Bangalore: A school in Bangalore holds more value for art and dance than any other lessons and most students are children rescued off the streets. Music is her world now and the flute her best friend. Seven-year-old Shilpa has come a long way from selling flowers on the street to being part of the band at the Bornfree Art School in Bangalore.
And the credit for this goes to musician and sculptor, John Devaraj who spotted Shilpa at a traffic-light while shooting a documentary on child labour. Moved by the plight of children working on the streets, in 2005, he threw open the doors of his own home and set up the school with his savings - determined to rescue children and give them a better shot at life. Devaraj said, "Beaten and abused, kids needed healing and what better way to do it than with art, music and theatre. It exhausts them of negative energy and brings out positivity."
In 2006, Devaraj's students designed the world's largest love letter from India to Pakistan in an attempt to build friendship across borders. Publicity was easy to come by back then but funds are still a big challenge.
The dance and theatre troupe is full of enthusiasm, but desperately in need of new costumes and instruments. Run purely on donations from friends and family, Devaraj is struggling to drum up corporate funding. A battle which his students, too, only too determined to join in.
One of the students, Shilpa said, "It's not enough that I have been rescued. It's important we ensure others do not suffer on the streets like I did."
Oppressed and exploited, these children have now come a long way. And while the journey ahead will still be full of challenges, the students here take comfort in the fact that they have been given the right to dream and work towards making those dreams come true.