Journey of Life
Written, consciously, as a travelogue, My God is a Juvenile Delinquent is a thoughtful journey. Thoughtful because Ruzbeh N Bharucha, who staunchly believes in conducting research in the real world, gives you several companions right at the beginning of the journey a journey where you get to explore the world of over 30,000 juvenile delinquents. Accompanying him are Narinder, falsely implicated by the police on grounds of possessing a homemade gun, and Sikander, lodged in Tihar jail on charges of rape, desperately trying to prove that he is 16 and begging to be shifted to the juvenile home so that he can escape the maladies of Tihar.
Then there's Ila Rawat, a helpless but pro-reform magistrate who cannot release 16-years-old Biju, charged for petty theft, because there's no one in the outside world who is ready to take responsibility for him. Not to miss the year and a half that he has already served in the Observation Home for a crime that he may or may not have committed.
Bharucha takes Biju as a classic case to point out the real issue at hand the possibility of Biju being innocent and the affect the harrowing imprisonment might have on his psyche: "Wouldn't that be tilling fertile ground and sowing the seeds of hate, anger, abuse and all the emotions that differentiate man from beast? Was there any hope of this boy becoming a sensitive and responsible citizen of society when those in power behaved in an irresponsible manner and thus forced the boy to be treated like a criminal and eventually forced him into becoming one?"
Throughout the book, one finds Bharucha focussing on the emotional, psychological and physical issues and not just the legal aspect a quality he possibly excels in as a documentary maker.
The lucid and effortless flavour of his writing reiterates the point at the turn of each page. The book is neatly rounded up with data: 65% of the children are kept in the police lock up before institutionalization (from the first contact with the police at the time of their arrest, to their release. 76.7% were severely beaten and of this number, 15% were hung from the ceiling and beaten. Add to that the cold shoulder the issue draws from the staff. While 41% of the staff feel the issue is not relevant, 34% admit that police abuse does happen but nothing can be done about it.
The end of the journey leaves the reader inspired enough to want to help and make the life of these children better. It'll help you glimpse the life beyond the young, impoverished face approaching your car with scores of lifestyle magazines while you wait for the traffic light to turn green you'd realize that the child is actually 'begging' you to buy them.