Keeping My Eyes Open

She was a beautiful girl. A long ponytail was hanging on her back, and with a big smile, the small girl went up to each person who was walking on the pavement. “Madam, ek rose lelo,” she requested me. I smiled and told her “nahi chahiye”, and I moved on. Though I do not employ a little girl to work at home, I have a tough time seeing children working here and there in the city.
Last November, I attended one of my friends’ wedding. We were asked to stay at some hotel. I got to see a girl named Sunita who was a maid of some family. I watched her smile when others were getting ready to attend the functions of the wedding. I tried to talk to her, but I just gave a smile and went to the function. In the evening, I saw Sunita handling a baby. At the hotel passage I saw young people screaming and having fun. She passed a cheerful smile to me when I saw her. I assumed she was happy. In the late evening, we girls were getting ready as it was time for the reception. I saw Sunita doing nothing. Immediately, I called her in my room and started talking to her. “My father left my mother and so, she sent me to work,” she said while crying. I felt guilty to ask her about her life. I changed the topic and made her happy before she left my room. Afterwards, I kept ignoring her face. The whole thought of a little girl working at the age of such an innocence made me cringe.
Situations make the poor child work. And, people who hire them for household work think that if the children earn some money, than what is wrong in it? Poor children, seeing poor situations at home often drop schooling. If a family’s condition gets ruined, what else can a poor mother do? So she sends her child to work. One day, my maid got her daughter with her. While she was working, I asked her daughter, “Do you go to school?” She said no. I asked the reason for leaving school. She said she lost her interest in studies and left schooling when she was in the sixth grade. “I only do my household work,” she added.
So, what is development? I see my city growing by leaps and bounds. At the same time, when I visit places like a shopping mall, I find kids selling balloons. Flowers, books, toys, kites, and what not one gets to see at traffic jams. Be it a chilled winter, or a galling season of the rain, these children have to keep going, keep working. It is not only on the roads, a visit to a railway station gives me an adverse picture of children who have to work. They face a lot of challenges. And what becomes a victim is their future.
Indeed, there is a long way to go before I see each child around free of burden. I admire the constant growth of the cities—however ignoring pitiful conditions of the poor children will prove my idea about development wrong. I cannot keep my eyes closed, and, neither can you.

Deepika Bhutra

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