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The Days of Extreme Hunger Haunts Me in My Dreams: Pooja (12)

The Days of Extreme Hunger Haunts Me in My Dreams: Pooja (12)

Skipping meals isn’t a piece of cake for anyone!

In spite of having seen the days of hunger and absolute poverty at home, the 12-year-old Pooja has possessed an unfailing courtesy and forbearance as compared to those of her age. “The day when a local police constable doesn’t allow my baba (a street hawker) to go to his site; we sleep on an empty stomach,” says the young child shedding tears.

Pooja standing in front of her shanty in Asha's Anna Nagar slum community

Pooja standing in front of her shanty in Asha’s Anna Nagar slum community

Pooja joined the Asha’s Bal Mandal (Children’s Association) at a very early age. She has been learning and practising values from her peer group and teachers since then. She says, practising Asha values makes her life easy. On finding any of her neighbours in pain, suffering from a disease or dying from hunger; she cannot resist herself but go ahead to help. She, being a Bal Mandal member, spreads the word to her group and aids the needy with the support of Mahila Mandal (Women’s Association).

A toddler from the heart but mature for her age, little Pooja says, “we shouldn’t seek returns whenever we help somebody,” while jumping on the bed playfully. Looking at the innocence in her eyes, nobody can make out that she has been struggling with such agony at home.

Pooja’s father (Debu Mukhiya) migrated to the Anna Nagar slum community in search of a better livelihood years ago. But the economic inequality in the overpopulated city forced him to sell peanuts door to door. It barely helps Debu, who originally hails from the Saharsa district of Bihar, pull two square meals a day for his family of five.

Despite the challenges at home, Pooja dreams big.

Pooja helping her peer revise a chapter at the Asha centre

Pooja helping her peer revise a chapter at the Asha centre

“I want to see myself all dressed up in a uniform. I aspire to join Police Services one day. I know, I will need to study so hard for this, but with proper guidance and support, I believe that I will make it,” waves off Pooja with confidence.

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