I had just started my career. I used to travel by bus to the office from my home which was in another town near the industrial area. Every day I had to rush to catch the crowded bus.
That day was also a busy day. I had to collect some documents from one of the government offices before going to my office. I saw the bus was approaching the bus stand, I wanted to catch it fast. The child working in the small restaurant nearby came in front of me suddenly. He had tea glasses in a tea glass holder. He could not control and colluded with me. The glasses fell down. For a moment a loud noise reverberated in my ears. We, who walk on the tick of the clock, sometimes don’t want to waste the time. I didn’t pay attention to that kid. I thought I didn't have that much time.
I looked back for a moment; the boy was standing muttering something. He must be cursing me. It wasn't his fault! I stumbled for a moment. The crowd standing next to me was attracted to me. One of them replied, “In such situations, it is good to ignore and walk straight ahead, you don’t have to look back.” He spoke sarcastically. I then proceeded straight, just as fast, unmoved. All of the above happened in a matter of seconds. I caught a bus and sat comfortably on the seat. When I looked out the window, the kid was carrying another glass container.
The bus started to move, the cold breeze from the window began to flow. I shut down the window. I recollected and started thinking about what had happened. What would have happened to the kid when he would have returned to the restaurant with the broken glasses. The beetle began to pierce the mind. The child was from poor family. He was an innocent kid. He was forced to work to earn something. At his age when others go to school and play, he was serving the customers at a restaurant.
Few days back, I had participated in the seminar on the issues of child labour in India. The views expressed by the big speakers were appreciated. Everybody had a view but without any concrete plans. My paper titles “Plight, direction and way forward!” was recognised. However today, I was responsible for that kid’s loss. My 'time management' was an obstacle. My mind began to eat me. After thinking a lot, I felt that I should do something for that kid.
Basically, these children are forced to work at an early age because of the poverty, parents’ attitude towards the children and treating them as a 'source of income'.
I decided to pay the loss of the child because I was sure that the owner would recover the money from his wages. I was feeling guilty so I also wanted to speak with the child.
The next day, I went to the restaurant. I thought it would be nice to meet that kid. I met the hotel owner. I became acquainted with him as a regular customer. He asked for tea.
I simply asked, “Where is the Chotu?”
“I fired him yesterday”
“These people will never change; they want all free.”
“He was not paying attention to his work. He always broke plates and glasses. He was useless”
“He was too small.” I replied,
“That’s ok but he stole the money of my regular customer”
"Why did he steal the money?"
“He took the money from the customer against the bill, but he hasn’t deposited it to me.”
“Are you sure that he had taken the money?” Me
“He had money in his pocket, but he told me that was his.”
“Somebody else must have taken the money.”
“Why would the customer lie?”
“But why would a child lie?”
Restaurant owner preferred to keep mum. He took the child for granted and gave the judgement that child was in fault.
I walked out. Child may or may not have stolen the money. He looked very innocent though.
While walking on the other side of the road, there was a supermarket. One couple with the small kid was walking out of the supermarket with a big toy and bags.
On the other side, another poor kid with dirty clothes was walking. He took a pause, saw the small kid and his toy with curious eyes. He remembered something and started again to walk fast. Perhaps his job was waiting for him.
(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)