He was too small, skinny. His hairs strands were dry and rough and certainly would not have been oiled for months now. His shirt on his body was there for namesake and his trouser did not fit him. One of his hands used to hold it on his waist and he had the innovative technique of fastening it with a rope of brittle plastic threads. He was standing expressionless just like an old stuffed toy.
“Kya umar hai tumhara?” (What’s your age?) I asked him.
“to tum yahaan kaam nahin kar sakta. Matlab ki tum aaj se yahaan gaadi nahin sakta!” (Then you can’t work here. Meaning, you cannot wash the cars here from today), saying this I waved the notice I received from the Zila Chief the previous day.
I don’t know why I accepted the responsibilities of a Chairman for my housing society as if I am having lots of time. As I reached home last night from my office, my wife handed over this notice and said, “idu onnu daan kuraichal!” (This was the only shortage we had).
I could not make anything out of the sheets she handed over to me as they were printed in Marathi. Though I am familiar to the script that is similar to Hindi, I was able to only read it but without understanding. All I could theorize was that the subject is pertained to child labor and the punishments for violating it. It had the copies of Indian Gazette regarding the subject, a notice from Zila chief, a note from Child Right Act or some sort of this. With the help of other committee members, I understood the seriousness of getting imprisoned for 3 months (for Chairman), 6 months for those who employed the child labor and juvenile school for the labor.
Listening to what I said that he cannot work any longer, tears started flowing from the young chap’s eyes. The little chap was looking at me still. “hindi samjta hain na?” (you do understand Hindi, are not you?) I asked him.
“saab aap ko kuch takleef?” (do you have any problems)
“beta, takleef mujhe nahin. Sarkar ko hain” (I don’t have any but the Government has)
“saab. Ghar mein pareshani hain. Papa ne khudkhushi ki. Maa kapde dhoti hain. Do behne hain. Main pad rahan hoon. Dus gaadiyaan done se, kuch paise milte hain jo hamaare liye bahut mayine lagte hain…” (Sir, it’s difficult at home. Dad committed suicide, mom washes clothes for others, two sisters at home, I am studying and by washing 10 cars, I get some money that is too critical for us…)
I had no answers. Now, it was my turn to stand there blankly. “tumhara problem main samajta hoon beta….” (I understand your problem son….)
“nahin.. (No!...) he interrupted, “mera problem aap nahin samjhenge! Main padna chahta hoon, uske liye mazdoori karne ko bhi ready hoon. Magar aap log mujhe bhikhari banana chahte hain. Mujhe bheek mangne ko majboor kar rahe hain. Agar aapke bacche TV pe naachen ya gaayen to paise milta hain, paper main unki tareef hote hain, par unko jail nahin. main padne ke liye, mazdoori karta hoon, mujhe jail hain. Is me aap mujhe kya samjhayenge…”
(you wont understand my problem. I want to study, for that I am ready to work. But you force me to become a beggar. You are forcing me to beg. If your kids sing or dance in TV, they get money, fame and are appreciated in papers. They are not imprisoned. But if I wanted to work, I am imprisoned. How can you explain me this?)
I never expected a kid to talk like this but I realized that his experiences in life made him speak so. The lad threw the clothes and the pail he carried and walked away holding his trousers with both hands. All I could do is to stare at him silently, helplessly. I said to myself, "i should find out the definition for child labor!"
It's true...there are many such young kids who have no hassles working and studying...I hope they bring a rule that only kids compelled to work under unhealthy and harsh conditions ..should betaken into account. I hate to see small ids doing domestic chores..It's sad !There was a fourteen year old kid I knew long back who used to assist his dad in ironing clothes ( mobile ironing carts). When I asked him why he was not going to school, he replied " I on't like to go to school. I love ironing clothes. I love this. Some day I'll open a laundry!!" How's that ?
Our education system produces job mongers! so RTE has no meaning when the education is not serving its purpose. If we are so educated, why do we spit on roads, why there is a stampede whenever there is an emergency, why do we vote goons, the list goes on... We are educated but not cultured. Education should teach us how to lead a life. No University can teach better than experience!
Scribbly, this is a pretty old post, done during those golden days of Sulekha!
Really nice story. I guess government should define what can be termed as child labour and what can be done in educating children up to a level so that they can earn for further education.
There's a strong need in India to make education free for children up to a certain age.
Really don't understand why can't we put a system in place to provide at east basic eduction free to all.
I hope any one in power should see and feel this.
Education is not an answer to this. I do not agree. All those who are educated (or so called educated) do land in jobs though our education system only generates job mongers! Education is for providing knowledge not job. Our system of education needs a revamp. Kids do to job because they want to fill their empty stomach. when you starve no education will help you. But mid-day meal is not the solution. Provide an education where the kids can learn & earn too! the irony is, if we started such system, the rich would get benefited and the real poor will remain poor - just as in the case of Garib Rath of Indian Railways ended.
hey..i would like to make this into a shortfilm....i need ur permission
nice of you to seek my permission. you can go ahead and do this. Share with me then. Also i would prefer a line of mention.
One has to discriminate what is a child labor? Under what circumstances. We have right to education but do we have right to employment after education? i am sorry, in india we get educated to land in a job but not to gain knowledge. So if you give right to education, give right to employment too! Can the Govt guarantee this? I have seen a school drop out working in a garage owned a garage a decade later and he earns more than his ex-classmates. So, what to say? the child labor act would have crippled a good garage owner. till the time we implement right to employment, do not talk of child labor!