180 x 72 cm
oil on canvas
stands triumphantly on top of the climbing frame surveying the whole of
the Bal Ashram site, his hat pulled down over his ears to keep out the
chill of the early morning air. For this 10 year old boy, freedom is
still a novelty after years of labouring from dawn until dusk
in the stifling conditions of a brick kiln factory.
Sanjay was 4 years old his father borrowed money to survive but was
unable to earn enough to pay back the debt. The whole family became the
property of the brick kiln owner, illegally enslaved into bonded labour. Little Sanjay’s
job was to remove the hot bricks from the oven to cool before being
loaded onto the transport lorries. His tiny hands would be covered in
blisters from the hot ovens and, to add to his pain, hot, melted candle
wax would be poured onto the blisters in an effort to prevent infection.
The owner protected his human investment with guards
and dogs but the whole family managed to run away in the night and find
their way back to their home village where Sanjay got a job washing
glasses in a hotel. One day a BBA activist was visiting the village and
told the family about Bal Ashram. Sanjay and his elder brother were
accepted for rehabilitation and non-formal education. His two sisters
were able to go back into a local school. Although initially he missed
his family, he now loves Bal Ashram. He is extremely bright and working
hard to catch up with his peers so that he can join formal schooling in
the next term. He dreams of one day becoming a professional cricketer!