By: Sharmishtha Basu
A SHORT NOTE: This post is dedicated to all those small children whose childhood is wasted in brick kilns, firework factories and other hells.
“Who is that boy?” Ram asked.
“Haru! Go to work right now!” Mihir growled.
“He is the son of one of the laborers sir!” was his meek reply to Ram. “I have warned him so many times to keep his books at home but he always smuggles one to the kiln.”
“Spends all his spare time ogling it.”
“How old is he?”
“Can’t say sir! His parents can’t say either. One says he is thirteen, the other says he is sixteen.”
“Isn’t it illegal to appoint a child in the kiln?”
“Sir, they come cheap, and they are more obedient than the adult ones. That’s why Roy babu asks us to appoint at-least one fourth of the labourers children.”
Roy babu, Ram’s friend was the owner of this brick kiln. Ram was visiting his friend’s village home, Mihir offered him a tour to the village, he gladly accepted.
It was a small village in Bankura, dry land, pale trees and shrubs were scattered all over the village. Water was pretty scarce in Bankura.
Subroto Roy’s brick kiln had quite a large number of labourers. Poor men and women from nearby villages were eager to work for him. Their penury often forced them to bring their small children along. Their childhood was swallowed by these forever hungry kilns.
Haru was no exception. Later Ram saw him toiling with other children of same age group.
The book he was reading was tucked away in his trouser, his protruded shirt indicated to that. He will soon find another chance to read it.
Ram returned Mumbai next week. He talked with Haru after getting his friend’s permission.
He knew his friend was a businessman but a human being. Not a monster.
He was touched by the eagerness of that small child to study.
He was a little amused to compare his own two children with him. His wife Damayanti had to cry hoarse to keep them on study table some times.
Damayanti was waiting for him in Mumbai; they were supposed to catch their plane back to UK next week.
They were childhood sweethearts, they kept nothing hidden from one another. Damayanti too was touched by the little boy’s story.
Next morning she came to her husband, he was sitting on the balcony sipping tea. Their kids were playing chess on a nearby table.
“I shared his story with Tracy last night. You know what she said?”
“She asked me to give away all her savings in bank to Haru so he could go to school and study.”
“I did some investigation in the morning.” Damayanti continued. “I have a certain amount of saving. That I have kept just because I did not want to spend that money.”
“I talked with one of my childhood friends here; she runs a semi profitable school with hostel. After school is completed they place their students in colleges and arrange a part time job for them. Enough to meet their college studies and staying in Mumbai.”
“The money which I have in that account is more than they need to accommodate a child. I was planning to pay the money for Haru’s studies and give him a chance to shine.”
“Mrinal said she will brush him up for any lacking.”
Ram softly clasped her hand. They smiled and looked at the red ball of fire gently spreading light to the earth below, unconditionally, unselfishly.