Thursday, October 22, 2009


I met some Oliver Twists during my first visit to the richest continent on the planet. Though these children may never share the fortunate fairy-tale climax that he had.

October 14th. After the first half of the conference. We were in the train station and were waiting to buy tickets. A one-way ticket to my hostel from the university was 1.50 euros. Three little kids, not more than 10 years old, came and stood all around me, very close to me. They had unused tickets in their hand and were trying to get me to buy those instead of from the slot machines. Suspicious, I told them that I didn't want their tickets.

Two of the children got closer to me and to the slot machine that I was trying to operate. I selected the option of buying one ticket and put in the money for it. The money came out instead of a ticket. Now why would that happen?! I decided to try again. I selected the single ticket option and put in the money again. I noticed the kid who was to my left stealthily press the cancel button that he had positioned himself against. The kid on the right, by then, had his tiny hands in the tiny slot where the money would come out. The money did fall out in a bit and he took it all and they both scurried away. My friend who was also trying to buy tickets caught one of them by hand. The other dropped the coins he had and they all made an escape. All in a few seconds. Training and practice were evident. The boldness was startling.

When you are 10 years old, you don't want to do things that are bad. Or rather, even if you want to, you don't want to be caught by anyone doing those bad things. Drinking honey from a bottle and then filling it up with enough water to make things look untouched makes kids, kids.

These children, had none of that innocence. They did what they did openly and daringly. There was none of the subtleties of Fagin's methods. They were stealing. Another persons property. But what did that even mean to them? Did they have anything they called their own, for the meaning of ownership to be revealed to them? Were they raised by parents who taught them that it was bad to steal what was not yours? But did they know what "yours" meant? They probably knew what "not yours" meant though. Wasn't that everything there was? Did they have parents who taught them things and were kind enough to be listened to? Did they have parents?

In India, I would expect things to be worse, but I have not seen children stealing so openly and brazenly. It was a shocking experience. Clearly, things are wrong everywhere.

I do not know where we are headed. Does anybody?


  1. It shocking to hear that.. Perhaps times have changed faster than we thought..

  2. Talked a lot abt it...This window is tooo small to share my feelings abt these kinda incidents!!! Ugh...

  3. i can only feel sorry for the little boys because it looks like they have no positive figures in their lives to look upto..

    wonder where the road will take them.