( This story was the result of the above title “Burning Flowers ” I read somewhere .The words felt applicable to the evil of child labor and hence the story.)
Had they ever been loved? Had they ever felt safe? These thoughts haunted me. Red light shone , the road filled with vehicles that halted at the change of traffic lights. A boy of about 8 years knocked at my car’s window . A perfect description of the boy would be poverty’s incarnation as a human. He carried a baby girl , wailing . Her little eyes seemed to droop , how many nights might she have cried herself to sleep.
The boy said “ Maaiji ,please help us . We don’t have anyone?”. I forgot I was staring at them for a long time while they where waiting for alms . The lights had changed and the honking of the vehicles behind me jolted back to the present.
I fumbled behind for my purse . ” Move , you urchins ! Stop bothering her?” spat my driver , I looked up and they were gone. I reprimanded my driver for shooing them away.
“ Maaiji , don’t entertain such kids , they will rob you.” continued Ramsay “Those kids look perfectly fit to me, can’t they engage in some jobs and feed themselves.?”. “ They are kids Ramsay ,they need to have a proper childhood ,like the rest of the kids.” I cut him before he could reply.
Those dark days still visit me often , catch me unaware in those peaceful hours of rest called sleep. My past , my horrible days. My Dad had passed away, before I was 6. My Mother had committed suicide because she couldn’t take the burden of raising the family . I remember those days crystal clear. The beginning of the end or so it seemed.
The so called relatives ,never showed up and I was left alone in the void of my home . I was 7 at that time.
Balwant , came to take me to a place he claimed to be heaven. I was over-joyed , thanked my stars for bringing me my guardian angel. Balwant was old about 60, the only reminder of sprightly youth in him was a few dark hairs that hide themselves in the crowd of white.
He took me to a circus camp and sold me for Rs 10,000 . I was sent to a tent, saying I had to wait for him . I never saw anymore of him . The ring-master Thomas was a man of cruel ideas. He beat me with hot iron-rods ,if I made a mistake in performing juggling . He treated everyone like animals . A sign of humanity never peeped into his mind. I had to spend days without food and water. They housed me in a cage that smelt of rotten meat.
I used to watch the other kids come to visit the circus , with their parents who brought them what their hearts desired. I used to wait in vain for a rescuer, a true guardian angel, but no one ever came.
I used to watch the other kids come to visit the circus, with their parents who bought them what their hearts desired. I used to wait in vain for a rescuer , but none ever came. A year had passed in that hell. I mustered up my courage to escape from there. It was the last day of the show in Meerut. I sneaked out of the menagerie with the rags I wore while the final act was being performed. The freedom was addictive,exhilarating .” Where to escape?” my head spun at the thought. I heard the shuffling of feet and ran behind a car and hid myself inside the dickey. I made up my mind to get out of the car before the owner approached.
The doors clicked and a man slid into the driver’s seat and drove away. Half an hour might have passed though it seemed like eternity to me before it came to a halt. Fear had got to me and I stayed paralyzed.
A muffled voice was heard, the dickey was opened and the man was taken aback on seeing a filthy kid hiding there.” Don’t cry my child, here, come let me help you out” He said. His eyes shone of sympathy and I instinctively trusted him. He took me home, Mr and Mrs Sharma were childless .They happily welcomed me, who as if by a slip of faith, reached their loving doors.
They named me Sharmila Sharma. I told them my past and they helped me battle my demons. They made me a stronger person.
I felt I should do something to prevent those innocent blossoms of childhood from getting scorched by the flames of inhumanity. I drove the car to the junction where I had last seen them, asking the passers-by about the kid’s whereabouts. My work made it busy to drink into the present that I forgot about the longing in me to help out children in need. Those kids brought me back to my sense of duty. I couldn’t zero in on their abode.
Night had fallen and I drove back. I felt a little bit light, that I had tried and woken up to the reality. There’s always another day, another flower that needed a sprinkle of hope. I made up my mind to adopt a street kid and provide him a comfortable home.
I slept peacefully that night, having found my purpose in life. I felt liberated like a bird freed from the cage and rose up to the sky in all glory with a hope to make a change.