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‘To Save a Life, To Save a Child’ Guest Post by Elsa Thomas

February 20, 2015

To Save a Life, To Save a Child
by Elsa Thomas

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The door bell rang at nine in the morning. My aunt indicated the arrival of her new maid and requested me to open the door for her. It was only yesterday evening that I had joined my aunt and was supposed to leave in the morning once the bank for which I worked, had readied a flat for my stay at Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh in India. My aunt was a teacher at St. Anne’s High School at Indore. Her husband worked for a private firm. Her daughter’s aged thirteen and nine were students of the very same St. Anne’s. My aunt was kind enough to accommodate me for a day but I had no good opinion of her. She always came across to me as a rude person. Coming back to the door bell which I answered on her request, the visitor was a young girl, aged about thirteen or so, dressed in an oversized salwar kameez . Her hair was all messed up and she looked as though she was starving for days together. I called for my aunt just to confirm the visitor and to my surprise, this thirteen year old was my aunt’s new domestic help.

My eyes popped out. I knew of my aunt’s mean nature but did not think that she would have the audacity to do such a thing. Once she entered the house, my aunt gave her a whole list of instructions. She was to do almost every single chore of the household. I felt the urge to ask my aunt to feed the poor girl some bread but my aunt would not spare a second to even listen to me. The girl quietly listened to all of this. Just then my cell phone rang and it was my colleague who informed me that a place had been readied for me and that I was to reach in an hour. I packed my belongings and left for the flat. Just as I bid a bye to my aunt, I saw the little girl sob behind the curtains. My heart was heavy and I could feel some kind of grief take over me.

After a few days I was asked to baby sit my cousins for a day since both my uncle and aunt had to leave for a function to another city. The girls kept themselves glued to the television. It was on a Sunday so I thought of catching up on a movie on you tube.  At nine, the very old little girl walked in. she gave me a slight nod and smiled at me. She looked weaker than I had perceived of her, the first time she came to the house. She took full charge of the house and all of a sudden things came to life. She started cleaning the utensils, cooked lunch. She rolled out twenty five, perfectly round chapattis and had prepared some dishes for lunch. In the twenty three years of my life, I could not have created such perfect ones.

As she was doing these chores, I felt terrible. She was of the same age as that of the older one from my cousins.  I felt some kind of shame take over my being. What upset me further was an appalling scene. The little thirteen year old girl kept scrubbing the tiles beneath the sofa on which my thirteen year old cousin lay catching up with her favorite television program while munching some goodies. I felt the discomfit of having witnessed such a depressing act. Here was Vidya (that was the name of the girl) who struggled to earn for a livelihood and here was the privileged one, enjoying the comfort of the soft cushions. I wondered how my aunt managed not to feel a bit of shame on having done this! Did she never feel anything when she saw Vidya and her older daughter perform two different chores, one having to struggle and the other enjoy the pleasures of life? The line of division between the privileged and the under privileged was now distinct and clear before me. It was malice at its best.

Vidya, her name suggested knowledge, education, something that she was being deprived of.  I was a spectator to a dirty game played by life on this girl whose dark brown eyes had deep sorrow in them. I could not see the spark, the happiness, the cheer that one often notices in the eyes of a young child. Instead I saw the grief, the helplessness and humiliation in her eyes. Those eyes that should have been bright and curious to know more of this big world was dull. Instead of a pen and book in her bag, there were old clothes and leftover food in them. The heart that should have nurtured the love for knowledge was now a grief stricken part of person.

Helpless or rather clueless of what I could do for her, I returned to my flat and shared my thoughts with my room-mate who at first smiled at my concern and posed a question at me for which I had no answer. She said that there were about 12.6 million child laborers in our country. Some work hard enough to only be able to feed their family and go hungry themselves. She said that these kids took up various techniques to combat hunger. They would tie a wet towel across their stomachs to not feel the hunger, drink a jug full of water and tire themselves to such an extent that they would not feel the pangs of an empty stomach. Was it possible for me to save all those kids? I could do something to save a few but what about the rest? What was the fate of the rest of such population? An even mightier question came across to me was, if children like Vidya would not work, how was she going to keep herself alive?

Well that was indeed a question, what would she do to remain alive if not to work? I did not have any answer to this but I very well knew what to do for Vidya. I knew that Vidya was an orphan and lived alone in a slum area at the outskirts of the city. I arranged for her to be put up at an orphanage in Indore and I am now her guardian. I made sure that Vidya attended school and all her necessities are being financed by me. She performed well at school and made it a point to inform me of her progress. I could now see the spark in her eyes, the spark I wished to see in her a few months back, the spark which had a power in it to live, to nurture the idea of living a better life, to get educated, to make it possible. What makes me happy further is that the branch of the bank for which I work, on having known of this entire episode and on having realized the potential that a single individual could bring about has taken up the initiative to sponsor ten children who have been victims of such cruelty.

Even then, I have a question, a very important question. If these children are forbidden from working, then who was going to provide for their families? Many of them are the children of poor men and women who are either ill or handicapped or not capable enough to fend for their families. These kids are bread earners and are the support pillars for their siblings who are unable to take up any kind of work. What was going to happen to them? What did the future hold for them? It is high time our so called well read, educated breed of thinkers, the government and the upper class think of it. Their resources of all kinds can help bring in a solution. Meanwhile, even if you cannot bring in a big change, commoners like you and me can try putting in a little effort towards rebuilding the broken soul of a little child, help them mend their lives and blossom into a brighter young future. It does not take much of your resources to do so. It is only the matter of a will to do that, to save a life, to save a child.

Copyright  ©2015 Elsa Thomas

Image courtesy: http://ctah.binghamton.edu/krizan/childlab.jpg

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on bychanceofserendipity and commented:
    Yet another one…this time , for the child who deserves to be nurtured…

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