It was a bright day brighter than usual, radiating the festive mood around. It was that time of the year when the Goddess returned to her maternal home. The crowds were in a frenzy and the traffic almost came to a halt. If it weren’t for the men in white guarding the streets, travelling would have been a real pain for the pedestrians. In these four days, it seems like the entire city descents onto the streets.
During this time in October, despite hot weather(thanks to global warming), the streets are jam-packed and the soaring temperatures don’t deter people from having fun. I am an early riser and like visiting pandals when the crowd is scanty. I particularly never enjoyed the glittering lights at night and grandeur associated with pujas these days. I have a subtle taste and like small budget local pujas that are ethnic. I got out of the house prim and proper wearing new clothes, befitting the occasion. I am not a frequent pandal-hopper but due to my family’s persuasion, I was going out. The stalls leading up to the pandal were just setting up. These pandals sold everything ranging from toys to food. Since this was an occasion where they could make a considerable amount of profit in an otherwise dull year.
I was looking around scanning these stalls when suddenly my eyes fell on a little girl. The girl must have been of 10 years and wore pre-owned clothes. It seemed that the girl came from a humble background. She was quietly sneaking out of a sprawling bungalow. The nameplate at the gate of the bungalow read ” Dr Sumit Banerjee(MBBS)”. Her condition in no way resembled the sobriquet nor the state of the bungalow. The girl coincidentally ran into me.
I came up with a general greeting and an ice-breaker question. She answered rather coyly. The first thing that struck me was that her diction was improper and she spoke with a limp. She slowly began to speak without any reluctance and I deduced from her gibberish seeming mother tongue that her name was Shyamali. Shyamali spoke very unhesitatingly with me as though we had known each other forever. Though it took me time to fully realise that she was somehow trying to escape from the house. But the question that hovered over my mind was why would she attempt something like that. She was a child without any supervision and that concerned me. She could have got lost or anything miserable could happen to her.
As we were drawing towards the pandal talking at a leisurely pace while doing so, there came along this gentlemen(at least he looked the part). He stopped us midway and started screaming. Before I could even react he snatched away Shyamali and dragged her along. I tried to call for help but Shyamali didn’t resist the gesture. I thought that was unusual and a crowd drew closer from my call. But the man explained something and they left. I was a little dumbfounded from the entire incident. I stood there alone thinking for a while and then the real mystery unravelled. It wasn’t a mystery as such but the clandestine nature of it made it a mystery.
A stall owner came to me literally pleading me to buy something. I was so flabbergasted that I did buy without bargaining. It was from him that I got to know the truth. Shyamali was a child-labourer who was doubling as the man’s adopted child. He was maintaining this cover-up quite judicially. My heart broke upon hearing this and I like most others only decided to react furiously without actually doing something. I immediately returned home as my mind was way too exhausted from the experience.
So what made someone give up their child or was she an orphan. I have no idea, neither could I truly measure her suffering. Social commentary is all I could do, on how pragmatic it is for a child to never have a normal and happy life.