He was meticulously collecting the left over steel plates, taking at most care picking the Coffee and Tea glasses. Without any formal training on cleanliness, he was cleaning the stainless steel tables as if they belonged to him. The entire fast food joint was buzzing with people and he appeared to be the only one to run around to keep the place spic and span. The men in the kitchen were busy and the cashier (owner?) was found to be unaware that he was actually killing a child’s future.
I was concerned about this and wanted to have a chat with the boy to find out if he was really underage. He shared his name and a beautiful innocent smile with me but he didn't utter anything beyond this. Maybe he was told not to interact with the customers.
I really wanted to do something about this since this boy was probably forced to work there. So, I secretly took some pictures in my camera. I moved away from the restaurant and reached out to some of my friends to share the contact number of any child care helpline. I finally found that there was a toll free helpline number (1098). I wasn’t very sure if someone would attend the call since I never dialed any such numbers in the past. Under a count of three rings, a lady promptly answered the phone. She politely asked for details and I started narrating the situation and also provided her the details of the hotel and its location.
Within the next 2 hours I received at least 3 phone calls from the child care helpline. The last one was from a child care worker and he took some more details from me including the description of the boy. He was rushing to the hotel to confront the owner and rescue the boy if needed. I was extremely happy that something was happening so fast.
After an hour I received another call from him and he sounded happy. He thanked me for informing him about the boy and also clarified that the boy was a teenager. What he said afterwards was shocking. He said that his team found two more children working there and rescued them too. All of them were found to be brought from distant villages and employed by the hotel owner. Thankfully, the child care team took them to the Sadashiva nagar police station. The police had asked the owner to come there to explain. The owner was warned by the police. He also said that the children’s parents will be called, counselled and be asked to take back the children to their villages. This news brought a big relief in me.
I think what I witnessed was a speck of the dirty world where poor villagers are exploited and innocent kids are subjected to employment in big cities. There is also a possibility that the rich owners' kids are studying in some respectable schools at the expense of such kids education and youth.
I don’t think I’ve done something great; I’m really angry by the fact that such things still exist even today. What I realized is that the least one can do is to report the matter to the authorities (1098 in this case) or even call the police (100) to inform.
At the end, I’m glad that I was able to witness a government and an NGO system which appeared to be working.
My only hope is that these rescued kids, after going back to their home; don’t think about coming back to the city and find a place to continue their education
My only hope is that the parents, due to poverty or their inability to support the child's education, find miraculous ways to support their childs education that they deserve
My only hope is that the owner realizes his mistake and follows ethical practices.
My only hope is that whoever reads this story or witnesses a similar scene realizes that he or she doesn't have any right to take the life of little ones for granted.
I only hope but, certainly this incident has opened my eyes.