It was Shweta’s birthday and she was looking forward to her party in the evening. But on her way back from school, she saw a strange sight…
“The tea is getting cold Shanta bai, make it fast”, called out Mrs. Srinivasan.
“Yes Madam”, said Shanta bai, as she came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. Mrs Srinivasan and her daughter Shweta were having tea in the drawing room.
Shanta bai, the maid, had been serving the family, including many others in the Housing Society, for quite a long while now. She held the Srinivasan family in high regard, for always being considerate.
“Shantamma”, said Shweta, “tomorrow is my birthday. So, please bring Deepa and Monu along without fail. I want them to be there at my party, tomorrow evening.
“Err, actually, Monu is not well”, said Shanta bai hesitatingly, “so Deepa has to take care of him. I am sorry Shwetha baby, they won’t be able to come tomorrow”.
Mrs. Srinivasan noticed that Shanta bai was unusually quiet and dull. May be, she was worried about Monu’s health. Monu was nine and Deepa two years older.
Shweta studied in Std. IX and was popular with her teachers and classmates too. The next day, at school, she was overjoyed with all the birthday wishes that came her way.
On her way back , she spied Deepa and Monu, entering a house, next to a small hotel. A surprised Shweta, remembered Shantamma saying that Monu was unwell. “What on earth were they doing here?” she thought.
She decided to check on them. She crossed the street to the house they had entered. The door was closed and there was no one around. However, on the left was a small window. Shweta opened the window. She could not believe her eyes! She saw Monu and Deepa along with a few other children, doing various odd jobs, like washing dishes, cleaning and cutting the vegetables and so on.
She immediately called her father and told him. Her father acted fast and informed the local police. When they arrived Shweta was waiting for them.
Tukaram, who owned the hotel (next to the house), had employed these children and was paying them meagre wages. He had rented the house especially for this purpose, so that his unlawful activities would go unnoticed.
The police arrested Tukaram because employing child labour was a crime.
On reaching home, Mr Srinivasan confronted a surprised Shanta bai, who tearfully confessed that her husband was solely responsible for her children having to work. He did not have a job and did not think it was necessary for the children to go to school. So when he heard about this job he forced Deepa and Monu to work. Shanta bai’s repeated attempts to dissuade her husband from accepting the offer, fell on deaf ears.
Shweta suggested to her father, about meeting her class teacher, who was associated with an NGO, which dealt with ensuring a education for the deprived. Mr Srinivasan was impressed. The next day, he visited Mrs. Kashyap, Shweta’s class teacher and narrated the whole incident.
Accordingly, the NGO, on being recommended by Mrs. Kashyap, agreed to have Deepa and Monu enrolled for their “Right to Education Programme”. The NGO also conducted counselling sessions for Shanta bai and her husband explaining to them about the wrongs of child labour and also about the significance of providing education to every child.