The Rights of a Child
Ritu was surprised to see a new girl at Anjali’s house. “This is Mini,’ said Anjali. “A distant cousin sister’s daughter from a village near Madurai,” said Anjali’s mother, Renu. “Hi!” said Ritu.
At tea time, Ritu offered a plate of biscuits to Mini. She was surprised to see Renu aunty glare angrily at Mini as she reluctantly took a biscuit. Mini then disappeared into the kitchen.“Let us go out and play,” said Anjali. “What about Mini?” asked Ritu. “She has lots of work to do.”
That night, Ritu told her mother about Mini. “What work is so important that you cannot play?” asked Ritu. “Maybe she is a servant,” said her mother. “No way!” exclaimed Ritu horrified.
“She is just thirteen. She was dressed very well.” “Renu aunty knew you were coming,” said her shrewd mother. The next day Ritu went again to Anjali’s house. She had not rung her friend up. Mini opened the door. A very different Mini from the one she had seen the day before.
Mini was clad in a very faded torn skirt and blouse. She had a duster in one hand. Mini was very flustered when she saw Ritu.
“Didi, Anjali, and aunty have gone to the Mall,” said Mini. “Why did you not go?” asked Ritu. “I had lots of work to do,” said Mini. “Why do you do this work?” asked Ritu incredulously.
“You are Anjali’s cousin and the same age as her. Why does she not help you with the work?” “Shhhh!” hissed Mini. “I am just their servant. Aunty paid my mother lots of money to hire me. Do not tell aunty I told you. She will be very angry.”
Ritu went home immediately. She did not want Mini to get into trouble for talking to her. She told her mother what Mini had said. “Child labour is a very serious offense,” said her mother.
“Aunty will be sent to jail if anyone discovers Mini’s real age. Mini has to go to school.” “I have an idea!” said Ritu excitedly. She rang up Anjali’s house. “Hallo!” said Mini hesitantly. “This is Ritu,” said Ritu.
“When we come to Anjali’s place, pretend you have a severe tummy ache.” Ritu then rang up Anjali on Renu aunty’s cell phone. They were both going back home. Later that evening, Ritu and her mother went to Anjali’s house.
Mini was now dressed very well. Suddenly she cried, ‘My tummy hurts. I feel very vomity!” Ritu’s mother insisted on taking Mini to their family doctor. She told Anjali’s mother that Mini seemed to have symptoms of appendicitis.
Ritu and her mother took Mini to their home. Ritu’s mother then rang up Anjali’s mother. “Renu, you can be arrested for employing an under-age girl.” “She is 18,” said Renu angrily. “She says she is only 13,” said Ritu’s mother. “She also says her mother sold her to you.”
Renu kept silent. “She will not go back to her mother. Insists she will sell her to someone else. I am making her join an SOS family. She will get a surrogate mother, brothers, and sisters. She will go to school just like our girls. Renu, how could you deprive a child of her precious childhood? This is the time to learn and play happily. You want that for Anjali. Mini too is somebody’s little girl.”
Contributed By: Hema Rao is a children’s writer. Her stories have been published in leading children’s magazines in India (Target, Gokulam, PCM magazine, Children’s Digest, Kids&You, Children’s World). She has won prizes in the CBT children’s writers competitions and her stories have also been published in storybooks. hema[email protected]
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