Sultan of Swings Settles Deep Within

Its 3 o clock in the afternoon. He had been planning and waiting for this day since almost three weeks. He ran the plan carefully in his mind. "finish the his 'seth's' feet till he falls into his afternoon nap...leave the room and latch the door from outside...tip toe to the puja room...remove goddess Lakshmi's framed picture hanging from the wall...use the key he forged to open the safe behind the picture...take exactly 1000 rs...lock the safe...put the picture back...tip toe back to seth's room...slowly unlatch the door...walk slowly to the servants quarter...pick his packed bag...jump the wall...walk to the station and take a train to his village...never come back to this horrid place..."

It went perfectly well, till he came back to his seth's room. The door was already unlatched. He could feel the fear drain his throat. "How could this happen, no one's supposed to be here," he turned back to make a run for the door, 'Whack!' he felt a stick ram his head, he fell down, knocked out! Next thing he remembers is sitting behind a police jeep and looking out at his seth's scoffing face and his son's mocking grin waving him off. "He was supposed to be in his aunt’s place," he thought as tears rolled down his dusty face.

'What a brat, he deserves it,' most of us would think. His name is *Sultan, quite contrary to the life he was living, and he is 15. The police will give him a beating and put him in a Juvenile Correction Home, after which he will be forgotten by the seth and his society. But little do the police and the society know about Sultan and his life. Sultan was picked from his village five years ago by his uncle, who used to work at the seth's house. His uncle told him that he would work and live at the seth's house, and also go to a school in the city. An orphan, Sultan thought that his life is going to change, and happily he left the village with his uncle. Well, his life did change, but not the way he expected. What the police and the society don’t know are the five years of shame, abuse and torture that Sultan had to endure till the day he was sitting behind in the police jeep.

There are many such kids, on the streets, in rich homes, in restaurants, construction sites, railway stations, traffic signals and shady bars, who are forced by circumstances to live a life they don’t deserve. Deprived of education and proper guidance, they often take on a route that is antisocial and end up in such correction homes. Frustrated by the sudden subject of discipline and restriction, they run away from these homes to be caught again, run again when they get a chance and get caught again, and this goes on till they are adults and finally end up in prison.

The only places these kids can be tapped and transformed are in these juvenile observation homes. And that is what The Art of Living volunteers are doing in Pune, Maharashtra. Since October 2008, 75 volunteers have been working continuously in the Boys and Girls Observation Homes in Shivajinagar and Nana Peth, rehabilitating and strengthening the lives of around 300 children in these two homes.

The Art of Living Remand Home Seva Group as they are called, work with the children and help them channelize their energy that has gone haywire into a proper direction. Through different Art of Living workshops such as Bal Chetna Shivir, Nav Chetna Shivir and YES, the children are empowered through meditation (ram dhyaan), pranayama, yog asanas and various learning exercises that strengthen and instill values of life in them.

These powerful techniques free them from stresses and the deep impressions that bitter experiences have created in their young minds. It leaves them fresh, rejuvenated and with a feeling of hope. When the heart and mind are free, the values of friendliness, sense of belongingness, confidence and responsibility come up naturally. They are empowered to take up their place as a dignified member of society again.

Based on their skills the children are also educated; in computers, trained in making crafts such as candle, chocolates, chalk, perfume, soft toys and soap, automobile repair courses and beauty parlor courses for girls. The children are introduced to music, dance and satsangs that get them involved in celebrating their lives. These workshops, over a period of two years, with regular follow ups and guidance and direction from the volunteers and staff, has brought about a beautiful transformation in these.

*Sultan: The name has been changed for discretion. I met Sultan at a Juvenile House in Pune in 2005. His life story was an eye-opener. Today Sultan is studying Computers in a college in Pune and practices Sudarshan Kriya every day. In his village, the people call him their Hero.

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Writer: Eben Felix, Graphics: Gurudatt Anveker