Child labour, an indelible stain on mankind to this day. Despite the fact that I have not done any project or assignment on this topic yet but the curiosity has definitely been within. And that curiosity grew with travel experiences. One fine day, I decided to take up a self-assignment on child labor. During my travels across the world I’ve noticed and met many of them who lost their dreams and hopes at a very budding age. They struggle day and night around the clock for their daily bread and butter. Here in this blog, I will make an honest attempt to brief instances of those few unfortunate children I met.
The cute honey seller
Back in 2013, Cheerapunji, I was on my motorcycle tour through Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. On my 2nd day at Cheerapunji, I just parked bike and as I walked towards No-Kali-Likai falls view point, I heard a very charming voice increasingly requesting “Hello, Hello, Please buy Honey here from me”. I was surprised, turned and saw this cute boy (in pic). He must be around 4 years. He was holding a Honey bottle and eagerly looking at me. For a moment, I was both speechless and helpless at the same time. Later as I enquired, this boy was left for himself to take care of the shop as his mother had been to labour elsewhere. Soon I engaged him in normal talks by asking the price of honey; he was quick enough to reply with costs and quality of variety of honey stock in his shop. And that he explained so nicely in English thinking I am an outsider. The interesting part while speaking to him came when he mentioned “If you don’t want to buy then it is OK but don’t say you will buy later because I know you are not going to buy it”. So much for his tender age and his business reasoning. I spent some time with him and his thoughts were so mature I could not simply attribute to his age. I offered him few chocolates which he promptly denied and after some persuasion he hesitatingly accepted. I enquired the guy who runs a shop next to this boys’ and found some information that made me sad and subdued. His father is a wood seller and his mother collects honey to run the shop. The innocence in his face and his heart strikes my mind always. The boy who is supposed to lick honey from his hands is burdened to sell the same honey for living.
The Corn Girl
Coonoor, 2016, I went on a vacation and spent a week exploring adjoining areas around this hill station. While on a leisurely walk, I came across this little girl going after a customer. She spoke in Tamil, Kannada and English at ease. She was requesting “Sir, please buy some boiled corns.. it is very cold weather.. Please buy some”. She approached me with very same words. She spoke with so much decent attitude, I could not think of anything but asked about her education. Her face looked dejected and sadly replied that she discontinued her studies. She politely asked “did you like the weather here? How are you feeling at Coonoor”. I spoke to her for a while and she smartly responded while constantly looking out for another customer or two. What caught me by surprise is she discontinued her education since 3rd standard and since then struggled for daily living. He father sold carrots at a local vegetable market and she along with her mother sold boiled corn. She has shared her parent’s burden of earning and living. We say “Beti Padhao! Beti Bachao!” but at ground the reality of it is quite sloppy. Not just Coonor, in every city you can find girl child struggling for living. Who cares for them? They stay hungry, compelled to work for daily food and deprived of right to education. They cannot afford hefty fees to school and many more formidable social short comings of the society. Yet they survive and stay happy at whatever they earn and eat. They have learned to live that way; learned to be happy no matter the unfortunate circumstances they go through daily. After all, what options do they have?
The Plastic Brothers
In my hometown, 2015, I had been for a brisk walk on one foggy morning. I came across a three-wheeler cycle with a carriage pushed by two brothers. They looked like they were brothers in blood. I clicked a picture and stopped at them. Indeed they were brothers. The carriage was full of empty plastic bottles. I as ked them “why are you collecting these trash bottles and where are you taking them.” They looked little scared but answered once I made them feel comfortable. They said “Sir aami eya nokorile Babai maribo” for if we don’t do this, dad will beat us. Evidently, they asked why I took their picture. Smart kids! aren’t they? To my surprise they asked another question “Are we going to be aired on News Live?” (News Live is a popular TV channel in Assam and now days anyone clicking anything at public are assumed to be from News Live). I honestly said no to them. Then their curiosity grew and again asked me “then why did you take our picture?” I smiled and thought, these kids aren’t letting me go that easily. Even before I asked them, they put me the same question I had in my mind “Sir, are you from this city?” I said yes and asked them the same question and couple of other things about their parents and education. They were from the same city and they dropped out of school as their father wants them to work for him. They also informed all their earnings are given to their father. They were given new clothes only on “Eid” (Muslim festival). I felt gloomy on hearing on about their living. They want to wear new clothes like other kids, want to go to school like others and want to play like others. But their parents dint allow any of this. I felt sorry and even before I could offer some money for their breakfast they took leave in a haste. “Sir aami jao.. hunkaley bastu collect koribo lagibo noholey belege loi jabo , deutaai gaali dibo”. (Sir, we need to leave now, we are in a hurry, if we don’t collect bottles then some other guys may collectthose bottles and dad will scold us). Yet another alarming revelation, it is not just these boys but there many kids out there like them crawling all over the city for similar reasons.
The Bubble guy
From the archives of 2014, this is a mobile click that makes a pitiful sight of this boy. He was selling bubble toys to some parents. The tragic part of this sight was that those parents were buying the toys for their kids of his age. Furthermore, they were bargaining over price of the toy. An insensible thing from those parents. A dismal incident indeed. For his age, the boy should have been playing with same toys instead of selling.
The Vegetable Boy
Somewhere in rural Karnataka, 2012, yet another story of a boy around 10-12 years of age. I saw this kid selling vegetables on street as stepped out to buy some vegetables. Again a disheartening moment as I spoke to him trying to collect information and listen to his story. His father is a farmer with a family of four that includes this boy, boy’s mother and sister. Every day after school he puts at street to sell vegetables. The harsh reality I had to hear from him is he is doing so to save money for his sister’s dowry. I simply could not gulp it down to my stomach. He was studying in 7th standard while his sister studied in 5th standard. At his age, thoughts of family responsibility have taken over his dreams and wishes. He thinks much of his sister’s marriage and her dowry rather than his studies. I seriously wondered how socially corrupt practices like dowry have influenced the life of such innocent kids and the sacrifice these little ones do at such an age of Adolescence.
Now a days parents are blessed with technology to record almost every moment of their child in terms of photo or video. Whatever they say or do, it is fun and joy to cherish for rest of the life. Everyone knows and understands that childhood forms the most beautiful and precious part of life. People often wish to revisit their childhood to relive for the fun, joy and those unforgettable memories. As a child grows, it understands the world better by the day and in the meantime it undergoes a series of changes both physically and mentally. A large part of this is due to socio-economic factors that influence the child to enhance or restrict or even diminish some character defining traits inherent in them.