I was enjoying a steaming bowl of MeeHoon Rebus at Chawan@BangsarVillage late Sunday night when a scrawny Indian boy approached our table with some wares he was selling. In his hands were multi-colored pens, strapped on his shoulders were attractive PVC bags and in his hands were two big red plastic bags filled to the brim with craft sets for preschoolers.
It was around 10pm, I think because we went there quite late. On a previous occasion, the husband did buy something from this boy, also on one of our trips to Chawan. But this time round, there was nothing we’d fancy from him so we had to tell him nicely sorry, not today. And I saw that look on his face which says ‘ haiizzz’.
According to UNICEF, the definition of a ‘street urchin’ :
- Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets.
- Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally.
Street children exist in many major cities, especially in developing countries, and may be subject to abuse, neglect, exploitation, or even in extreme cases murder by “cleanup squads” hired by local businesses or police.
The boy which approached us falls into the first category, I think. Because that was not the first time we saw him there, nor was it the 2nd time. He and his friend, also another street peddler seems to be a permanent feature around BangsarVillage area. Sometimes out of pity, we would try to make an effort to buy something from them. But deep down inside, we know that the money would not go to them, but their ‘agents’ whoever that might be.
I have been wanting to do something with these boys but never seems to have the guts to do so. Firstly, I do not know if people from the ‘syndicate’ they work for is lurking around, watching with eagle eyes on who these boys are talking to and I don’t really fancy the idea of messing around with the ‘underground’. Secondly, I am not sure if it would be right for me to do so.
What I really had wanted to do was, to get them to sit down with me at Chawan over a period of time and tell me their story. And then write about it. Maybe publish it. But like I said, I had no guts. ( yet? )