Child labor

A Cold May Afternoon

May summers are probably the hottest in India.
The sun doesn’t just rise, it roars throughout the day!
No one wants to leave their home unless it’s a beach, pool or a water park!

It was the usual lazy sunny afternoon. Temperature might be touching 43 degree Celsius. I was trying to take a snooze just when there was this constant thudding sound that woke me up.

Apparently, there was some construction work going on in the neighborhood. So you just have to get use to the drilling and the hammering. It is kind of fascinating to watch the whole construction in progress and the sync with which those workers perform their chores. The smell of the cement, bricks, mortar and of course the sand hills which becomes a temporary play park for the kids. We all have played in the sand, haven’t we?

I saw a few kids playing in the sand and cherished my childhood. Before I could resume to a flat face, one of the workers appeared and shooed the kids away. While others dispersed like pollens, one of them stayed put. He started carrying ceramic tiles on his head. All at once my enthusiasm died and I thought of going inside.

As if my empathy and dreary would do any good to that child who deserved to play and make sand castles instead of making castles for others. However, I just watched that little kid.

He was guided and maneuvered by a man who was his uncle, one of the workers. No kid would do this on choice! Apparently, this man had brought him along.

The shirt that he wore had lost its color in the cement dust. The cap over his shabby dark-brownish hair shadowed his face. His uncle constantly shouted at him for something or the other to which he never replied. From making concrete, carrying bricks and plastering, the 10 year old palms had lost their tenderness. His only recess allowed was ‘the Lunch’. I then reckoned that two dry chapattis folded in a small hanky can be someone’s lunch.

At two in the afternoon, the sun was bleeding lava. The little boy noticed me looking at him from my patio, as he wiped off the stream of sweat on his forehead. I shuddered with weirdness and guilt.

Weird because it’s not my routine to take a long fixed look at people…. and guilt… well, I can’t explain that. My lips were frozen and throat had a blockage. Without thinking too much, I poured chilled water in a glass and went down.

Having him watch drinking large mouthfuls rapidly, cured some of the unexplainable guilt and his “Thankoo” almost healed me.

I offered him a proper lunch and couple of clothes which he was happy to accept. It led me to a general talk. Well asking ‘Do you go to school’ was out of question, so I restricted it to knowing the child’s name.

“What’s your name?” I asked as he handed me back the plate (of meal that he actually deserved).
The little one smiled his thanks and timidly replied, “Gudiya”.

I lost my appetite for the day’s meal. The innocent under the cap was a girl. She hopped and ran towards the construction site and now was back to lifting bricks on a head pan.

Girl or Boy, it was painful to watch that little kid whose childhood got dusted away in the soil and sand.

Sometimes, I feel we worry too much, on trivial things, like a plan gone wrong, an exhausting day at work, an argument in relationship or being treated below expectations. We waste a precious day or a moment which could have been handled delicately.

That little girl taught me to live in the moment and appreciate what we have. I am sure it is a very simple thing to believe in but often difficult to practice. So, why not take a moment to thank from heart, forgive and be grateful.

Who knows, your smile may make it snow in summer!


1 thought on “A Cold May Afternoon”

  1. Love how the writing unveils truth bit by bit till it crescendos into snow flakes falling on my face. It makes you sad and thankful at the same time. Spiritually uplifting.


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