The child who lost her innocence

A chilly winter evening in December, I stood in the balcony breathing in some air as my little one took a nap. These few moments that I got for myself were indeed a bliss for a new mom. As my mom and I chatted away, I saw her silhouette. A little girl in a skirt who looked barely ten, she could just pass on for any other child in the apartment who was out to play like others of her age. But she wasn’t playing or laughing away with her friends. She was pushing the stroller which had a little child seated within .I wasn’t  able to see her face clearly. It was clear enough though that she was not a sister of the child but worked as a maid in their house. I feel rather ashamed to make this confession that a thought did arise in my mind that it would great if I could find a maid like that.
We as a family have not been used to maids. We have only hired a maid to sweep and mop the floor as that is something we find it difficult to do daily. For any other work we have never hired cooks or maids. But once my daughter was born, I soon realised it would be very difficult to handle everything by ourselves.With lack of proper sleep, constant fatigue, the little one needing full time attention and me still in recuperation mode which  din’t allow me to help my mom much with the household chores, I knew I would be getting back to work in a few months time and my mom was working too. We were struggling to complete the household work with blurry eyes and drooping shoulders.We finally decided to hire a maid who who would also cook for us, We were relieved at the possibility of finally catching up on some rest when the baby slept rather than rushing to the kitchen to cook or dry clothes. We found the maid through a common friend, she finally came, worked for a day and didn’t show her face again. She made some excuses of an ailing mother and disappeared, So were left in the lurch again. That’s when I thought , if there is a young girl she would probably not run away like these women who spoke back and made excuses to do work. I was soon to realise how wrong I was in my thinking, how selfish I was.
We soon shifted to the next building where the little girl worked. As I took my daughter in the stroller, I met her.
And there I saw what a contrasting life she lead compared to those of her age. On one side I saw little girls skip and play, laughing loudly and at the other end was she, carrying a little baby in her arms, eye downcast, shoulders drooped, she looked up occasionally at the kids , a longing in her eyes. I wished to know her more. I went up to her and tried to strike a conversation. I learnt her name was Kavita and she belonged to a village in Orissa. She couldn’t speak much Hindi and I had no clue about Oriya so we were not able to communicate more. But it was clear that she belonged to a poor family and her parents would have sent her here to work as its one mouth lesser to feed. I met her again on many more occasions and that’s when I felt fate has indeed a big role to play in our life.
What if Kavita was not born to poor parents? What if she was born in the same family she now lived in? Her life would have been entirely different. She would be going to school, wearing lovely clothes, playing with friends.Is it her ill fate that gave her a life that no child should be destined for? Can she ever change it? Or would she spend the whole of her life in the same way as today working for others?
I felt ashamed that I even though of employing someone like her. Some may argue that whats wrong in employing her? After all, its not that if you do not employ her, her parents will send her to school. When they cannot afford the basic necessities of life, school is a far fetched dream. At least here she has a shelter, clothes and food to eat. She is not being ill treated. Rather than die of hunger, let her atleast life her life. Maybe that’s true in a way.
But I ask- why cant she be sent to school then? Given a  chance at learning. A chance at changing her destiny. Its great that the people she worked for are providing her with food, clothes and a roof above her head and I do hope that they treat her well, I do not know. But a few hours each day to learn, to study will make a huge difference to her life, It could transform  her life in a big way. And only education could do that. Else,I have little doubt that she would ever free herself from the shackles of this life she was living. She would grow up into a young woman, marry someone, have kids, continue working in people’s homes and her kids too would probably have the same destiny.
I don’t think its too much that I am asking for here. Child labour is an offence but the reality is it still exists in our society in every nook and corner, in the form of little children working in factories, the little boy who washes chai glasses at the canteen, the little girl who carries the baby at the restaurant while memsaab enjoys her lunch,  Can we do something to make the lives of these children  better? Not just by giving them our old clothes, left over food but by giving them education – the only way which will enlighten their minds and give them a chance to make their own destiny.

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