Mother, why can’t I?

It is painful to watch a group of children heading to work as another group walks animatedly to school. The children who go to work must wonder what happens in a school. How do they spend their time, how does it feel to be able to read and write, to recite poems and read tables aloud… they will never know how does it feel to wear those tiny uniforms and carry books, colour boxes and lunch to school. These wretched little souls rarely get to eat three square meals a day, let alone have a formal education. They live in a shack for a home, have a tattered sheet as a bed, and that sheet is shared by her three other siblings. They manage to get a pair of discarded shoes from the dumps and that becomes their luxury. Dinner becomes feast for them as all they eat is just a chapatti for lunch; sometimes, not even that. They are born and raised in shambles and all they see is darkness. All they come to know is dirt, squalid environment, people at each other’s throats, hunger and pain.

Though living in the arms of deep poverty, they somehow retain their innocence. As I write this, perhaps there is a little child somewhere asking these simple-minded questions and getting no answers. Somewhere, perhaps a mother is crying quietly for not being able to give her child the life she wanted to.

Mother, where are these children going?

My darling, they’re heading for school

Mother, what is a school?

It’s a place where children like you study

Mother, won’t they get late for work then?

Mother remains quiet.

Mother, can I go to school?

I’m afraid my child, you can’t

But you said that it’s a place where children like me study

We cannot afford to send you my dear

Then why did you say that I’m like them?

Mother remains quiet.

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