Voice of America News internationally released my first television report on New Delhi’s efforts to curb child begging. Here is the English version.
This video piece is actually taken through a global car-wash. The narration is translated into hundreds of different languages and it is transmitted to T.V. stations world-wide.
I had to be mindful of this when scripting; bidding adieu to my verbose public radio style. I was additionally prohibited from using contractions. This left me discouraged at first. How on earth do I prove myself if I can’t wow people with my vivacious vocabulary, perky puns and annoying alliteration?
Then I remembered my experiences as a tap dancer. My former teacher Ed Robinson in New York City silently watched as I flaunted a series of triple time-steps, wings, and pull-backs. He stopped me mid-move and asked me to do the same steps slowlllllyyy, softly. Funnily enough, my feet felt like they had just broken. It may seem counter intuitive, but to do things simply at the core level requires so much more strength and concentration.
That said I believe I will become a better news writer because of this demand for accurate, straight-forward story telling. According to my mentor Steve Herman, current VOA South Asia Bureau Chief, many people learn English from Voice of America. There’s There is some additional perspective for you!
Recording the children begging was a perspective builder as well. The third shot where one beggar kicks another child to make sure she doesn’t steal her “business” made me realize how seriously the youngsters take their jobs.
I also found it interesting to see children pocketing money with the same stoic look worn by Las Vegas bookers.
Some important details that were left on the "cuttng room floor":
*The children take the bus each day from their family home in the slums to the more affluent intersections in South Delhi to beg
*At most they earn about fifty cents a day. They save the money for meals and to give to their parents.
*Contrary to Slumdog Millionaire’s depiction, there is not a ruthless mafia lord behind a lot of the begging. Though, most of the children pay a type of "block tax" (percentage of their earnings) to have the rights to beg in a specific area.
*When asked explicitly in Hindi if they beg, they quickly say they sell magazines. The video shots of course say otherwise, but they have been taught to avoid incriminating comments.
*After spending an hour taping the children, they offered me some candy from a huge stash of sweets. Motorists often hand begging children candy in place of money. Perhaps this isn’t the best choice, lest they decide to enterprise and open up a corner-candy shop.
*When I was in India in 2007, a young child confessed to me that he wanted to kill himself so his parents didn't have to struggle to feed him. He felt like a burden. The fact is many child beggars see their day-in-day out pan handling as a job by which they can relief a burden from their parents in a country where social services are strapped.
*Childline’s Chief Executive learned from newspaper ads that she was now the go-to place for child beggar reports. I placed several calls to New Delhi’s Ministry of Women and Child Development asking them why they did not reach out to Childline before they tasked them with such a gargantuan responsibility. One Deputy Minister defendedthe publicity campaign and contended Childline has long been designated as an NGO that takes care of all children - including beggars. They are planning to meet with Childline staffers later this month to discuss an official action plan.
Next TV Project: I will look at the growing influence of mobile phone content in India. Young Indians - poor and rich alike - are being taught about civic issues and taboo topics such as sex through mobile games like Safety Cricket.