“His smile…I felt I was shown a glimpse of heaven on earth.”
I reside in India and some of the descriptions are specific to the locality. Child labor might be a hard thing to imagine in the US but very common in India. This story is about how a 5 yr. old pumped high spirit, dignity and happiness into dull and tiring work life. It was a Zen Moment and something that could cheer many people who read it.
TGIFriday!! Oh no it was a terrible day! I would have said, Oh God! It’s already Friday – and I have loads to be completed yet! To make it worse: a terrible headache and feeling depressed for some reason.
Then I think: All this is not going to help. I plan to go home for a while, take a rest and get back to work.
I got off my bed at around 6:15 pm; got ready. Ate the food that my sister had kept for my lunch. Now that I’d had lunch at this late hour, I thought: “I won’t need dinner”. Just to pacify any unexpected hunger I put 2 bananas inside my bag. I didn’t have my bike with me to get to the office. No problem, I wanted to walk anyway (that was the best thing I did 🙂 – I knew only later), but not the whole stretch. So took a bus to drop me mid way and started walking to my office. The weather was pleasant – if only I was not walking beside the heavy traffic, it would have been great!
It’s getting dark, but my pupils are dilated wide enough to capture every streak of light around.
My attention is now on the small kid walking in front of me, almost hopping. He’s swinging a polythene bag in his hand, which contained a lunch box. I’m wondering how a school kid got so late in the evening, to be going back home! I know I am wrong, when I see his clothes – not those crispy uniforms & polished shoes, but a shirt laden with grease – possibly just enough for my bike. I didn’t observe if he wore a slipper – guess I was too busy catching up with him. He was walking (hopping) pretty fast. I am eager to talk to him. I am trying my best to start a conversation:
Me: I raise my eyebrows and make a gesture to attain his attention.
S: Smiles 🙂 (possibly puzzled as to what made me do that.)
Me: You work?
S: (With dignity) Yes.
Me: Elli (where?)
S: (Points his finger in the opposite direction and murmurs something)
Me: Ooh! (That he works is all that matters anyway!)
I am now keenly observing his attire and his expressions. We walk silently for 10 more steps. I am getting more curious.
Me: En kelsa? (What work?)
S: Lathe kelsa
I didn’t get it the first time, so ask him to repeat: he repeats, (possibly thinking – she is so big: how come she doesn’t understand what a lathe is?) On the other side I was thinking more about when I saw a lathe for the first time. Guess it was in 8th std. And had I ever been so close as to operate it, or help operating it, for any reason? Nahh! Not even when we had a workshop in the first year of engineering; though we learnt everything about how a lathe operates.
OK, so this kid; who is hardly 2 and a half feet tall; does lathe work.
Hmm… my curiosity increases about this small creature, who is so spiritful, enthusiastic, even at the end of the day, and working in a physically straining work setup. My next Q, as we have passed 10 more steps, silently thinking about the other person walking beside me:
Me: Yesht kodthare (How much do they pay)
S: Ondh sawra kodthare (They pay me one thousand!!)
I could make out he was proud that he earns 1 thousand for his family.
Me: (I make a gesture to reciprocate to his feelings…) Hmm big money!! (2 dinners??)
S: smiles 🙂
Both of us were nearing our destination, at least: I knew I was. Time to break out of this random conversation, which couldn’t possibly have had much significance – after all he was not even 2.5 feet – except that he was the most spiritful kid I had seen in the past few days – except that I was no longer so depressed, and because of what happened in the next minute.
Me: (Knowing there is a forked road ahead and we would in all probability take different directions) Where do you live?
S: (Just points to a direction which I knew he would)
Me: What is your name?
He said it with so much excitement, rhyming it with Super! I am almost blown away by the happy expression on his face. For him it perhaps seemed like I was interviewing him. I didn’t want this nice walk, with this not so significant but pleasing conversation, to end. But alas! God didn’t give me more that day and I caught a glimpse of our office lights.
All I could think of was the banana in my bag (I somehow knew giving money would be offending him). I take it out from the bag and offer him. He nods and politely says no. I try to force him to by pushing my hand little closer to him. Noo… and he is shy (and possibly perplexed as to why I was so interested in him and now offering him something.)
Me: (trying to convince him and make him feel free to have it) Hey Suber, I got 2 bananas, now I will take one for me, and you eat one. Is that fine?
S: (Seems a fair deal) OK. His smile…I felt I was shown a glimpse of heaven on earth.
Me: (Thinking: time to get back to the other world!) OK Suber, I go this way. Ta ta.
S: Waves me good-bye.
I walk ahead. He is still behind me and about to turn towards his way. It was as if we both knew: We will exchange a silent talk again. I turn back. Suber – who just held the banana in his hand till I was ahead – has gulped half of it. And my turning back, sort of embarrassed him. – Ah but that’s ok. I think my smile & the silent conversation we exchanged made him feel comfortable about it. Smiles back…
I continue walking… not trying to reason why I’d been depressed, but now trying to reason what made me feel so happy about the 5 minutes on a Friday evening – even with the thought of Oh God! It’s already Friday, still on my mind.
By Jyothi – Read her Blog: Thought Clouds. Jyothirmayee JT works as an Internet Entrepreneur in the Dehli Area of India.
Kindly contributed to Zen Moments by the author.
Find out more about Child Labor in India – Oxfam’s work
By Melvin Burgess
Average customer review:
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