India's Street Children: Background information when reading No Presents Please

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No Presents Please

Mumbai Stories

by Jayant Kaikini

No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini X
No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2020, 240 pages

    Jul 2020, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Debbie Morrison
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About this Book

India's Street Children

This article relates to No Presents Please

Print Review

Young Indian children climbing over train tracksJayant Kaikini's short story collection, No Presents Please, does some of its best work exploring Mumbai's marginalized communities, including the prominently featured community of the city's street children, many of whom roam the streets alone, neglected, undernourished and with few prospects for the future. Stories like "A Spare Pair of Legs" and "City Without Mirrors" address this pressing social issue.

In countries like India and cities like New Delhi and Mumbai in particular, this is a problem of enormous proportions. According to statistics by Homeless World Cup, India has approximately 1.8 million homeless people with the majority residing in major cities like Mumbai. These homeless rates can be attributed to exploding populations and high rates of poverty, in addition to displacement from natural disasters and "government beautification" programs that seek to eliminate slums. As part of the "beautification" process, 147 homes were destroyed every day in the country in 2017, according to a survey by Housing and Land Rights India. Numbers vary as to how many of the homeless in India are children, but as many as 300,000 unhoused youth are believed to be living in New Delhi alone.

According to a social aid group called the Salaam Baalak Trust, there are two basic classes of street children: those who belong to a homeless family unit and those who are without parents or other relations. There are also street children who do not suffer from homelessness but spend a great deal of their time on the street working, hustling, and generally trying to earn money for themselves and/or their families.

Many street children come to the cities looking for better opportunities, often seeking to escape abusive or otherwise unhappy homes. Other children whose families are unwilling or unable to care for them place them on trains to larger cities by themselves. These distinctions are significant because they can point to a large difference in the type and quality of life that a street child has in India. For example, some of the homeless shelters are only accessible to the cast-off children of sex workers, while others only accept boys. While all street children suffer poverty and food insecurity, those without any family relations are at much higher risk of sexual exploitation, violence and/or child labor abuses.

There have been many outside efforts to relieve child homelessness and street life in India. Religious organizations have a firm presence in the form of community centers and halfway homes. In another, more controversial, attempt to bring money and aid to street children in India, so-called "slum tours" have become a routine part of walking tours for North Americans and Europeans. With former street children as their guide, tourists hear tragic stories while walking amongst those still living on the street. In an effort to steer clear of exploitation, however, tourist groups have begun banning pictures and video during the tours.

Homeless children in India, courtesy of Salaam Baalak Trust

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Debbie Morrison

This article relates to No Presents Please. It first ran in the August 5, 2020 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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