Javed explains how each platform is controlled by a gang leader, one of the older street children, who protects and menaces the other boys in his care. Shouting to make himself heard above the rumbling of the trains, our guide explains that children who run away from home - escaping alcoholism, poverty, natural disasters and family violence - usually take the train to Delhi. Gang leaders spot a new arrival as soon as he steps off the train and offer help with finding food and safe places to sleep.Link (via Squattercity)
New arrivals are shown how to strap sharp blades to their index fingers for slashing pockets; they learn which fruit-juice sellers will protect them and where to sell the plastic bottles and silver foil picked from the carriage. Their day's takings are taken by the gang leader who redistributes the money (although not all of it) on Saturday, when the children take a day off to watch Bollywood movies. Platform one, where the luxury tourist trains stop, is the most heavily policed area, but also the most lucrative fiefdom, and street children are skilled at dodging trains to crawl into the carriages from the other side. There are no girls in the gangs because they are picked up by pimps as soon as they arrive, Javed explains.
By the end of the walk, the group is beginning to feel overwhelmed by the smells of hot tar, urine and train oil. Have they found it interesting, Javed asks? One person admits to feeling a little disappointed that they weren't able to see more children in action - picking up bottles, moving around in gangs. 'It's not like we want to peer at them in the zoo, like animals, but the point of the tour is to experience their lives,' she says. Javed says he will take the suggestion on board for future tours.