By Pavan Kaushik
It was evening and I was for a usual walk at the Sea-shore in Mumbai in the evening.
My eyes went to a small child sitting quietly on a small rock and observing the sea waves, which normally get a little extra active during the evening hours and nights. I just sat beside the child with no intention to disturb or build any conversation. The child saw me and kept looking at the waves once again.
This child being alone was a matter of concern and also curiosity for me. Unable to resist longer I said, ‘Hi.. I am Pavan’. The child looked at me and smiled and replied ‘Hi I am KHUSHI’. ‘KHUSHI ?’ how come this child is `KHUSHI’. I was known to my KHUSHI.
Seeing her little hand holding the rock the child was constantly into some lost thoughts. Some thing was bothering or hurting deep inside and so KHUSHI’s face had become blank.
What are you doing here’ I asked. KHUSHI reluctantly replied, ` I am sitting and watching these sea waves that come and go. I wish they could stay for some time with me. I like them very much.’ Don’t you want to go home, I asked. `Why should I go home ? My mother has still not come back and my father is away for work too. I would be alone. I don’t like being alone. I have nothing to do, KHUSHI replied.
`You don’t go to school ?’ I asked. No. No school for me. Why ?, I asked. `My father says, what will I do after studying. He won’t be able to send me to good school when I grow up and other schools in the colony do not teach well, so best is be at home and look after the house’, she narrated as if she had learned this reply by heart.
I was wondering how a small child of 7-8 years could look after the house. KHUSHI continued, `I see everyday many children sitting on the pavements and I have to sit with them too, because I have nothing to do. Right in front of my home there is a colony where every morning a school bus comes and many children of my age go to school, in uniform, holding their water bottles and school bags. I want to be like them.’
While talking so, KHUSHI took a piece of coal from nearby and started drawing something on the rock. She was writing few alphabets. A.. B.. C.. and KHUSHI stopped. Holding KHUSHI’s hand I completed D.. E.. F.. G and she smiled.
I looked at KHUSHI and asked `would you want to go to school ?’. She stared at me, `can I go to school?’. I said, ‘YES’. And I promised to speak to KHUSHI’s father.
Holding my finger, KHUSHI took me to the place they lived. On my way, I could see a small stationary shop and I decided to buy a drawing book and colours. I got them wrapped as a gift.
We reached KHUSHI’s area. Small house in the slums, where people were running here and there. I could see boys of less than 13-14 years smoking. Children were shouting and fighting.
We reached KHUSHI’s house and by this time KHUSHI’s father and mother had also come.
I entered and spoke to KHUSHI’s parents and about hidden talent the child has. The father was reluctant but the mother seemed to understand. For once I gave the child the little gift I had brought, the drawing book and colours. KHUSHI opened the gift and started drawing. Meanwhile, I convinced KHUSHI’s father too.
KHUSHI showed what was drawn in the drawing book to father and mother. The father looked at me once and smiled. The mother smiled too. KHUSHI was serious.
I asked KHUSHI about what had been drawn. KHUSHI had actually drawn MY FACE. I smiled too.
For the first time I hugged her and whispered, “you would go to school KHUSHI” and KHUSHI cried.
There were no words to express thanks but I could feel the way KHUSHI was holding me.
There are many KHUSHIs who are waiting for some one to come up and guide them. Give a future to these small citizens of India as they do deserve. I would only say that I felt proud to have done something which I can genuinely feel proud.
(Pavan Kaushik is the Head – Corporate Communication at Hindustan Zinc, Vedanta Group Company)
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