Sometimes when I see young kids selling things in train, working as a sweeper, delivery boy for a hotel…my first reaction is that I feel sad, wondering what will be their future…secondly I will feel anger towards his owner/ master…thirdly out of my immediate guilt I will start asking him things about his background, does he not feel like going to school rather than doing what he is doing currently? The conversation would always end where the kid would say he would love to go to school if it was not for…!
Due to the nature of our hectic life, in spite of you not wanting…you would forget about him within next couple of hours. Although subconsciously you would always remember that conversation you had with him and will also bring it up while discussing the state of education, poverty, unemployment, children related issues in our country BUT by that time you may have almost forgotten his face.
On a very usual 9-9 work day, I met this kid – Ganesh…I was standing near my wing’s lift, waiting for it to come down when I heard him ask “A wing कौनसा है?”, I said, “यही है A wing, कहा जाना है, बेटा”…while looking at a chit of paper in his hand he said” तिनसो तिन”. He entered the lift with me, I asked him “कहा से आया?” he said” कलश से” (It’s a name of a local hotel). I pressed 3rd floor for him and then 7th for me. When the lift stopped on 3rd floor, he got out and turned and said “Thank you”. Don’t know why, but I immediately said – “अच्छा सुन,, बादमे 7th floor पे आना”
When I reached my floor, I took out keys and opened the door, then checked at which floor the lift was…with the hope that he will come up. The lift was moving between 4th and ground floor for some time so I just turned thinking now he won’t come…for the last time I looked at the lift and saw it coming up and there he was…with an innocent smile on his face.
We spoke for about 15-20 mins. He told me he has come from Nepal, with his Uncle. He lost his parents few years back. To me he looked around 12-13 yrs old, but he told me he is 15 and had studied till 5th standard. When I asked him would he like to go to school on a daily basis, he said he would love to; but he has a younger sister back home for whom he needs to earn money, so that she can study. He told me he has not put her into a municipality school, but दूसरा अछावाला स्कूल. He said बेहेन का ध्यान तोह रखनाही पड़ेगा. His Uncle told him that he will not support him if he does not earn anything. On a daily basis he works in two shifts. Morning from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. at a Builders office, doing cleaning, getting Xerox copies, other misc office work and then he goes to the hotel at 7.00 p.m. and works till mid night. The hotel guys do not even provide an umbrella or rain coat during rainy season when he goes for home deliveries.
After putting in 14 hrs of hard work on a daily basis, he manages to earn Rs. 3,000.00 per month. He gives the entire money to his Uncle, when I asked him whether his Uncle sends it to Nepal to his sister…initially he said, क्या पता भेजता है के नहीं and then said, अब अगर वोह बोल रहे है भेजता है, तोह विश्वास तोह करना पड़ेगा! वोह मेरा इतना ध्यान जो रखते है. For his tender age, I found him to be extremely practical and mature. During the conversation, he even mentioned - अब देखो मैडम, मेरा मामा मेरा इतना ख्याल रखता है और अगर बेहेन को पालना है तोह काम तोह करना पड़ेगा. मुजेभी पढाई करनी है लेकिन अगर मैं पढूंगा तोह बेहेन के लिए पैसे कैसे कमाऊंगा. गाँवमे रिश्तेदार बेहेनका ध्यान तभी रखते है जब पैसे होते है.
It’s been 4 years since he last saw his Sister, when I asked him do you call her, with a big grin he said YES. I asked him do you want to speak to her right now (By this time, I was really struggling to figure out as to what I should do to (a) Make him feel better (b) To lower my guilt), he said the charges are 10rs per minute and that they do not have a phone at their home. The person at the care-of number does not call his sister even during the day time, so forget about the night time. I told him, I will come and meet you in the Hotel, he got up, looked at me…smiled and gave me a सलाम.
Now if I tell this story to someone like my brother / aunt…their immediate reaction would be that…these kids are trained to say such things and not to forget, they will also mention that I am a complete emotional fool!! Well, at first I would definitely not agree with them on BOTH the points…however even if we think or rather believe that these kids have been trained to say things like these, the reality still remains that at the age of 12-13, he is being deprived from living the childhood which all of us had, he is being deprived of having an experience of going to school, having friends, knowing a relationship between a teacher and a student. The question is not whether Ganesh is doing everything because he wants to OR because the situation has not given any other alternative to him, the question is -
Each one of us will have our own ways of looking at this story, some might feel sad, sympathetic towards Ganesh…some might feel and will be doing something for kids like him. What I learned after having met Ganesh is, that there exists another way of looking at LIFE…
“Be the change you want to see in the world”