Wednesday 18 February 2015

Unsung Hero

Chotu!” yelled Ram Singh. “Pick up those cups and wash them.” 

Chotu’s small hands working on the plates shivered hearing that voice. Knowing the outcome of that tone well enough, he immediately got up to bring the cups.

He was a short, lean ten year old. His sky-blue shirt was worn near the edges and had layers of dirt all over which gave him a dull look. The khaki government-school shorts were darned, rather carelessly, at various locations, and were so flimsy that his legs were visible.

“I've been observing you recently; you don't do your tasks well!” Ram Singh shouted again.
“Sor..Sorry saab ji,” he replied with his lips trembling.
“If you do it again, I won't give you the day’s wage.”

Chotu has to work from 8 am in the morning to 10 pm in the night when the dhaba closes for the day. He lost his father at an early age of five, and his mother worked as a maid to feed them. When Chotu was nine, his mother’s health began to deteriorate, and he had to leave the primary school to look after his ailing mother. He then started working at Ram Singh’s dhaba to bring home 100 rupees a day.

The clock struck ten, and it was time for the dhaba to close.

Ram Singh, however cruel he might seem, was actually a saviour for Chotu’s family. He went mad at times but also helped Chotu with extra money whenever he was in need.

“Here are your 100 rupees. How is your mother now?”
“She is well saab ji.” He replied before heading away from the dhaba.

He went straight to the medical store to purchase his mother's medicine.

“Which medicine do you want?” asked the medical store owner.
“I don't know the name. Here, take the paper which doctor sahab has given me.”
“Seventy rupees.”
“Seventy rupees? It was worth fifty last week.”
“Prices are rising. Don't you know?”

Chotu passed the hundred rupee note to the shopkeeper, and took the medicine and the change.

He began walking on the kuccha road that led to his village. It was dark, and the road muddy. He almost slipped on two occasions. After a walk of two kilometres, he reached home. His home was unplastered and poorly lit with a dim incandescent bulb hanging over the front door.

“Here ma, I've brought your medicine.”
Beta! God will make you a great man one day.”

~ Next Day ~

A team of social workers headed by Mr Aniket along with some policemen came to Ram Singh's dhaba.

“How old are you son?” Mr Aniket asked Chotu.
“Aren't you ashamed of keeping such a young child at work?” Mr Aniket said turning towards Ram Singh.”
“Saab Ji, his mother was ill, and they had no source of income.”
“I know all your cheap tactics to save yourselves from the fine.”

The reporters took a photo of Mr Aniket along with Ram Singh and Chotu. Ram Singh was fined heavily.

Social activist Aniket saved a child from the clutches of labour,” was the newspaper article's headline next day with a large picture of Mr Aniket.

Few days passed and nobody made an effort to help Chotu's family.


One day Chotu went to Mr Aniket's office.

“Saab you took my job but no one has tried to provide me any help since then. My mother is very ill saab, help us.”
Arey! Who are you? How did you come in? Where is the gate-keeper?”
“Saab, I am the child who worked at Ram Singh's dhaba.”
“I'm busy right now. I'll look into your matter later.”
“But mother...”
“Do you want me to call the guard?” shouted Mr Aniket.

Chotu ran out, dejected.

In the evening he went to Ram Singh's dhaba. He knew he may get a slap or two from Ram Singh but he had nowhere else to go.

“Saab, please forgive me for what happened. My mother is ill, please keep me at work.”
“Son, it was not your mistake. These people just make money from here and there. Here, take these 200 rupees and purchase medicines for your mother. I'll keep you at work after few days when the dust settles. Also, tell me if you need anything else.”

Chotu took the money and started walking away. The smile on his face put his dusty clothes to shame.


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