When I last wrote about the puffed-up vagabond of Kalimpong, my post was flooded with clarifications, today I have a story of a young boy who is a rag-picker and earns 20-50 rupees a day.
I dehydrated on my usual media duty wanted some creations to quench the parchedness, walking towards bagdhara from the road above Mela Ground I saw a boy near the dumping place, he had a huge white sack, partially filled with dismantled cartons.
I removed the lens cover of my camera and took few of his shots while he was searching for something in the recently emptied waste dumping area and after he noticed the flashes coming from my photographic equipment, he tried hiding, exhibiting his mental discomfort or he was probably ill at ease.
I later called him. He looked anxious and keyed up at the same time, when asked he had a Muslim name and was 10 years old. I further asked him if he knows English alphabets and that’s when he replied that he had a minimum education till class 1.
The boy was a beautiful story material but apart from writing I wanted to know him better. I told him that I’m a reporter and I will help him get off from such life, then he naively asked, ‘didi ye repooater kya hota hay?’ I smiled and told him that reporters are a set of unappreciated people, who are often underpaid and overworked. But I later though that he seriously wanted to know and I made him understand showing my newspaper and giving him an additional explanation of ‘jo t.v may aksar news, views boltay rehatay hay, unlogoko reporter boltay hay’ He added, ‘achha! To app wo hay’
He had dirty little hands; unwashed face, tattered and unbuttoned clothes he wore and I assumed that he had an empty stomach.
Did you eat something? I asked.
‘Subha bhaiya nay ghar pe khana banaya tha wohi khaya’ (I ate what my brother cooked this morning)
The activities of emotional pathos were slowly taking place within me, I asked him if he could speak few lines in the camera which he timidly denied and I did not persuade him.
I can’t help with interrogations, it comes naturally. … (Yeah! I just cracked a joke; you could excuse yourself and laugh out loud for some time.)
I further asked him few more questions, and what I learnt was that he was from Malda, his parents are farmers, they are pathetically downtrodden, he makes a point to send 2-3 thousand rupees to his parents once or twice a year and he stays in Gumba Hatta.
Now what I’m thinking is, if a child’s obligation or a choice towards a labor becomes a business then his choice to get paid and work in a shop should also be considered as his business, or if people talk nineteen to the dozen about child rights, mind you! The rag pickers from Malda picking cartons and earning 20-50 rupees per day should also get benefitted from the same rights. If you again nod your heads in agreement why do you think that they are still in town with unpolished shoes? Where are their books, bags and uniforms?
Consider my perspective once again: The juvenile street worker is practically an ignored class in the movement of child rights and welfares. On the ground, these juveniles are the little labors who are in business for themselves, shouldn’t they be disturbed?
If a child below fourteen, working in a factory or mines are called slaves why are the ones in the streets called merchants? Aren’t the bootblacks, rag pickers, calendar seller or newspaper sellers in the porch of child labor? Who will rescue them?
We, in the name of human beings no doubt have responsibilities towards children in the street, but take this as an example; if you see someone abducting a woman will you inform another human being or a law enforcer/police? You got your answer in your throat isn’t it?
I’m not against anyone, my writing is not against anyone and my thoughts are not against anyone. I too have my responsibility in the society, is it not?
In the end I gave the little boy an offer; I said ‘if I educate you, give you what you earn every day, nourish and nurture you, will you leave this work? Can you guess what he answered?
A big NO on my face and he escaped.
I have been looking for him since that day but he is nowhere to be found, I turn every little dilly-dallying child’s face from behind expecting it to be young Zaman’s but No, he might have possibly migrated somewhere.
I’ll keep you informed,