I’ve been meaning to do this post since then….but inner dilemma prevented me. I’m still on the fence about the course of action required, and after much deliberation, have decided to turn to you all for assistance.
Last week, I was at BigBazaar, doing some emergency shopping. I was late already and was fasting. Needless to say, I was in a rush to get back home. Once done with the shopping, I headed to the parking lot to get my bike. As I was keying in, a voice piped up behind me, “Joota polish kar dein?!”"
I nearly had a whip-lash injury as I jerked around to see who it was. The voice was familiar…and so was the opening line.
One fine day last year, I was shopping from Big Bazaar on my way home and came across this urchin. He demanded money and me, being in a hurry , brusquely asked him to get out of my way. Minutes after leaving Big Bazaar, I was racked with guilt and I vowed to make it up to him the next day.
I went back the next evening and looked around the parking lot. He was not there
Since then, every time I went to Big Bazaar, I’d keep an eye for this boy. But he never surfaced again, until last week. He even looked the same. There was hardly any change in his look or size. Malnutrition, maybe. I immediately dug into my purse to pull out the money I intended to give him. He took it mutely and stayed put. As I was stuffing my purse into the dicky, he said -
Boy : Hamein paise nahin chahiye. Aap hamein books do.
Me : What? Books? School jaate ho?
Boy : Nahin hum school nahin jaate. Joote polish karte hain.
Me : (perplexed) School kyun nahin jaate?
Boy : humko paise kamane hain.
Me : Phir padhayi kab karoge
Boy : (looking bewildered) Hum nahin padhte.
Me : To phir books kyun chahiye?
Boy : Books nahin didi….hamein Box chahiye. Joote polish karne ka box.
Me : (trying to figure out why the boy wants to earn) Kyun? Ghar par aur log nahin hai kya?
Boy : Hai na. Mummay hai. Dadi hai. Dadi hamesha beemar rehti hai. Usko bahot dawai lagta hai . Mummy kamati hai. Mujhe bhi paise chahiye. Aap box doge to mujhe aur paise milenge. Yahaan baki sab ladkoen ke paas box hai. Mere paas hi nahin hai…..
Me : (stunned into silence…trying to figure out what to say)
Boy : (looking at me keenly) Didi humko pata hai box kahan milega. Aap bas mujhe box khareed kar do.
Me : (mumbling more to myself than him) Sochenge.
And with uttering this so-called profound word, I pressed the starter and made my way. The boy kept yelling ‘didi’ behind my back. I didn’t look back.
And just like last year, I felt rotten all over again
It isn’t fair. To him or to me. It is not a big deal to shove money into his hands or even buy him that shoe box. I can convince myself that he will have a respectable job and income.
But is that what I would want for a 10-11 year old?? The moral dilemma eats at my brain. One part screams that I would be encouraging the boy into child-labour. The other part yells that he already is earning his wages, either by brushing shoes with that single shoe-brush or begging. A shoe-box would at least give him a decent income.
Much as I’m tempted to buy it for him, a part of me resists. This time, it is not about charity. This time, the issue is much bigger. I can simply give him the money and walk away. Let him buy the box or squander away the money. My job is done.
But the guilt of ruining a childhood, or being a party at it would constantly nag at me. I can never be at ease if I go ahead and give him what he wants.
The worst part?
After all this verbal exchange and moral monologues, I realized that I never bothered to ask him his name!
Trying to distance myself from him and his plight? Maybe.
But the fact remains, I wouldn’t feel at peace unless I do something. And I’m just not sure what I should be doing.
Any ideas, folks??