Kumar Pillai | 14 | Student
Nityanand Marg Kannada School, Mumbai
A ROOF over his head is a luxury that he craves as Kumar Pillai hides from the sun near his family’s makeshift tent. He lives near the busy Western Express Highway and is part of the “flyover population”. Most kids drop out of school and help their families by selling lemonade and flowers.
Kumar’s brother Satya, 20, is the family’s sole breadwinner. Satya works at a five-star hotel and earns Rs 6,000 per month. Their mother Beem Bai was born with a medical defect in her leg and father Shanmugam Pillai stopped working five years ago when he had an accident at a construction site. “Everybody suggests we should put Kumar to work, but we want to improve his life,” says Shanmugam. “I could not study beyond Class V, but I want to make sure he does. His destiny should be different from ours.”
Kumar has just completed Class VII from Nityanand Marg Kannada School. In Mumbai, most BMC schools are till Class VII, after which students are forced to attend private schools if they wish to continue education.
“My school is located 45 minutes from where I live,” says Kumar. “Every day, I take a bus to school and it costs me Rs 10 each way. Once school gets over at 5.30 pm, I come back and help my mother with housework. During holidays, I don’t work because our house is demolished almost every two weeks. We have to pack up everything with almost no notice. Last month, they came and broke our jhopadpatti during my final exams and I lost a lot of my notes. There is a streetlight under which I study in the evening. Though I have passed, I did not check my marksheet, as I know they will be poor.
“I like going to school. Sir log achhi baat karte hain. We are given dal, chawal, khichdi and biscuits. Now, I will have to try and get admission in a private school for Class VIII. I hope the fee is not very high and my brother can afford it. I want to study till Class X, and then work in an office.”
Sunaina Kumar is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.