At the age of 10 Ranjit’s parents had forced him to drop out of school to earn money selling balloons at traffic junctions with peers. Soon they felt into stealing or shoplifting. One day he was arrested. Police referred him to Aangan's Youth Center, where he participated in all its activities and took a lot of initiative. Within months he was selected for a scholarship to hold cricket tournaments for young boys like himself combining sports and sessions on life skills. Today he makes a living from working in an auto repair workshop and sets an example for other youths.
For Ranjit, home was a tiny space under a flyover at a busy junction, where he lived with his family who had moved from their native village. A class 5 dropout, Ranjit was forced to help support his family by selling balloons. He soon fell into pick-pocketing and shoplifting and was arrested after stealing from a foreign citizen.
Ranjit began coming to the Aangan Youth Center at Dongri right from its inception and soon became a regular at the Center. He stood out for his leadership skills and was charming, charismatic, organized and managed to get things going. He had the gift of the gab and could convince many children to come to the Youth Center. He would organize different camps and was involved with almost all Centre activities.
While his initial foray into rehabilitation was marked by enthusiasm and passion, he suddenly withdrew from all activities, stopped coming to the Centre and was later found by Aangan counselors gambling at a street corner. Over a cup of tea, Ranjit poured his heart out to us, telling us about his family history and how his father, who used to be a money lender, didn’t work anymore. He also confessed to us about the pressure he and his siblings were under to bring in money, all of which had led him to believe that a life of crime was his only option.
It was purely by chance then that Aangan had been contacted by a social organization interested in giving scholarships to youth who were making changes in their community. We thought that this would be a great opportunity for someone like Ranjit, who wanted to get himself out of the cycle of crime and change people’s attitudes towards him and his community.
Ranjit thought of a wonderful initiative for the scholarship programme – to marry his love of cricket with social change. He wanted to use the scholarship to hold cricket tournaments around the city and through them, talk about things that affected boys like him including drinking, gambling, drug addiction and criminal activity. He was awarded the scholarship and successfully planned and organized cricket tournaments which often began or ended with a guest speaker talking about addiction and gambling. Ranjit feels that he has been given a new lease on life. He has used his experience with the scholarship programme to find a permanent job in an auto garage and also runs his own small business of selling fruit. He no longer drinks and gambles, is saving money, and is setting an example for many boys floundering under similar circumstances.