"Lifting The Mask Off Child Labour" read the title of the photograph in the paper today. The image showed several kids with masks that had, "Stop Child Labour" written on the forehead. Below, the caption read of how school students had held a rally to celebrate the World Day Against Child Labour. In another corner of the page, the paper declared how the working conditions of the kids on TV were being brought under the scanner. Good! I said to myself. We were finally going somewhere! There was some action being taken! Mentally, I patted my back and the backs of all those who were even remotely concerned about the issue. Finally, all our concern and raising of voices was going somewhere! Feeling very proud and extremely satisfied, I made to turn the page, a smile on my lips.
Just then, a sharp voice rammed onto my eardrums, as the lady next to me in the local train screamed,
"Arrey! Kya kar raha hai? Mera dupatta kharab kar diya!" (What are you doing? You've spoilt my dupatta!)With a scorn fit for the devil distorting her heavily made up features, she turned to a little figure standing in the aisle.
There stood a little boy, no more than 5 years old. Drab, extremely dirty clothes cladding an even dirtier body. There was a thick layer of grime on the little face. On careful scrutiny, one could have spotted tear marks which were covered with another layer of the city's faithful dust. Two large brown eyes were peering back at the lady, a tiny hand which had been indulging in the criminal act of tugging at her expensively laundered dupatta hung limply by his side. The other slightly curled fingers were semi extended in a gesture of begging; a sort of involuntary reflex inculcated in him since birth.
The eyes, even on being incriminated were hardly guilty; they were too busy begging. He looked up at each of us in turn, extending his little arm almost robotically.
He didn’t go to tug any more dupattas; instead, he tried tugging at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, they too were stiff from expensive laundry.He looked at me. I gazed back at the little child, and the paper in my hand seemed to be a mockery.
All the pride, joy and satisfaction that had been grinning on my lips, slipped away. And anguish filled me. Action was being taken? Changes were happening? Where? Definitely not here. Not for this little kid. We were getting rid of child labour..... That’s well and fine and really good for us.
But what about this child? When will he get rid of it?Lifting The Mask Off Child Labour?? Please! Whom are we kidding?