-handedly.
“I don’t know my biological parents. For me, Rajdev Paswan was my father under whose guidance I was brought up. I will never forget the day when I had to jostle with other children for space either at the railway or at the Mahavir temple premises to sleep at night.”
There were occasions when police personnel would thrash orphans and chased them away from railway platforms, suspecting them to be luggage lifters. “For girls, it is more difficult to protect themselves from anti-social elements at places such as railway stations and bus stands or places of worship,” she said. “Log bhi hume galat nazar se dekhte the. Lekin aap kuchh nahi kar sakte (people stare at children like us. But what can you do?” she said.
She is now skilled in Madhubani paintings as well. While doing her job at Lemon Cafe, she never missed the occasion to visit the places and meet people where she spent her early childhood. “I motivated several children to join the Rainbow Foundation which provides proper upbringing and make the children self-reliant by imparting their skill training,” she said.
She wishes more such centres could come up in Bihar so that orphans can lead their lives with dignity. Two other orphan girls, whom she used to treat as younger sisters, have started taking lessons at the school on the campus of the foundation. “I motivate them occasionally to pursue a good career.”
Jyoti is a known name among the aged beggars and ragpickers in the neighbourhood of Patna junction. “I have seen her when she was a kid. Now she looks smart and is well-behaved… What a great change!” says Sanjay Ram, a shoemaker at the Patna junction.
Jyoti’s friend Mausami Basu is married. “We stayed at the Home together for a long time,” she said, adding she often accompanied the survey team to motivate the orphans to give up their work for a better future.
She says some girls joined the centre at her behest but could not continue for long. “Jisko bahar ki hawa lag jati hai wo bandhan mein nahi rahna chahte hain (those who are used to living in the open can’t lead a disciplined life),” she says. Jyoti wants to become a businesswoman. for that, she wants to pursue higher studies after her graduation.