Sunday, September 5, 2010


Here's an Independence Day piece I wrote for the Indo Asian News Service. It ran first here.

Yesterday, I traveled on Khel Gaon Road in New Delhi, alongside construction for the Commonwealth Games. A footpath was being built there by hand. A six year old child brought head-loads of brick balanced on a wooden board, two bricks to a load. She seemed cheerful and sturdy as she moved between the mountainous pile of bricks she was disassembling and the woman to whom she delivered them. 

I thought to myself, this is a game a child is playing to occupy herself while her mother is at work. It is a shame she must play with such heavy and dangerous weights. The contractors, the government, someone needed to have provided a crèche or school where she might assemble and disassemble the light wooden blocks meant for children’s play. Then I saw the woman look up from the ground where she had finished affixing a brick. I saw her urge the girl on. I saw the girl hurry to and back from the pile. I saw the girl tilt her head mid-run as she discovered three bricks do not balance as well as two. I saw a smile accompany this discovery and I saw her wince, as well. I saw the woman return the smile, and take the bricks from the child. 

How long will it take the child to deliver the rest of the bricks? It is late afternoon. Late for the child, the woman, who is perhaps her mother. It is late now for all of us, for our nation. We walk the footpaths built by our children. We complain the footpaths buckle under our feet, the bricks laid hastily atop gravel that has been tamped poorly. The hands at work are so light.  

It is late: our hearts grow harder, daily.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, with tender hands the tender roads are made and then we complain about Indian roads. Perhaps, no other country exploits children like ours.
    During Ramzaan, we have to give charity to the poor and the underprivileged. There is this little boy studying in the fifth grade of a government school where my aunt teaches. His father has deserted his mother for a second woman and the poor lady earns about half a thousand rupees by doing household chores. This young man, however, has to be praised. After school, he straight away goes to construction sites to find work and hands over the daily wages to his mother. Just wonder how early our society matures the young minds!