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Book Review: The Weight of Silence
US writer Shelley Seale has come up with her own account of the lives of India's slum children. Her book 'The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India', is aimed at creating awareness about these invisible children.
EARLIER THIS year, the Indian government released a first of its kind Urban Poverty Report 2009, which estimates that over 25 per cent of the urban population ie, above 80million, lives in slums across India. Among these 80million, the worst sufferers are children.

The US-based writer Shelley Seale, has come up with an account of her experiences with Indian slum children. Her book 'The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India', is aimed at creating awareness about these invisible children.

“Amidst the growing prosperity of India, there is an entire generation of parentless children growing up. They are everywhere. They fill the streets, railway stations, shanty villages. Some scrounge through the trash for newspapers, rags or anything they can sell at traffic intersections. Others, often as young as two or three, beg. Many are homeless spilling over from orphanages and other institutional homes to live on the streets where they are extremely vulnerable to being trafficked into child labor if they’re lucky, and brothels if they’re not. They are invisible children; their plight goes virtually unnoticed, their voices silenced,” Shelley wrote.

In the Indian capital of Delhi, around three million people live in 1,500 slums. In these slums, hundreds of thousand of children survive the hardship of their lives. Despite their tough life, many of them have succeeded in showing rays of hope to others. Some of the positive things to emerge from Delhi’s slums are:

Community newspapers
The slum children of Lal Quan and Haiderpur are engaged in community publishing, for spreading awareness about their situation. They publish the wallpapers ‘Haiderpur Darpan’ and ‘Lal Quan Darpan’.

Children’s bank
Bal Vikas Bank (Children Development Bank) is a bank for street children. It is owned and managed by children as a co-operative.

Slumdog guides
Like Jamaal Malik, Slumdog Millionaire’s key character who rose from slums to become a millionaire despite all odds, there are an informal group of street children in Delhi, who turn up as guides for foreign tourist for showcasing life in Delhi’s slums.

Children puppeteers
Child puppeteers belonging to low-income artist families keep alive their artistic traditions despite economic hardship. Kalakar Vikas School, an NGO, is training nearly four hundred children in traditional arts.

Even Shelley, inspired by the spirit of Indian slum children says: “Little did I know how much they would change my life. Their hope and resilience amazed me time and time again; the ability of their spirits to overcome crippling challenges inspired me. Even in the most deprived circumstances they are still kids – they laugh and play, perhaps far less frequently than others; they develop strong bonds and relationships to create a family where none exists; and most of all they have an enormous amount of love to give.”

In her book, Shelley combines the hardships of vulnerable Indian children with her feelings. This book is a moral response of a concerned human being.

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