On November 18, 2017, a 14-year-old kid walked into WittyFeed HQ, Indore in search of ‘job’. When the admin team found him at reception and inquired, he said his name is Riteish and is looking for a job to earn 250/- rupees to get his bicycle fixed.
It was intriguing, the kid had come all the way from his village to earn money and get his cycle repaired.
Aware of his age and child labour laws, the admin team members at WittyFeed offered him monetary help without a job. But this kid was different, he had a sense of integrity and self-respect. Riteish denied with pride and said he won’t take money without truly ‘earning’ it.
I still remember what he said:
“Kisi ki mehnat ki kamaai mai free main kyun lun?”
I had just arrived at the office at that time. When I casually asked what’s the matter, the kid told me he has two sisters and a bicycle that he loves the most. The boy told me that he wants to earn money to get his cycle repaired so that he can enjoy dropping his two sisters to school and roam around with his friends in the evening.
“I asked how did you come here?”
He said, “lifts maang ke,” and winked at me.
He added, “Maine sare office try karliye building ke, ye last hai.”
Looking at his wit and the wisdom, again, I tried to help him with the money, but he simply refused. So, I asked him to tell what kind of job is he looking for.
He, excitingly, said I can wash your car, bike, clean the floor, do dishes or make a painting.
“A painting?” I asked.
“Haan, bohot achchi karta hoon mai,” 14-year-old Riteish replied.
I gave him stationary, a few wax-colours, sheets, and a marker and said, “Chal tu painting bana, achchi banayega toh I’ll purchase.”
Things were about to change in next 30 minutes. Riteish sat at a desk in my office putting his imagination to work, he painted this:
While I didn’t bother much to look at his first painting (left), the second one (right) which he had made caught all my attention. The painting spoke of his sharp mind and scrutiny to minor details. Like he created a navy war-scene between India and China (as tension was building between the two nations) which makes him socially aware. All the flags are flying in the same direction. And the idea of giving such a chaotic painting a peaceful backdrop must have come to him naturally. The kid won my heart.
That day, he walked back home with the money and me with a story.
But why am I sharing this story with you all today? Because today is World Day Against Child Labour. If Riteish had gotten the office work in those 50 or so offices he tried before coming to WittyFeed, he’d have become a victim of child-labour.
We all can make the world a better place, helping one child at a time. While we’re all well-aware of all the child-labour stories that surround our society, we should not forget that no one is going to come and change. We have to do our bit, and that’s enough sometimes.
(Shashank Vaishnav is CTO at WittyFeed)