Not a child's play..

'Egg or Idli?'

Mess food. Even if I had not been informed of the menu, I'd have guessed it's redundant contents for breakfast.. However, the way the word 'Idli' was pronounced, made me look up. It was different, the way I couldn't exactly place it anywhere. I placed the egg carefully on my plate beside the bread and asked the guy to give some butter. He stared at me momentarily.. or my iPod, I think.

I look back at the kid standing behind the barred window with a bucket full of jam. He could hardly be 10 years old.

He seemed tall for his age and stuck out like a black smudge on a white shirt. I couldn't help but notice how awkward he looked. For one, his clothes were too big. It looked like he was swimming in them rather than wearing them. And his eyes were too wide, his mouth too small, his nose just a little bit crooked, as if his face didn't quite match his head. I smiled, rather to him than at him, but that probably raised the chances of mistaking me for a child-molester. He quickly shifted his focus singularly on the plate in front of him.

I left him to his worries as I went to have my breakfast alone. My room mates are a bunch of sleepy-heads who'll still be in their beds at 8am in the morning, but only halfway through their dreams.

I was nearly finished, sipping on my coffee as the boy again came to clean the table, throwing quick glances across the table towards me. Yeah I'm pretty sure he was looking at my iPod. So I called for him.

'Enna peyar, tambi?' I asked in my broken Tamil, what's your name.
'Tamil teriyaade anna' he replied shyly.
He doesn't understand the language.
'Tera ghar kidhar hai, chhotu?'
'Balasore.' Orissa.

I offered him to listen in the iPod.

There was a mild, exciting smile coming and going at the corners of his lips, his eyes closed, his full structure taut with excitement as he listened away to one Brad Paisley, he understood nothing about.

I never found out his name though.

That kid was so lively, waving to me from behind the window whenever I entered the mess, looking for a moment to clean the table I'll be sitting at. Indulging in his casual 'Hello anna' everyday, I felt very sad after a few days about the way his childhood is being wasted. He was growing up among people much older to him, he left his family to work along with his brother in the kitchen. But he was just 10 years old!!

Finding it a complete and obvious case of child-care violation, under child-labor, I decided to write a letter to the authority about this. And it was while writing it, that I really thought about it.

What will really happen after this letter? The authorities will obviously do something about it. No one wants a bad publicity, especially when one's running a University on private funding, which is no different than a competitive business. And businesses incur huge losses through bad publicity. The kid will probably be sent home, with the brother and the manager arrested.

But was this really the solution? This is India. Not the USA, that child-services will take him away to put him in foster-care.. Maybe he'll be sent home, where soon he'll end up looking for another job anyway. He could go to school? School! If his parents had the money, he'd be at home now. What about free-school? I don't think the parents indulge in similar fantasies.. Is there no hope then? I was in a fix.. to come to think of it now, there are more problems, than solution to this!

There is a law, yes.. But the solution isn't about putting the elder men to jail or pay a penalty. What about the child?

---

There was Biriyani in the mess today, kind of a shocker in the routine!! The kid was happily pouring mutton on everyone's plate, while enjoying amusingly, all the hushing and pushing among the seniors for the good food. The mess manager had actually combed his hair today.. It was a weirdly amusing dinner, and it did manage to uplift my moods.

Sometimes one just needs to go high.

Without wasting another moment, I finished the dinner, came back quick, turned on my laptop and emailed a complaint to the authority, 'Sub: Complaint on Probable Child Labor in the mess...'

6 comments:

  1. Loved the post.But yeah, the consequences?? We do have laws against Child Labor and everything but then does anyone even care to sit back and think about the fact that what the child will do once he is forced to leave what he is doing? I insist on the phrase "forced to leave" coz am cent percent sure that although that He is a mere kid of 10yrs; he sure as hell knows more about the importance of money than I or for that matter anyone of my age does. We always end up thinking that the child has been forced to work, but then does he really have an alternative? The vicious circle of poverty will continue to snatch away many a child's childhood until we are able to give the child a better life altogether and not just the prospect of a better Life,coz One needs Money to survive , let alone Live. As a parting shot- does the kid still work in the mess??

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, thank you! If we have to blame it on something, it'll only be the population boom of India and omnipresent poverty in the country.. I feel the only thing to do here is a wide and aimed-at-everyone awareness on safe sex - Sex Education.. Labor, I think it should come later, the next issue maybe.. we need to curb the first things first..
    And I guess we'll have to wait a few days to see if anything has been done about this issue..

    ReplyDelete
  3. My sister Mohor Mitra fwded the link to your blog.. and i must say i am might impressed :)
    Loved this post. But i'd like to ask... wat provoked u to finally send the email to the officials in the end?
    I dont understand how getting 'high' on a particular day clears ur dilemma of the possible aftrmath dat boy will face??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Wrisha! Why, Mohor is such a sweetheart for sharing the link.. =) What provoked me to finally send the letter to the officials? Well, a change in the daily mess-food routine did the trick.. Every time I had thought about sending a letter, I was faced with dilemmas about what is really right for the kid.. whether my writing would benefit him or just render him homeless and jobless.. But everyday I saw the kid, I felt like doing something.. it was a nagging gut-feeling.. Then one day, they changed the menu for something good, I took a leap of faith and ended up writing.. I dunno if that actually did some good, but it was just something I had to do.. We have many YRC, MAD and similar NGOs in VIT - last I heard, after me, lots of other people also noticed this violation and forwarded the letter not just to the higher officials, but also to the communities.. the boy was supposedly on his way to a free-school and was to be put in a child-care someplace, managed by the NGOs.. I didn't do much follow-up on it afterwards, sorry..

      Delete
    2. Aaahan..change in menu and 'the change'.. i get the analogy now :) Good one ^_^ .. And i am glad u and some others from your Institute thought of taking this step. I and my college mates had done the same for a boy who used to work in our colg canteen in mumbai.. so i could completely relate to the write up... :)

      A lot has been said abt ur writeups by ur frnz n fans already.. :P so i'd rather talk abt sumthing apart from the writeups dats also worthy of an appreciation. I love ur blog layout! The choice of fonts, colors, background, picture slide-show. Pretty neat! :) It adds on to one's reading experience. U have garnished ur art pretty well. Keep it up ^_^

      Delete
    3. ha ha! well, i like things neat and bright.. the colour combinations have stuck for long.. but i guess, i'll be changing em soon though! change is good! =P

      Delete