It had been an exhausting day with assignments, voice-overs, projects and a heavy dose of ‘Contempt of Court’ in college. When we finally managed to escape at about 4 pm, we were half dead and in dire need of tea, the international symbol of rejuvenation and the ultimate reviver of all things that are brain dead. And no, I do not exaggerate. So the four of us proceeded to the nearest corner and ordered tea.
That is when it happened - The gang war. Not of thugs or dogs, but of the multitude of shoe-shine boys one finds roaming around the office complexes in Ahmedabad.
As we were sitting there, sipping tea and just talking about
nothing in particular the effect of Iran’s nuclear deal in respect to
India’s oil export, we noticed a commotion just across the road. There were
about six boys around the ages of 8-10 talking down another one of them. The poor
kid most probably being bullied or made fun of for not earning enough. He started
crying after a few minutes of silent sulking. Getting increasingly encouraged,
the other boys continued while a few of them stopped and looked concerned. Having
enough of this nonsense, the victim finally snapped and threw a punch at the
principal offender who was about two inches taller than him. After that, it was
a complete free-for-all and the rest of the boys just picked their jousting
partners at random and there began the first kiddie street brawl I’d ever
witnessed in my twenty one years.
This scene was being observed by around thirty or forty people from offices around the block. Some of them even bought peanuts from a nearby vendor and began cheering them on. People were just watching as if this were some form of entertainment and a delightful diversion from their mundane lives of home-office-home. I felt as if I’d gone back to the glorious days of the Roman Empire and was seated among the bloodthirsty crowd in the Coliseum. No one, absolutely nobody gave a damn about the plight of the kids, and if they did, they sure didn't show it there. Yeah, who wants to get in the middle of a brilliant fight and get mixed up with the supposed child labour mafia that they saw in Slumdog. Anyway, the fight continued till the tallest boy caught the collar of the crying kid and asked in the meanest tone he could manage,
“Idhar ka Don kaun?” (Who is the Don of this area?)
Wow! Silence. Everyone was stunned by what the little blighter had managed to say and with such conviction! After that, the rest of the boys caught the little one and took him away before anyone could do anything about the situation.
I don’t think I need to write anything more about this since all my readers are capable enough to understand the implications of what I've witnessed today. Some of us must have witnessed such things happening in our own cities and countries and others must have heard about it; but everyone has surely understood the plight of children today, at least in India.
Where is compulsory education?
Where are anti child labour laws?
Where are children protection groups?
Where is the social and moral responsibility of parents?
Where are the police?
Where does the moral fibre of civilized society stand today?
These questions lie unanswered and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.