Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Homeless of the Palace


Home is where the heart longs to be even after seeing the grandeur of the world outside.
Home is where there are the few people who love you, within the walls inside, even though there are million better people in the world outside. Home is where there is freedom, confined behind the bars of love, respect, trust and belonging.

Many people in this world are without a House- sleeping on streets on cold winter nights, couching under polythene sheets when it rains, rolling on dusty footpaths in scorching summers… Yes there is Pain. But there is Freedom too.
For many others, trapped within the four walls of the mansions of their masters- it rains fear. And Life is an endless winter-cold, dry. Life is a footpath which people trample by.

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This story is of two such children who unfortunately have such kind of a Home- Bubbly and Chutki. Bubbly is a black eyed, black bodied 15 year old girl. Chutki, who was so small when she came that nobody remembers her real name. For her mini size, they call her Chutki.

It is Raina’s Birthday, the daughter-in-law of the majestic mansion. There’s a cake being cut, snacks distributed to the guests. Raina feeds the cake to every member and calls out for the two girls. Fear gripping them, they run away.

An hour later she watches them eat fragments of the cake, in the kitchen crooks. There is ice cream too but the expensive porcelain bowls are noticed to have been misplaced. The father-in-law takes out his slippers and lashes at Chutki. The mother-in-law does the balancing act. She asks to lash Bubbly too…
The two celebrate their birthdays there…the price for being born as orphans and to poor parents is very well paid. They will never blow the candles, where life has rubbed off their flames. They will never cut Birthday cakes, where life cuts them each moment with its injustice and irony…

Raina regrets, why had she ever gifted her father-in-law those Slippers… Why was it even her birthday!!
The midnight party ends. Raina looks at the two who haven’t shed a tear. Their eyes are ice-white and cheeks and ears blood-red. They lick the quarter scoop of molten ice-cream fast, before that too is taken away and flung into the sink.
Raina’s conscience melts into guilt. She cannot revolt, cannot protect, cannot love them too. She cries into the night wondering how they never cry.

Some days she wakes up at 6 to see them being lashed with a broom or a ladle or a lock , for an unclean floor, an unironed saree, or for simply giggling like ‘illiterate and uncultured’ brats. She cannot decide what good literacy or culture might have done to them. She was literate and cultured and so were her in-laws- one was the heartless perpetrator the other a coward, passive passerby…

She hugs them when they are alone,praises them generously, gives them little hair-clips and trinkets, laughs with them, slips candies into their palms each day…They hastily swallow it for fear of being caught, sometimes even being caught and lashed once again…

Again the candy has choked Bubbly’s throat and she has choked the tears somewhere behind her eyes, acting as if it was all a common affair. No guilt, no pain- like the killing of a mosquito.

Raina says, “Bubbly! Look there are many children in this world who donot have a house, who donot have clothes, who donot get to eat even twice a day. So atleast you have all that…Don’t you think so?”… speaking as if they have ever complained. The coward in her conscience, pacifying their hidden pain.

Bubbly smiles with her bunny teeth ajar, “But Didi we donot eat too, when we break the glass tumblers.”

Raina tries to smile. God is kind enough to put these Iron birds in this Golden cage. Had they been birds of glass, they would have shattered just like her.

PS:
According to the latest Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report from UNESCO, there are 57.8 million children who are out of primary school globally, and India with its 1.4 million children out of school, is among the global top 5 worst performers.To put it simply, worldwide, 1 in 10 children are not in school.With an officially estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations (2001 Census), India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world.Nearly 85 per cent of child labourers in India are hard-to-reach, invisible and excluded, as they work largely in the unorganised sector, both rural and urban, within the family or in household-based units,or as domestic helps which are generally out of the purview of labour laws. They are nothing but Bonded labour, because no child will willfully surrender his/her childhood for money whose value he/she is too young to understand.

Ever thought? a child labour becomes a labour first, and a Child never!

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