A Personal Narrative Taj Mahal
I visited the Taj Mahal earlier last year. This story is about a very young boy who was there clearing the table and pouring water in my glass. A very young boy named Nizamuddin. He walked around as if he were nervous with that heavy jug of water. He looked around at how the visitors did not bat an eye at him and that this was the norm. For young children to go about cleaning and serving people at one of the most well-known areas there. It was obvious, people did not bat an eye at such cultural norms.
His job was to fill in empty jugs, and hence, he was looking through the crowd for such refills. “Chhotte” as they called him, was only 4 feet tall. He should have been in school, and playing football or cricket on that Sunday evening. Yet, he was trying to please strangers from abroad in that dark restaurant to earn a few extra cents. The shocking part was that the eateries was one of a very reputed chains of eating places in the area and they fell under the laws of applicable in the land. Child labor was clearly a criminal offense. It is shocking to hear that, even today, 33 million children in India from age 5-18 are working; this makes India one of the biggest homes to child labor (Jacobs and Misra 2017). Nizamuddin was just one out of million children who suffered the same fate. Amid the events that circled around there, I saw a group of 3 teengaers, from a privileged background who, as we later discovered, came there very week to distribute chocolates to poor children.
When I questioned the peer group as to why they came and only spread chocolates, they answered that if they gave these young children money, they would be forced out of necessity to buy food. Kartik said “let them also taste chocolate.” The compassion that this group had to give back to their society was commendable, particularly, as I had been unaware of such dilemmas in the past.
Deep down, I wanted to file a complaint against the eatery as it was not a typical roadside restaurant that could evade the law. I wanted the officials to know that he was in fact below 16, and that the restaurant was breaking a major law. I wanted to give back Nizamuddin his childhood and send him back to school where he could study. The latest amendment of the Indian law states that a children below age 14 is a minor and that they are not allowed to work during school hours (Ahmad 2015).
Once I contained my inner self, I looked around at how this was the norm in society. Children were not instilled any desires to learn or educate themselves, no matter how harsh that sounded. I thought that this may be the only way that the child’s income might have sustained. Perhaps clearing out tables day and night was the only way that his parents would be able to eat food in the house. I was clearly torn between the child’s livelihood and childhood. There should have been a way where the child could have also finished his basic education, and there were many project initiatives that came under my attention later on (educateachild.org 2012).
I called Nizamuddin and talked to him about how he felt about his job. He responded by saying that he aimed to complete his secondary education, and that he knew how read and write Hindi. He also confessed that if he were ever to have children in the future, they would complete their education. I left the eatery with a very heavy heart and the least I could do was leave the best tip he would receive that day.
Ahmad, Tariq. 2015. India: Cabinet Has Approved Amendments to Child Labor Law. May 20. Accessed April 15, 2018. http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/india-cabinet-has-approved-amendments-to-child-labor-law/.
educateachild.org. 2012. Educate A Child: India . Accessed April 15, 2018. https://educateachild.org/our-partners-projects/country/india.
Jacobs, Josh, and Reeva Misra. 2017. Child labor: The inconvenient truth behind India’s growth story. August 21. Accessed April 15, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/21/child-labor-the-inconvenient-truth-behind-indias-growth-story/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9f6204606256.
Jacobs, Josh, and Reeva Misra. 2017. Child labor: The inconvenient truth behind India’s growth story. August 21. Accessed April 15, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/21/child-labor-the-inconvenient-truth-behind-indias-growth-story/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9f6204606256. ↑
Ahmad, Tariq. 2015. India: Cabinet Has Approved Amendments to Child Labor Law. May 20. Accessed April 15, 2018. http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/india-cabinet-has-approved-amendments-to-child-labor-law/. ↑
Educateachild.org. 2012. Educate A Child: India. Accessed April 15, 2018. https://educateachild.org/our-partners-projects/country/india. ↑