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Let’s bring back that smile...

By Deepak Nagpal | Last Updated: Sunday, January 25, 2009 - 13:09
Deepak Nagpal
The Wanderer

India is shining... the Indian economy is blooming (till recently at least)... our country is on the way to becoming a world superpower very soon... our ‘great democracy’ is the world’s largest... Well! When I hear all these ‘statements’ – I choose to call them statements because they don’t reflect the reality – I find it difficult to decide to discern my emotions:, about whether to: Feel proud or disgusted!
When I see five-year-olds begging at traffic signals, kids picking rags from just about every garbage bin that you can find in this world-class metropolitan city (Delhi), when I see under-privileged children standing in front of schools looking at few privileged kids dressed in their school-dress and enjoying a cup of ice cream during their lunch break, and thinking what crime they had committed in their previous life that they did not get the ‘luck’ to enjoy all these ‘luxuries’, I feel shattered. And all those tall claims of a shining, rising India crumble in front of my eyes.
We, as a country, are progressing; but as a society, may be regressing. Many of you may not agree with me, and I agree that the picture I’m trying to paint here is not exactly the day-to-day reality that we come across, but the fact is while we are growing by leaps and bounds, we are leaving many of our own countrymen behind. While we pay lakhs in donations and fees to get our children admitted to top schools of the country, we forget to give even a thought to the fact that so many kids of our children’s age don’t have the means to even join a government-run school. In some cases, there are no schools at all to join.
Here the blame does not lie just on the government but also on us – because as a society, we are failing collectively.
For instance, how many times have we asked a mother begging at traffic signal with his four-year-old son or daughter that whether she would like to get some help in getting the latter admitted to a school? How many times have we approached a mithaiwalah or canteenwallah and told him sternly that child labour is banned in this country and you should, instead of hiring kids as workers, spare some of your profits for their education.
We don’t find 10-year-old chotus or gudiyas in schools, but in the homes of the rich and even middle-class families employed as domestic labour, doing jobs ranging from cleaning and dusting to cooking food. How many times have we asked our ‘own’ 10-year-olds to do tasks like these?
I was at a marriage party recently and saw five- to eight-year-old kids carrying heavy lamps that you see in every baraat procession. While the law banning child labour is clearly flouted there, the worst thing is that these small children are exposed to high voltage wires that can ‘shock’ them anytime.
Right to enjoy childhood is not a luxury but the basic human right of every child on this earth. Depriving even a single child of this right is the biggest crime that humanity can commit on this earth. Just think for a minute if you went through the same childhood that a kid working in a factory or tyre-repair shop goes through; what ‘beautiful’ childhood memories you would have to cherish all your life!
A life like this is not ‘life’ but ‘hell’. I am not intending to preach here, but merely trying to stir some emotions inside all of us, to make that little difference, to save a childhood. Let’s ponder over how we through small, invisible actions can bring a smile to the faces and lives of millions of under-privileged kids.
Only then will we be able to justify the claim that India is shining...

First Published: Sunday, January 25, 2009 - 13:09

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