Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Working Children of India

We, the people of a stable financial standing often notice those who are far less fortunate than us. We see them everywhere, at least here in India, where the number of poor people far outnumbers the population of some small countries.

We noticed them as kids, understood the bitter facts of life and even felt sorry for them. But then we kept seeing them every time we left the house, every time we drove down the road and every time we went to a place of worship. We saw them so often that some of us have got used to them, we feel that they are just part of the background now and they are here to stay.

Have we ever spent a moment in thought of those kids who are born in abject poverty? Yes, we have seen them at crossroads and fairs selling stuff like balloons and stickers and candy; but have we really noticed them?

We see people with healthy bodies begging, we see these people asking for money in the name of God, but do we really see the children? Not the children who are made to beg, but those who enterprise to earn their livelihood through work? Those small captains of industry, those small artists, and those small officers of the service industry who refuse to take handouts without the sweat of their brow?

In my time in this metropolis, I’ve come to notice these children; it’s very hard not to. Children who polish shoes, children who sing, children who perform gymnastics, children who sweep trains and children who wash vehicles are in an alarming number in this city. Unlike those whose who choose to beg, these little ones either choose to or are taught by their parents to earn with a hard day’s labour, such as is not possible for a child of a more fortunate family to do.

I’ve interacted with some of these children, some with just one or two words, some with more and they have taught me more about the fruits of hard labour than I’d managed to in my moral science class. These children do not accept money without doing their work, they do not even ask for it unless one allows them to render their services. I believe that it is these children and not the youth of today who will be the true backbone of this nation one day.

It makes me sad to see them out of school and in the streets fighting to survive another day, but it also gives me hope that if the children of India are ready to work more than those who are supposed to, we will indeed be a great nation once more.