x 127 cm
oil on canvas
back is Kayum, with so much sadness in his eyes. Earlier I had witnessed
his reunion with his mother. She stood patiently, arm protectively
around his shoulders, as the paperwork was studied. Every day parents
like his come to the Ashram, crying, desperate to get their children
back. But BBA are legally obliged to follow procedures. Many parents are
genuine but some, like the ‘uncle’ who claimed the small boy with a
high pitched voice was 18, are imposters in the pay of the factory
owners, anxious to get their skilled little workers back.
year old Kayum’s story is sadly typical. Born in poverty in a remote
village in Uttar Pradesh, he had studied up to year 4 in school until
his ‘uncle’ convinced his parents that he would have better
opportunities and a good education in Delhi. But the education and
opportunities were all a lie. He was taken to work in a factory making
leather handbags, sticking the bags together and pressing card into the
bags to make their shape. He knew there were other children in the huge
factory building but in his room he was the only child living with nine
adults. In return for working from 9am until midnight he received 50
rupees/week (about 50p).
I ask him what he wants to be in life he says, ‘to become a good man,
to go back to school and train to be a teacher’. It was a good thing
to be rescued but he wants to go home.